A String By Any Other Name...Is A String! (or is it?)

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6 years ago
354 posts

Dusty Turtle:

marg:

 

I make loop ends out of ball end strings this way - pushing the other end through but I'm always at a lost as to how to finish the strings off neatly. I will try Butch's way, over than under and under and under than back & forth till it breaks off.

Sounds good, thanks Dusty

 


Marg, when you say "finish the string off neatly," do you mean what to do with the excess string that sticks out of the tuners?  Butch's method of twisting the strings until they break will indeed work, though sometimes you have to be patient. It might take several "back and forths" before you succeed.  I have a metal string winder that includes a wire cutter on it.  I just cut the excess string as close as I can and then push the end (not with a finger!) so that it bends back and can't cut you.  

 

I usually bend the end 3/16 back 180* before making the 90* bend which puts the cut end back in the hole. I also try to leave about 1/16  (bent end) extended past the post surface and put 1 wrap on the open end of the post and the balance of the wraps on th inside ( nearest the knob).

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,616 posts

I've often used the same end wire cutters that Ken does. But I also have a string winder by Planet Waves that works as a wire cutter. I put it in my dulcimer case and take it whenever I'm playing somewhere.  I've seen prices as high as $15 but I'm sure you can find it for $5-$7 if you dig around.  It's actually 2-3 tools in one, although most dulcimer players don't need the little part that pops out end pins.

Here is is from Musician's Friend .

 

Edit: The one I have is exactly like the one in the picture above. But I read some of the customer comments and it appears there is also a cheaper, plastic version out there that might not work as well.  The one I have is very sturdy and works great.  I use it on my guitars, dulcimers, and mandolin.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 05/23/16 11:55:04PM
marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

Oh, I have one of those, didn't know what it was for - came in a nice set of different type of pliers.

Great, will try them.

Thamks

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,010 posts

There is a wire cutting tool called an End Nipper or some such -- lets you get reeeaaal close.  I use it for cutting frets to length.

Here's a link to a couple different inexpensive End Nippers from Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/uxcell%C2%AE-Nipper-Cutting-Pliers-Jewelry/dp/B00524WTO4

marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

I use 'needle nose pliers to clip'  but it is never close enough and leaves just a bit of wire. No problem with that but will try the 'back & forth' and compare. I need to be more consistent in how I do it so each is done similar and not each string different since I am still learning. I have gone through the holes twice and have tried over and under - the first way is harder to get off and the second way is still not very  neat. Still needing practice but what I do holds, just isn't right yet.

thanks

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

And speaking of snipping off the extra string length:

From 'In Search of the Wild Dulcimer' by Robert Force & Albert d'Ossche ..can someone please do this, please, pretty please, then post a picture...Dusty? 

"There is really only one truly efficient technique for putting strings on an instrument; however, there are at least three schools of thought on this matter. Some people are aghast at the thought of cutting off a string's excess length. They wind the string onto the tuning peg in a way that allows the excess length to dangle hither and yon, thereby preserving, as it were, the string's 'soul' - while providing a convenient place to jam their filter cigarettes while playing. We call this the 'Rock 'n' Roll String Syndrome'. (bolding my choice to highlight this awesome and hilarious visual)

 

 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,010 posts

Same here Marg; I use the wire cutter in the middle of my needle nose pliers to clip off any excess string after going around and through the hole twice and pulling up tight.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,616 posts

marg:

I make loop ends out of ball end strings this way - pushing the other end through but I'm always at a lost as to how to finish the strings off neatly. I will try Butch's way, over than under and under and under than back & forth till it breaks off.

Sounds good, thanks Dusty

Marg, when you say "finish the string off neatly," do you mean what to do with the excess string that sticks out of the tuners?  Butch's method of twisting the strings until they break will indeed work, though sometimes you have to be patient. It might take several "back and forths" before you succeed.  I have a metal string winder that includes a wire cutter on it.  I just cut the excess string as close as I can and then push the end (not with a finger!) so that it bends back and can't cut you.  

 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

I make loop ends out of ball end strings this way - pushing the other end through but I'm always at a lost as to how to finish the strings off neatly. I will try Butch's way, over than under and under and under than back & forth till it breaks off.

Sounds good, thanks Dusty

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,616 posts

For folks who are still nervous about changing strings, there are several video demos out there about how to do it.  Just a few months ago on the first and second Dulcimer Road videocasts, Butch Ross demonstrated how he changes strings.  Note how he uses a capo to help hold the string in place while he winds it. (Now why didn't I think of that?)

Here is his demonstration on a flat head dulcimer: https://youtu.be/AyqayWugB9w?t=1m22s

And here is his demonstration on a scroll head dulcimer: https://youtu.be/sSwOjjhI_8Q?t=57s

Also note how Butch makes a loop end string out of a ball end string without removing the ball but by pushing the other end of the string through it.  (Now why didn't I think of that either?)




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 05/21/16 02:27:14AM
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
411 posts

Thanks, Marg, for that illustrated set of instructions.  I know this isn't the only way to do it, but several people have described this in words and I really needed a close up photo of how it looks when done properly!  The few times I have put new strings on, I end up with a big mess...which I try to ignore as long as I can get the notes I need.  I am going to also bite the bullet and make myself change a few strings soon...I need to get some with odd sizes though, so I'll need to go across town to Guitar Center....that may be awhile...

Interesting that you can only get ball ends because I have a whole drawer full of loop end strings and seem to mostly need the ball ends. tic




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

(the heavier string I had put on that day was just a bit wider then the originals and that was what was causing the issue.)

