Dulcimer Maker

Dulcimer Maker: The Craft of Homer Ledford

R. Gerald Alvey
Photographs by Jerry Schureman
WITH A NEW FOREWORD AND AFTERWORD BY Ron Pen
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hwr2
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  • Book Info
    Dulcimer Maker
    Book Description:

    Dulcimer making has long been considered an art. The exquisite design is also functional, and the best instruments sound as beautiful as they look. Homer Ledford, a legend among dulcimer makers, is known for his innovative but traditional craftsmanship. A biography and a step-by-step guide to dulcimer making, this classic book illuminates and celebrates the work of a master craftsman, musician, and folk artist. This new edition presents a foreword by Ron Pen, director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky, and an enlightening afterword featuring a conversation with Ledford. In an era when Americans are rediscovering their musical roots,Dulcimer Makeroffers a unique look at a bluegrass legend.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4845-8
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Ron Pen

    So, you just listened to Jean Ritchie’s poignant recording of the old ballad “Barbara Allen” and now you want to buy a dulcimer? Well, come along with me. I know just where we should go—Winchester, Kentucky, where the Appalachian foothills embrace the rolling fields of the Bluegrass. Let us stroll together through the town’s College Park neighborhood, a pleasant, tidy residential area not too far from the old courthouse square.

    Immediately we are bathed in an aura of small-town friendliness; people wave and cordially call out a greeting as we pass cozy ranch-style homes. There is an abundance of...

  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    The Appalachian mountain dulcimer is, in the strictest sense of the term, a folk culture instrument, its construction and use having “taken place within the currency of an oral tradition of music.”¹ Although the exact date of the introduction of the Appalachian dulcimer, and its earliest history, are unknown or at best unclear, it was probably not common until the nineteenth century.² No similar instrument is traditional to the British Isles; however, several closely allied instruments are traditional to northern Europe—the Swedishhummel,the Norwegianlangeleik,the Icelandiclangspil,the Germansheitholt,and the Frenchepinette des Vosges—though...

  6. I HOMER LEDFORD: THE MAN AND THE CRAFTSMAN
    (pp. 7-50)

    As the loud and lengthy applause from the 200-odd members of the audience subsided, the performer of mountain music, who was seated in the middle of the mountain amphitheater’s stage, playing his own homemade instruments, slowly pulled from his right-hand pants pocket a small, well-worn, black-handled pocketknife. With a wry grin, he held it up before his audience and said, “Since I told you these instruments are my own—I made them myself—I just thought you might like to see what myshoplooks like.” The audience laughed at the obvious joke, a laugh mixed with respect, even awe,...

  7. II THE ANATOMY OF THE LEDFORD DULCIMER
    (pp. 51-110)

    Homer states that in the construction of a traditional Appalachian dulcimer, the selection of the proper woods is the essential prerequisite for building a superior instrument. For the back and sides, Homer recommends the harder woods, such as black cherry, maple, and mahogany. Black walnut is particularly suitable for dulcimer bodies because it glues well, it is attractive and provides good sound, and dulcimer owners apparently often prefer it. Both the pegbox and the end block should be constructed of the same material as the body of the instrument—not only so that the coloring of the dulcimer will be...

  8. III THE LEDFORD DULCIMER IN CONTEXT
    (pp. 111-170)

    Homer and his dulcimer craft are inextricably grounded in and bounded by the sociocultural, psychological, socioeconomic, and political milieu of American society. Thus it is impossible, from a scholarly perspective, fully to appreciate the origins and the evolution of the Ledford dulcimer without first acquiring some understanding of the cultural contexts, or systems, in which we as Americans live.

    Operating within our modern industrialized society are three systems of culture identified by various scholars as folk culture, popular culture, and elite culture.¹ All three systems have influenced and continue to influence Homer’s craft in various ways, although the influences of...

  9. AN AFTERWORD IN HOMER LEDFORD’S OWN WORDS EXCERPTED FROM A CONVERSATION WITH RON PEN ON JULY 12, 2002
    (pp. 171-175)

    PEN: [reading fromDulcimer Maker,page 166] “I have another idea that I want to use in an instrument, a new principle. It has to do with taking a circular spruce top, roughly the same size as an 11-inch banjo head, and instead of gluing it down onto a rim like a guitar top, put it under tension with a loop that pulls the top down and puts that into a stress; then set the bridge off center. Then see what kind of a sound I can get out of that, and I know it's going to sound good; it...

  10. AUDEOGRAPHY
    (pp. 176-180)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 181-192)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 193-197)