Tuning reminds me

Today I need to tune again for a gig at the local Alterra nursing home, and that reminds me of my earlier post about my fears for the Cranberry Dulcimer Gathering, which I ought to report about.

I tuned without any big problems last Wednesday, and the dulcimer sounded fine at that evening’s jam and while we were practicing on Thursday. Later Thursday, though, I was starting to worry about our plan to play on the Commons Friday, because I wouldn’t have time to retune between playing there and leaving for the festival. We decided to stay home instead, which reduced my worry.

It came back the next day, when we started to practice and Rick said the difference between our dulcimers was significant enough to require retuning. I went at it with a sinking heart but trying to think “good enough.” I had a fairly difficult time of it, but I managed not to completely break down and cry until I was done and safely hidden in my bathroom. While Rick tuned his in an easy twenty minutes (how I wish I could do that), I got lunch together, and then we left for Binghamton.

I am not very flexible or adaptable. It’s hard for me to recover from something like a terrible tuning time, plus there was the stupidity with the car the previous day*, plus I was tired because we’d stayed up talking too late the last two nights. Nothing like going to a festival already overtired, feeling stupid, and psychologically worn out from a bad tuning session.

I was determined to avoid tuning for the duration of the festival, but had that underlying fear that it would become necessary, and along with that, an underlying fierce defensiveness lest anyone challenge me about it. No one said anything to me, and as far as I could tell it sounded okay for the rest of the weekend (it’s hard to tell, in a room full of dulcimers, whether mine or someone else’s is wrong).

Today I hope I can tune with less stress, even if I am increasingly certain that I’ll never be able to tune any faster.

*Instead of having Rick back his truck out into the road, then having me drive my car out, then replacing his truck, I tried to drive around his truck. I missed the truck but ran over the porch step, splintering a bit off the railing and putting a nice crumpled dent in the fender. Fortunately I didn’t break the light.

2 thoughts on “Tuning reminds me

  1. this weekend past i was nearly convinced my D string on my bass wasn’t tuned right even though my trusty quartz tuner said it was spot on. i “retuned” it a couple times before accepting what the tuner said (all the other strings sounded right to me)

    from the sound of it tuning a dulcimer is a much more complex process than tuning an electric bass guitar, but i can relate to the feeling – the fear that the instrument isn’t in tune and will sound icky

    so with my D string and i and the tuner not in full agreement, i recorded in my home setup anyhow, and at the end of it all, was happy with how it sounded, but the whole time i was recording i was fairly convinced it wasn’t right

    i can relate to some of your stress

    i listened to some of your recordings the other day. very pleasant music. i like it.

  2. Thanks, Allen.

    Tuning a hammered dulcimer is more complicated because there’s more strings (mine has 90) and you use a wrench, but even so I’m definitely abnormal; most dulcimer players can tune in less than an hour.

    I’ve also had that experience of hearing things that sound “off,” only to find that the recording sounds fine.

    At least with home recording, you don’t have the additional worry of wasting your money if you have to scrap a take because of a tuning issue.

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