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Articles & the Press

book review: Pluck, David Schnaufer’s biography

‘Pluck – The Extraordinary Life and Times of David Schnaufer’

by Linda Paulus

an informal book review by Dan Evans

first impressions

At over £37 from Amazon UK and with over 500 pages for the main story alone, this paperback represents quite an investment of time and money.  So is it worth it ?

Schnaufer’s story is written in the present tense with an ease that seems to make the pages turn more quickly than usual.  I enjoy reading but I’m often put off by very long stories.  Here however, I found myself on page 300 in seemingly no time, eager to read on and find out what happens next.

David Schnaufer – the man and his music

I learned about David’s shy, quiet and unassuming nature and the ease with which he made friends with just about everyone he met.  Rather than push his own music onto others, David was always keen to learn about their music.

The book sets the scene of country music in Schnaufer’s lifetime (1952 – 2006) and I learned how incredibly successful he was, especially in his collaborations with eminent country artists.  His story is even more remarkable when you consider David’s many struggles, both financial and medical.

It seems that much of his life David didn’t have a home of his own, except late in life when he lived in a tiny apartment in Nashville.  One of the cars he drove was a ‘rust bucket’ wreck that was given to him by a friend.  On one occasion David drives away from visiting friends, his car rattling and puffing smoke.  He then shouts back to his friends: “just three more down-payments and she’s all mine”.

Not being able to afford medical insurance, David could not easily see a doctor.  Both a broken neck (from an accident in early life) and long-term diabetes were seemingly not properly managed.  Despite these challenges, Schnaufer was prolific as well as successful, making many recordings, appearing in films and writing or co-writing songs.

David’s interest in the history of the dulcimer and of the Tennessee music box, lead him to acquire a collection of instruments, which are now housed in the Tennessee State Museum.  His respect for tradition was balanced by innovation.  He sometimes played a dulcimer with 4 equidistant strings or one with chromatic fretting, which doubtless helped when playing with others.

a large appendix       

There are a couple of pages in the comprehensive appendices that list discussion topics for book clubs.  These will make you reflect on David’s life and achievements as well as the purpose of life itself and the role of music and musicians in society.  Much of the appendix however is given to the countless references that cite the extensive research undertaken to complete this project.

my verdict         

It probably helped that I know many of the dulcimer players mentioned from my travels in the USA; Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book immensely.  I also feel proud to have known this great man and marvel at his fantastic contribution to the popularity of the dulcimer.  I’m also proud of my friend Linda Paulus for her monumental effort in pulling this project together, and so very nicely.

For British readers of this review: the late Roger Nicholson of London, England gets a couple of mentions in the book as a source of inspiration to the developing David Schnaufer.

If you are still not committed to buying a copy, let me whet your appetite further by mentioning just a few of the many artists that David Schnaufer worked with: Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Cindy Lauper, The Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Alison Krauss and Sting.  Need I say more ?

interview in Unicorn magazine

I stumbled across this interview for Unicorn folk magazine (UK) in my files today.  My wife and I met the editor: Simon Bailes, while we were on holiday in the Lake District in May 2014.  Simon was working away from home nearby in Cumbria at that time, so we met up and shared a meal together.  Following this acquaintance, Simon both interviewed me for Unicorn and, later, reviewed my Au Vieux Moulin CD, which was in the making at the time.

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my back catalogue

part 8 ~ CD albums ctnd…

inspired by a stay at an old water mill in France where the tile track was composed, Au Vieux Moulin (2014) is my favourite and most popular CD to date – with only a little guitar, this album is a showcase for the fingerpicked dulcimer, featuring pieces from medieval to modern music in a variety of different tunings – especially important are four new minimalist pieces for the dulcimer, including the title track Le Ruisseau Du Moulin (The Mill Stream)

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What Is A Dulcimer ?

“What is a dulcimer ?” is perhaps the question I’m most often asked – this blog aims to answer that question and to give a little background to this charming instrument, as well as my own approach to it

the dulcimers that I play are members of the zither family, not to be confused with the hammered dulcimer, which is a trapezoid-shaped percussion instrument

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dulcimer strings

advice on strings for mountain dulcimers

background

I am often asked which string gauges I use on my dulcimers – this blog aims to answer that question – but I first need to explain some of the peripheral issues for my answer to make complete sense …

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the difference between rhythm and timing

the difference between rhythm and timing in music

In music, timing and rhythm are two completely different things.  This issue has cropped up a few times on my workshops, so I created this blog post to help to explain the difference between two.  Clarity for me came when I considered the difference between a timing change and a rhythm change within the same piece of music.  So, as well as defining the terms, I have included in this blog examples from my dulcimer repertoire of both type of changes.

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Making Music

practical tips for aspiring musicians 

these helpful hints are presented here as they were published in the British monthly magazines MK Pulse and NN Pulse from March 2021 

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Dulcimer Diaries

amusing anecdotes from my music work ~ these stories are presented here as they were published in the British magazines MK Pulse and NN Pulse between March 2020 and February 2021 – they are all true 

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amplification & effects for dulcimers ~ part 2

this article was published in the UK’s Nonsuch Dulcimer Club newsletter   

amplification and effects for mountain dulcimer ~ part 2 ~ electric dulcimers

Following on from part 1, my previous article on amplifying acoustic dulcimers, this article now focuses on the electric dulcimer.  Electric guitar technology is now very mature so this could have been a huge topic.  My aim here however, is to offer an introduction to the technology as a starting point for aspiring electric dulcimer players and to help them avoid some of the common pitfalls.

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