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The Galax Model
The Galax-style dulcimer is a form of lap dulcimer which was developed in the vicinity of Galax, Virginia. Galaxes are lozenge-shaped, with deeper sides than most other dulcimers, usually 2 1/2 to 3 inches (Kudzu Patch Galaxes are usually made 2 5/8 inches deep.) The instrument is strung with four strings, all tuned to the same note. The first two strings are usually played with a noter (a small smooth dowel or stick of wood); the remaining two act as drones. It is designed this way to produce a sound that will stand out when playing with an old-time or bluegrass band, instead of being drowned out by other instruments as most other dulcimers would be. The Galax dulcimer can be played in either Ionian or Mixolydian modes without re-tuning. The Galax is sometimes built with a false back, which rests on the player's lap, freeing the actual back to resonate with the vibrations of the strings and add to its volume.
The Gaskins/Melton Style Galax Dulcimer is built in the tradition of the Melton Family dulcimers, with the fretboard, tailblock and endblock built as one piece of wood.
See Prices & Terms page for ordering information.
Ralph Lee Smith endorsed Ben Seymour's Galax-style dulcimers on page 33 of the February-April 2001 issue of Dulcimer Players News in his column "Mountain Dulcimer Tales & Traditions:"
Postscript: Ben Seymour is Making Galax-Style Dulcimers
"I must sadly report that Jacob Ray Melton of Galax, Virginia, the great maker of traditional Galax-style dulcimers, passed away.... "For some time prior to his death, Jacob Ray had discontinued making dulcimers. This left interested persons virtually without a source for obtaining a traditional-style instrument of the Virginia type. I am glad to be able to report that Ben Seymour of Tryon, North Carolina has stepped in to fill this important need."
Ralph Lee Smith's book The Story of the Dulcimer provides a complete background on the Galax and other lap dulcimers. (For more information, see http://www.owlmntnmusic.com/dulcimerresources.htm.)
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Listen toSail Away Ladies,
played on a Kudzu Patch Galax.
Here is a video of Ben playing a Galax dulcimer.
A Gallery of Ben's Special Galaxes
(click on thumbnails to see larger photos)
Galax with false back and custom case.
Gorgeous Galax made for Terry Dadzitis (VA). SOLD
Lisa Johnson's (NY) Galax is built of figured cherry--back, top and sides. (See her comment below.) SOLD
Bill Collins' wormy chestnut Galax.
I built this dulcimer made entirely of wormy chestnut for Phyllis Gaskins (VA) as she wanted a Galax built the “old” way. I put frets all the way across and a 6˝ was added to this instrument by request.
Sycamore Galax made for Steve Eulberg (CO). The wood of this instrument possesses a beautiful dappled pattern.
Greg Gunner's Gaskins/Melton Galax has walnut back and sides and a wormy chestnut top. (See his comment below.)
Cherry Galax made for Tina Pond (E. Machias, Maine), with Passamaquoddy pattern wood inlay.
All-cherry Galax built for Gilles Roux of Geneva, Switzerland. Back inlay made with ebony, quilted maple and mahogany.
All-cherry Galax for Paul Tantillo of Rochester, NY. All-cherry Galax for a customer in Sligo, Ireland.
Dogwood Galax Ben made for himself from a tree in the yard of Becky's childhood home in Knoxville, TN.
Curly cherry galax with cat soundholes made for David Sigsbee. See his comments under "Other Galax Testimonials" below.
Sycamore galax for Cheryl Johnson.
See Prices & Terms page for ordering information.
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Galax Owners/Players Gallery
(Click on thumbnails for larger images)
Mary Cox named her KP Galax "Tater"!
Sean Ruprecht-Belt said of his Galax: "It's beautiful. I couldn't be happier. The workmanship is great, the wood itself is very pretty and will only get prettier and gain more character with age. It's amazingly comfortable to play, and the sound is exactly what I've been looking for. Thanks so much for this beautiful work of art."
Lisa Johnson and her Kudzu Patch Galax; Lisa and friend Brian jamming together. She reports, "My new graceful and beautiful cherry Galax dulcimer performed outstandingly at a big Old Time music gathering recently... Not only could I hear myself... others could hear my notes ... [and] complimented the rich tone of my new instrument... The height of the instrument, the hollow fretboard, and the 'false back'... contribute to producing a clear and beautiful tone... Despite its power and sturdy build, it plays like silk... ."
Steve Eulberg said of his Galax: "The ringing tones of the drones are light and airy, the North Carolina Sycamore is soft and sweet, the reverse capo is just a hoot--and without re-tuning I can easily play in 4 different modes ... & with the 6-1/2 I can also play E and A... And I like the extended fretboard that lets me get those good high notes! The false bottom gives more volume... I'm itching to sit down with some fiddlers and trade some tunes! I am a very pleased customer, brother."
Other Galax Testimonials
Multiple-instrument customer Greg Gunner says, "The Gaskins/Melton Dulcimer arrived safely today... It is a real beauty. The consistent high quality of your instruments continues to amaze me. It has a wonderful 'swarm of bees' sound that makes Galax-style dulcimers so unique, and the workmanship is top-notch."
Paul Tantillo wrote of his new cherry Galax: "Hi, Ben - I just wanted to let you know the dulcimer arrived safe and sound yesterday. The wood - amazing...exquisite. The scrollhead - poignant, wonderfully graceful. ...The sound - great, beautifully balanced. Actually, I'm surprised the drones don't dominate more, like they do in a bagpipe tuning on a regular dulcimer. On this one all the strings kind of unite as a whole. The scale sounds perfect to my ear. Craftsmanship - it's such an extremely fine piece of instrument-building, Ben. When you get an instrument this solid you just know it...it's real. I also appreciate your attention to historical accuracy. This is a real, true Virginia dulcimer, and they're a dying breed as far as I can see. I feel privileged to own this one... I really love dulcimers and I'm really happy to have this one in my keeping. It's certainly one of the finest I own, probably the best. Thank you so much."
David Sigsbee said, "With more than a little excitement, I report that I got the dulcimer, safe, sound, and whole… Opened the box, was almost shocked by how beautiful the wood was. … The wood is wonderfully grained. The sound is bright and crisp (the first thing my wife noticed). The action is easy and precise, and the tone and resonance are as good as I have heard. I'm a real happy camper with this dulcimer. The cat sound holes, which I sometimes had self-doubts about requesting (how untraditional do I want to be?) fit the instrument perfectly. If I am ever in one of those environments where people seem to expect dulcimers to have a name, I will call it 'Zeke' after your cat. Thanks for creating a real treasure for me."