Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

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Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby Tony » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:01 pm

Hello All,
Has anyone had any experience with a Darcyhorse instrument. I have noted that this builder sells of e-bay. Thanks for your attention.
Tony
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby GWentland » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:33 pm

Ah, the Darcyhorse rears it's ugly head again. I could not in good consience recommend the buying of one of these, unless you want a decoration. I have one that decorates a corner in my kitchen. I give it a kick every once in awhile and it falls down. No harm done.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby folkfan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:47 pm

GWentland wrote:Ah, the Darcyhorse rears it's ugly head again. I could not in good consience recommend the buying of one of these, unless you want a decoration. I have one that decorates a corner in my kitchen. I give it a kick every once in awhile and it falls down. No harm done.

:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
:twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby pristine2 » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:35 am

My Darcyhorse review:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=23683

A sound clip:

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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby GWentland » Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:33 pm

If we are to show how the Darceyhorse sounds we need to have two comparitive files. Not just the Darceyhorse. The same tune and the same recording conditions for all dulcimers compared.
Darceyhorse as compared to the HX Dulcimer?? My Darceyhorse has upgraded mechanical tuners from the manufacturer. I do like the tuners they are smooth and accurate. I can stand on the fret board of the Darceyhorse without breaking it and I weigh 270 lbs. This might be a plus if you travel by air a lot. The edges of the fretboard are not smooth. Sliding from one note to the next took a toll on my thumb. The Darceyhorse is not nearly as loud. I will say the HX is much easier to play well and has a much better tone. I couldn't stand on the HX without breaking it. I play the HX on a regular basis and seldom play the Darceyhorse. It is much harder to be a good dulcimer player with an inferior dulcimer.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby pristine2 » Sat Jul 24, 2010 8:22 pm

GWentland wrote:If we are to show how the Darceyhorse sounds we need to have two comparitive files. Not just the Darceyhorse. The same tune and the same recording conditions for all dulcimers compared.


Sorry, but it will be a long time yet before I have the resources to produce comparative clips to academic standards, if I ever do. But I surely hope you aren't saying that making this sound clip was a waste of time.

Yes, it is a "single-arm" study. It demonstrates the sound an intermediate-level player with marginal talents was able to make on a Darcyhorse dulcimer, which was lying on a towel-covered plastic lawn table, on a nice Spring day in a sub-tropical forest. It doesn't relay any other information. One might imagine if Aaron O'Rourke were playing it in a sophisticated recording studio, after Ben Seymour had dressed the frets properly and adjusted the action. The sound would be rather different.

But it does show that this ultra-low-price instrument does have musical value.

Also, testing two wildly different dulcimers with the same tune would be misleading, if the purpose is to demonstrate the relative strengths of each instrument. There are some tunes that sound much better on my 1984 Berg teardrop with plywood sides than my $900 2009 rosewood/cedar Blue Lion, and vice-versa. Each dulcimer is distinctive, and trying to shoehorn each one into strict comparative parameters is not always the wisest task, I've discovered, unless a lot of subjective narrative is also provided.

I do, however, use standardised assessment categories for written reviews.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby GWentland » Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:16 pm

What I was getting at was, a comparison between the Darceyhorse and say a plywood or even a cardboard dulcimer. Played by the same player. Playing the same song. Recorded in the same place at the same level. That is what I was saying. I know you already sold your prize Darceyhorse, so this is hypothetical.
Practically every solid object could have musical value, if you are looking for a particular sound. I could scratch on a chalkboard and somebody could think that's just the sound they're looking for.
I never thought of this before, but the Darceyhorse could make a great travel dulcimer. You could throw it in a cardboard box, check it, and it would be hard to damage by baggage handlers.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby pristine2 » Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:23 pm

GWentland wrote:What I was getting at was, a comparison between the Darceyhorse and say a plywood or even a cardboard dulcimer. Played by the same player. Playing the same song.


Go for it. Would be interesting to see if the review standards you envisage could be put into practice using only personal resources.

I find that ensuring that what I post or publish is both fair and credible is an agonisingly difficult balance. The reaction to my Darcyhorse review is a main reason I've yet to publish the others I've produced over the past two years. Just acquiring the instruments is an enormous burden for me.

For what it is worth, I have examined and played a number of all-plywood-body dulcimers made since 1960, and just one variety of cardboard dulcimer, made by Backyard Music.

In my opinion, plywood is generally inferior to solid wood as a tone wood because of the way it ages. I believe this is true even of the aircraft-quality birch plywood laminates made in Norway and Sweden. If fashioned by skilled hands, plywood dulcimers can sing wonderfully for a number of years. But even if kept in climate controlled conditions, the laminate glues surrounding the entire instrument will eventually deaden sound. After a few years, the best you can hope for is a sweet, woody-ish tone that can be more than acceptable in timbre, but volume and sustain invariably dwindles.

With the cheaper plywoods commonly used in dulcimers, the fibrous wood sheets seem to lose cohesion, even under a lacquer finish. Joinery work between plywood panels, too, seems very susceptible to failure. This seems to be less true of dulcimers built with a solid wood top and the remaining panels of plywood, but even these do not seem to age as well as solid wood instruments kept in proper conditions. (Instruments with a solid top and back, with plywood sides, seem to age just fine in my experience.)

