Joe, of course its the obvious solution I completely forget about! Doh!
Oh that's brilliantly simple! I checked mine and the action is definitely not high. A dime on the first fret is just touching the string. There's just a teensy bit of space between the 7th and a nickle.
I'm still waiting on new strings for it but I attempted to pick out a little tune on it (forgot to grab a pick so I was using a button as one- my instruments are kept in my craft room) and I actually managed to. I can't wait to actually be able to play it.
We had a concept called Nickel & Dime to explain where a good action height begins on a dulcimer. Put a dime next to a string at the 1st fret. The string should just touch the top of the string. If it doesn't touch by more than 1-2mm, it's getting too high. Balance a nickel on top of the 7th fret. The string should just touch the nickel. More than 1-2mm higher is getting to be too high for most players.
Action heights for ukes and other instruments are completely different.
Thanks Ken. :) Goo Gone was what I was thinking too.
As to the action being too high or low, I understand what it roughly means but what I don't know is how high is too high? I know on my ukuleles, the cheaper DIY prefab kit I built has higher action which makes it a bit harder to play but I don't know where "high action" would really begin. For all I know all three of my instruments have high action.
That's a good starter instrument and well worth the $45 you spent. As long as it frets accurately and the action is not too high or low you should have a good time learning to play on it. As to the gumminess, I would soak a small area of a rag or paper towel with some Goo Gone and rub over the area that is sticky. I shouldn't harm the finish, but always test in a small inconspicuous place before doing large areas. Best wishes as you begin playing the mountain dulcimer.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
Thank you Bryant and Ken.
It's a 1996 Dulcimer Factory DF1 Backpack model. 4 strings. My research says it's not fancy but it was made before the production quality really fell off.
I tried to attach a photo but I'm on mobile and the post button doesn't work after select the attachment. There's a few scratches on the back, some gumminess where someone placed stickers on the fretboard, and the strings are going to be replaced in the next few days, but otherwise it seems to be in good shape.
Welcome! Can you tell us what kind of dulcimer you got? You may be able to see a maker's label if you look through one of the sound holes.
Below is a recent revision of an article I wrote a few years ago, called I Just Got A Dulcimer. Now What? It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms, so we all mean the same things when we talk about the dulcimer; plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new friend.
Hi Inkdork (do you have a lot of tattoos or something?) and welcome to FOTMD. I think you'll find that you can play simple tunes on the dulcimer pretty quickly. But it is also capable of very complicated music, so there are plenty of challenges ahead. There are lots of resources here, so poke around the site, explore, and pose any questions you may have.
"A moment to learn and a lifetime to master"
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
I just recently started learning the ukulele as well and can almost play a song on it.
Before that, I was a terrible flute player as a tween, and as a young child, I took organ lessons and managed to peck out a few songs.
I'm hoping stringed instruments will work out better for me!