Dulcet tones from a handmade dulcimer - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Dulcet tones from a handmade dulcimer

Sweet strings bring sweet music in Madison. Sweet strings bring sweet music in Madison.

Mention the dulcimer and many thoughts focus on Appalachia: mountain music. It's been in this area for generations. But Jon W. Harris discovered it, oddly enough, on the Jersey shore.  "We had a couple of ladies, in period dress, out in the gazebo, playing dulcimers," said Harris.

Years later he would build a couple of them from a kit. But these days, it's all done from scratch.

He even mills the lumber and lets it dry for a year. Then the assembly begins with the front of the instrument. "The fret board is glued to the top and set aside," explains Harris.

The process, he says, is simple. "I change my work bench to a simple form. The ribs or sides of the dulcimer are bent and then fit into the forms."

"The tail block is glued to the two ribs," he continued, moving quickly.

The building process involves skill and grace. "The frame of the dulcimer is now set on the material that's going to be used for the back. The outline of the instrument is marked. I add three braces across the back, cut out the back a little oversized and glue it all together," said Harris.

The instrument is then sanded down and a finish is added.

There's a reason Jon chose "Sweet Strings" as the name for his business: Because the music is ever so sweet.

"The instrument itself can sound very sweet or rather harsh, depending upon who is playing it and what they're playing and what they want it to sound like," said Harris.

Each dulcimer seems to have it's own personality. That includes what going into the "recipe." "Every kind of wood has it's own unique sound," according to Harris.

A sound revered by many. He usually he builds 50 dulcimers a year, but he touches many more heart strings with the music in Bobby's Bama.

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