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Ron Ewing Teardrop and Tearell Dulcimers

Some lovely and unusual dulcimers from Ohio master craftsman Ron Ewing.  Ron has been building superb and distinctive instruments for over 40 years.  He was the first to develop a professional quality dulcimer capo 30 years ago which is still regarded as the gold standard.  He is also credited with developing the earliest – and still arguably the best – higher register dulcimers.  His dulcimettes (tuned an octave above the normal dulcimer, usually DAD) and baritone dulcimettes (tuned an octave above the baritone dulcimer, usually AEA) are justly famous.

As a shy youngster growing up in Ohio during the late 60s, Ron was first captivated by the dulcimer playing of Richard Farina.  Looking to understand how to make a dulcimer for himself, he came across retired engineer, dulcimer builder and player Chet Hines.  He pestered Chet into letting him help with the dulcimer building then, as Chet’s arthritis grew worse, he took over the building side completely and made around 200 dulcimers under Hines’ label.  Developing into an accomplished player of traditional music, he moved in 1975 to the musical commune in Connecticut which was the home of Sandy and Caroline Paton and their Folk Legacy Records.  They encouraged him to make more of his own instruments and to improve his business skills.  He also found his dulcimers being sold at fairs alongside those of famous N Carolina father and son makers, Leonard and Clifford Glenn.  At this time, his adventurous chordal playing led him to make his first dulcimettes and capos, and experiment with 1½ and ½ frets (of which he remains an important advocate).  His dulcimers are known for their superb workmanship, their combination of woods with different sound characteristics, and their distinctive sweeping shapes with elegant, angular soundholes and headstocks.

2.104   1991 Ron Ewing Custom 4 String Tearell – £450 inc original padded case

Handwritten on printed label, “DULCIMERS/ by Ron Ewing/ LF4  351  10/22/91/ 224 E Maynard Street/Columbus, OHIO/ [tel. no.]”.  Tearell shape (mixture of elliptical and teardrop sides) with Trailing Diamond soundholes.  Beautiful rich, red koa body, bookmatched on the back with a central black/white/black purfling strip.  Close-grained reddish cedar top.  Ebony fingerboard and headstock overlay with ebony “nut” and floating, compensated bridge.  Brass markers at frets 3, 7, 10 and 14.  Extra 6+ and 13+ frets.  Good quality gold Gotoh (?) tuners.  Mushroom-headed pins for string anchor, positioned low down the endblock, with strings running over a curved tail.  Hitch pins at each end of the nearside face of the fingerboard, to allow one of the doubled melody strings to be demounted temporarily if required.  Overall length 35 [34½]”, single bout 6⅝ [6¾]”, depth 2 [1⅞]”, FBW 1½”, VSL 26¼ (shortish scale), weight 1lb 14oz (864g) [older teardrop below for comparison].  Strings now 12, 15, 26w.  6+ and 13+ frets.

This is a very well-made dulcimer which looks great.  Its sound and feel is even better, with plenty of punch when required, clear note definition and sweetness/responsiveness as appropriate.  Given its compact size and the (optional) shorter scale length, this should be an attractive proposition for the advanced or progressing player who would prefer less of a stretch.

2.81   1986 Ron Ewing – 4 String Teardrop – £Sold

A pretty and unusual dulcimer from Ohio master craftsman Ron Ewing.  Ron has been building superb and distinctive instruments for over 40 years. He was the first to develop a professional quality dulcimer capo 30 years ago which is still regarded as the gold standard. He is also credited with developing the earliest – and still arguably the best – higher register dulcimers. His dulcimettes (tuned an octave above the normal dulcimer, usually DAD) and baritone dulcimettes (tuned an octave above the baritone dulcimer, usually AEA) are justly famous.

Handwritten # and date on printed label:  “Dulcimers/ by Ron Ewing/ 234 east duncan/ Columbus, OH 43202/ TF180  12/11/86”.

Spruce or western red cedar top with elongated Trailing Diamonds soundholes and angular walnut F-head with four good quality, in-line, sealed chrome tuners.  Probably walnut sides with figured quarter-sawn white oak or possibly sassafras single piece back.  Small brass position dots at frets 3, 7, 10, 14; complete with 6+ and 13+ frets.  Wood (ebony?) guide/nut with zero fret and fully compensated, ebony floating bridge.  Mushroom-headed pins for string anchor, positioned low down the endblock, with strings running over a curved tail.  Strap buttons at each end.

Overall length 34½”, single bout 6¾”, depth 1⅞”, FBW 1½”, VSL 26¼ (shortish scale), weight 1lb 12oz (804g).  Strings now 11/11, 15, 24w.  6+ and 13+ frets.

A simple but striking design and an excellent balanced sound.  This has been well used, as befits such a high quality dulcimer, but it has also been well looked after.  A small nick on the end of the headstock is visible in the pictures.  It has good volume and tone, excellent intonation with its compensated bridge and plays very easily.  It would suit both fingerstyle and plectrum players.  This handcrafted instrument is not to be confused with even good quality standardised workshop dulcimers.  It is suitable for players of all abilities, but will best be appreciated by those whose playing has progressed to more challenging material.

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