Meet Mahaleth

posted Apr 4, 2012, 2:34 PM by Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder   [ updated Apr 4, 2012, 2:53 PM ]
Everyone has an image or brand, even at the faire.  Is it the tinctures of your coat of arms? Do you wear a kilt? Perhaps you speak with a different voice, or wear extreme makeup.

There are a couple of things that I try to keep consistent, like my outfit colors of maroon with black and/or white accents. But there is also Mahaleth, my main faire instrument. While I have taken other instruments to faires, usually at just about anything local, you’ll see me playing this 100+ year old German guitar, or Wandervogellaute (wandering bird lute).

This style of instrument dates back to around 1850 until about 1910, so it is at least 100 years old. There’s no particular way to tell how much older it might be. At the recent Norman Medieval Fair, someone was asking about how it differs from a standard modern guitar, and I pointed out that it basically just has a shorter neck and beveled (scalloped out) frets. The action is also pretty high, but that is mostly due to age and the fact that there is no tension rod through the neck like a modern instrument would probably have.

When I saw this instrument on ebay, I was using a standard dial up connection on our local phone lines (basically a tight string and a couple of cans), so I couldn’t try to snipe it or anything underhanded, I just had to put in a high enough proxy bid. I really didn’t know how well it would play. The shipping from Germany also damaged the back more than it should, but I was not about to return it, so I just had the local music shop patch the hole.

Since then I have put in the maintenance, regluing where necessary, polishing and occasionally cleaning. I even managed to install a passive piezo pickup inside the front face, under the bridge (like building a ship in a bottle).

As for the name, it is the hebrew name of Ishmael's daughter and wife of Esau. The name means “lyre.” Anachrohistorically, I figured that I would join the great company of musicians who name their primary instrument.