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The Flipped Linear Chromatic

Updated: Feb 11, 2018

Working with Steve Shmania in 1998, we brought to life the first Linear Chromatic; a hammered dulcimer which gave players a more logical approach to chromaticism.   The instrument is amply described in the pages of my web site dedicated to the Linear Chromatic, its history, development and  characteristics.  This post is about how I came to the notion of flipping the tuning scheme for the LC (Linear Chromatic).

In 1999, Steve Schneider suggested that maybe the LC  should be flipped making it more like a piano.   Historically most hammered dulcimers in the US have a treble bridge on the left and a bass bridge on the right.  Early innovators, like Sam Rizzetta, wanted to extend the range of the traditional dulcimer.  Sam left the existing fundamental bridges alone but added extra bass notes on the left.  I, in response to requests by players such as Jem Moore and Steve Schneider, begin to create instruments that brought that extension of range to the right; creating instruments that had a continuous flow from left to right (high to low) giving the player a 16/18/8 (16 treble courses, 18 bass courses and 8 additional bass courses).  I still build dulcimers like that as my 3/16/15/8 and 3/16/18/9, 4/19/21/9 and 4/19/18/9 models show. 

When Steve Shamnia and I developed that first Linear Chromatic, the traditional flow was used.  The earliest LC, a 7/18/17/7,  flowed from left to right.   Initially the instrument was marked much like a traditional hammered dulcimer with two colors giving the player a consistent diatonic pattern with a third color being introduced to mark the additional chromatics. This marking system came to be known as the Standard Marking.

A student of Steve’s suggested that maybe the LC should be marked like a piano with all black keys (notes) being black and white keys (notes) being white.  This marking system came to be known as the Piano Marking.

The logical next step was to design an instrument that was flipped giving it a piano orientation with the bass notes on the left flowing right to left (high to low); completely opposite to the traditional flow.   In 1999 I designed and built such an instrument for Steve Schneider to try.  He of course had years of experience playing from left to right and ultimately could not make the transition.  The project was shelved for years.  That first one still lives in my basement.  I would get periodic requests to build a flipped instrument but  really wasn’t interested in pursuing the design.  Fifteen years later, I decided to revisit the concept and have just completed two flipped 7/18/19/11 LCs at the request of customers who insisted on having that orientation.  Keep tuned to see if this works for them. If anyone else is interested, go to my web page as I now offer this option. 

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