RGC Double Presentation Meeting of January 20, 2019

The Rochester Guitar Club’s January 2020 meeting was a genuine “Two-fer.” That is, two excellent presentations in one session. Bernie Lehmann started us off discussing the effects winter weather can have on our instruments and how to deal with them. Alyssa Rodriguez demonstrated the Swedish Nyckelharpa via computer graphics and live performance on the instrument. Both had lively Question-
and-Answer exchanges with the listening audience during their presentations. A brief summary of each presentation follows below.


Bernie Lehmann

Bernie Lehmann - Tis the time of the season...to care for your guitar!

Winter weather and its corresponding lower humidity and temperatures present several problems for acoustic as well as electric and acoustic-electric guitars. During cold weather cold air can’t hold as much moisture, which in turn tends to dry out the wood in our instruments. This can affect neck straightness,
bridge height, bridge saddles, and string buzz. Bernie demonstrated truss rod adjustments using several guitar necks that he brought along. He also discussed ways of making bridge and saddle adjustments to compensate for cold-weather induced changes to guitar bodies and necks.

Equally important is using various devices to humidify guitars and cases to minimize the cold weather effects on instrument playability. Bernie brought along a replica of a Vaudeville-era guitar. He used it to discuss how neck angle, internal bracing, and different woods can affect what types of adjustments can be made to offset changes to instruments in cold weather.

Bernie’s web site is http://lehmannstrings.com.


Alyssa Rodriguez – Fiddling around on the Nyckelharpa is serious business!

The Nyckelharpa (“key fiddle”) might be considered a hybrid type of twelve-stringed instrument. It has been used to accompany folk music for the past several centuries with an earlier version of a keyed fiddle dating as far back as the 1400’s. Players typically use a stubby arched bow, although Alyssa uses a shortened violin-style bow. The nyckelharpa has drone strings, sympathetic resonating strings, as well as primary strings used to play melodies. Note changes are done by using a row of chromatic keys that press against the strings to generate different notes of the scale.


Alyssa Rodriguez

Some might compare the nyckelharp to a hurdy-gurdy. However, some serious nyckelharpa builders and players have been known to take offense at the comparison, although they are indeed related instruments.

Alyssa’s nyckelharpa was made in Sweden by Enar Magnusson in 2011. It has 37 keys tuned from a low G up to an F#, has one low C drone string, and the open strings are tuned A-C-G-C, like a viola. She plays
it while sitting, and its back is held close at an angle like a guitar to allow gravity to return the keys to their initial position after being pressed. Thus, it cannot be played flat on a person’s lap. Music for nyckelharpa is written in treble clef. Since around 1930, its music has become modernized to allow the playing of more lyrical pieces, mostly in solo or duet format. One of the modern nyckelharpa composers and players is Erik Rydvall, who has contributed greatly to the renaissance of the instrument in modern times. He also has popularized the playing of a violin repertoire on modern instruments. Modern players strive to achieve a smooth flowing technique.

Alyssa performed several pieces written for the nyckelharpa to demonstrate its unique rich
harmonic sound. She can be seen playing her instrument at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GquR09Z_aC0 Her web site is https://alyssarodriguezmusic.wixsite.com/fiddle/contact

~John Williamson

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