Lots of people whose opinion I respect disagree with me on plywood, though, including at least one highly skilled builder. And there's no question that at $125, the plywood student instruments made by Harpmaker and Carrot Creek are excellent value for money. Top-notch lutherie. The cedar-top/plywood body TK Obrien student instrument is also worth a look. I think these instruments will perform very well for a very long time.

I've handled several cardboard dulcimers of various ages, all of them made by Backyard Music. When new, the sound can be very gratifying, with performance that equals or even exceeds that of good solid wood instruments. The sound deteriorates pretty rapidly, though. Depending on conditions, sometimes in a matter of weeks. This deterioration is slowed, not stopped, by a good coat of finish -- acrylic paint seems to be particularly effective. Cardboard is an excellent choice for institutional settings, and for travel. I bring one when I go to India, uncased in the aeroplane cabin. You really can drop it without worry, although you have to protect it from crushing. Not much theft risk, either. Its simple, unpretentious appearance is perfectly appropriate when I'm playing for children in a deeply impoverished village. My own children play with the dulcimer too, causing me no stress at all.

With regards to the Darcyhorse, I stand by my written review. Many of the faults you have emphasised are very real. On the Darcyhorse I reviewed, the panels were too thick, and there was a marked deficiency in the quality of the lutherie and the finishing. This is consistent with anecdotal reports such as your own. I wouldn't normally recommend the instrument, at least until I come across a better example. New players should be warned of the instrument's limitations.

None of this justifies a wholesale assault on Terry Pattison's craft, however. Neither he nor his product deserve incessant ridicule. His low-cost dulcimers have brought joy to many people, even if they have disappointed some. The buyer of my Darcyhorse wrote to say he was extremely pleased.

Moreover, the essential components of a fine instrument are there. Even with my own limited skills, I was able to improve the performance of my Darcyhorse considerably. You'll note that in my sound clip, the instrument holds its pitch on the melody strings and achieves a proper sympathetic ring, although I was unable to chord it successfully. That's enough for many people. A professional luthier could do more than I did, perhaps at very low cost. And I'd suggest that 10 or 20 years from now, his solid wood instruments (at least those without a superfulous variety of woods), if properly kept, are likely to age very well.

There is now a giant internet footprint underscoring the quality problems and perceived dissatisfaction with Darcyhorse dulcimers. Google "Darcyhorse Dulcimer," and your own "what a mistake!" post on FOTM pops up at number three. (My review doesn't appear at all, unless you actually type the word "review.") Justified or not, his reputation has already suffered considerably -- more than is warranted, in my view.

You've made it very clear that your Darcyhorse is no more musical than a heavy wooden log, and is deserving of the scorn you've heaped upon it. It seems you paid rather a lot for it, too. Your animosity is legitimate and understandable, but it isn't the whole story. I have played hundreds of dulcimers, and the Darcyhorse I tested *did* have musical value as a dulcimer (not as a fingernail on a chalkboard).
Terry is committed to building, and there's every reason to expect that his craft will improve.

I look forward to acquiring and playing another Darcyhorse dulcimer next year. If it disappoints, I'll let you know.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby Posgroup » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:54 am

I just bought #3 made on 6/06 on Ebay from one of our friends and frequent posters. He described it as "pretty fair sound, but not a lot of volume." $51 (including shipping). It is for a beginner in a nursing home, so ... I'm thinking it will fill the bill.
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby strumelia » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:54 am

Posgroup wrote:e described it as "pretty fair sound, but not a lot of volume." $51 (including shipping). It is for a beginner in a nursing home, so ... I'm thinking it will fill the bill.


Could be just the thing- volume wouldn't be a big issue in that situation. However, do make sure the action is such that it's not too hard to press the strings down. :) If the action seems a little stiff, you can always change to slightly little gauge strings, that will make it easier for the older beginner to play.
How lovely that someone in a nursing home is taking up the dulcimer!
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby GWentland » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:25 pm

Ok, you win. If you just look at how much time the maker spends making these dulcimers, $50-$75 is a great bargain and probably not enough money. However; the person that worries me is the new player who buys one of these thinking that it is a good example of a playable dulcimer for a reasonable price. A dulcimer that is finished and ready to play, without the need of a quality luthier fixing it. The new player waits for it's arrival excitedly. He has his beginners book and he starts practicing. He discovers that playing a dulcimer is much more difficult than he imagined and he quits.
I was stupid, I thought the Darcyhorse was a good dulcimer. It looked interesting and well made, so I saw one I liked and I bought it for $200. Now $200 is not that much money to me, but it could have been a fortune to someone else who is scraping there pennies together to buy a dulcimer.
There are a lot of Darcyhorse dulcimers that have been sold. There does not seem to be an overwhelming response on this, the largest, dulcimer website opposing my opinion. I am waiting for someone to say, "I HAVE A DARCYHORSE DULCIMER AND I LOVE PLAYING IT."
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Re: Darcyhorse Mountain Dulcimers

Postby dtmd » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:30 pm

Mine fell down the wall today. Reminded me that it was probably time to dust it off again. :cry:
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