This may very well be the problem, I will check this out - if it is sitting in the slot.

thanks so much

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
184 posts

Double check your nut and bridge and make sure that string is fully set in the slots.   I had that problem awhile back and even though it looked fine, what I found was that the slot in the nut let that string go from time to time.   I had to widen that slot and deepen it a bit..........no problem after that.  I would guess that the heavier string I had put on that day was just a bit wider then the originals and that was what was causing the issue.

marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

.24 - .26 wound string is what I use.  Flappy as in maybe strumming too hard and the string jumps back vibrating flappy, hard to explain. No problem with easy strums, maybe instead of strumming across I go down some. Need to see if I can figure it out. Trying to figure out somethings is sometimes harder than fixing the problem but I will. Strange it's only a problem with the Mcspadden, beautiful voice just flappy a bit sometimes on the bass string.

thanks, as always

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,616 posts

For a bass string in the 27"-29" range I would go with a .024 or .026 wound string tuned to the D or C below middle C.  It should not be flappy at all, if by "flappy" you mean loose.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

I have a bass string that is flappy, I have a 26 on it -  Mcspadden 28.5.

    It had a 24 but that was flappy also, am I going the wrong way. I wanted a deepper bass. Yes, I know about the string calculator,  it has a really low gage size, I have never used a bass that size (19- 20)  Mcspadden has string set they sell with .023 for the bass - so my question on the flappy bass, what size should I be looking for? There isn't much difference between 23 & 24 and the 24 was also flappy.

   What can I use for a good bass sound but not flappy.

Thanks

MacAodha
MacAodha
@macaodha
6 years ago
31 posts

What gauge string would one suggest for a 28.5 inch VSL. Presently I'm using 10, 13, 22wound. On one Dulcimer they seem fine on another of the same VSL they can seem a bit flappy.

marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

I have done this many times and the strings hold tight

joe sanguinette
joe sanguinette
@joe-sanguinette
6 years ago
73 posts

you can make ball end strings work by simply threading the end of the string through the ball forming a noose or a snare type

of end.  then......install it.  might require several attempts to tune the string as the noose tightens up on the pin.

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
354 posts

The ball is a tube, it can be crushed. Pinch it with pliers or vicegrips across the diameter and break it, the pieces are then fairly easy to remove. Don't pinch the string though, just grab a side, you may have to try several times. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,010 posts

Buy strings from www.juststrings.com.  They have Just Strings dulcimer sets, and individual strings in any gauge you can think of for really little money.  Buy several seta and have them around.  I buy sets for as little as $3 each.


updated by @ken-hulme: 05/17/16 09:58:37PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Hmmmm....well this just isn't working out at all. I have several traditional string that come with the tiny metal nut with the loop wrapped around. The luthier showed me how to twist that loop a few times to release that nut. Easier said than done! I've twisted and twisted and used two needle nose pliers and taint happening. The wire finally broke. (and yes I was twisting in the correct direction, LOL)  Any idea how to do this since I need the loop and not the nut? I only have access to these types of strings in my area, none with just the loop.

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
354 posts

Here's how I string: Put the loop[ball] on its pin, pull the string snug to the tuner, clip the string 2-2 1/2 inches past the tuner [longer], bend the string 90* about 1/4" from the cut end. You can then insert the bent end into the hole , apply a little tension and turn the tuner to tighten, maintaining a little tension on the string as needed.

marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

The scroll head is very nice, I have a flat head Mcspadden and It is not as nice but yes easier to change the strings. 

Good luck

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

You are my hero, haha! I'm kinda kidding but I do hate to do it. My ducilmer has the scroll head and it very much reminds me of the game Operation! where I'm digging around with needle nose pliers. My next dulcimer will for sure have a flat head! (first timer mistake 'oooh the scroll is so pretty!"

I'm planning on 'going in' today and getting the strings on. Pray for me. kiss


updated by @d-chitwood: 05/17/16 11:06:14AM
marg
@marg
6 years ago
593 posts

    I hope you get your dulcimer taken care of but on the off chance it is still needing a string by next Wednesday, I will be passing through Atlanta on my way to Asheville. I have changed my own strings but they never look like someone who knows what they are doing has done it, more like a beginner but it works. I will be staying at the SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway - if it is anywhere near you, I am surprise Atlanta doesn't have more dulcimer people. I am also amazed Asheville area doesn't have more shops where I can look for a NC dulcimer. Black Mt. seems to have a store but that is all I have found so far and they only seem to carry T K O'Briens and Mcspaddens.

   The image attached is how someone in my group winds his string, I would like to try this as it looks snug and neat. Info. for guitars but work for dulcimers also.

    

restringing (1).jpg
restringing (1).jpg  •  279KB

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,010 posts

See "Always tune a vibrating string..." above...

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Thank you both!

 

Just this past weekend, I was retuning from CGC back to DAD and was all puffed up and patting myself on the back from my tuning confidence, my sheer bravery as I tightened the tuner. In fact, IN FACT, I would dare say I was almost cocky as I came to the melody string, amazed that me and both dogs were not only still alive, but the birds were still singing and all. was. right. with. the. world.

It was that last tiny turn towards the straight upright D that did it. That string broke with the ferocity of a precision-guided munition system, and flew over ten feet, seeking eyeballs or wet noses on its trajectory path. Both dogs had to leap out of the way and barely got away with their fuzzy lives.

And there it sits. My cherry Mcspadden. Nary a word and shamefully wearing only two strings. 

If anyone is in the Atlanta area, I'll be happy to meet you for a coffee and some restringing fun. :) :) (just kidding. Not really..no, just kidding. Sorta...)

*happily accepting names of counselors dealing with restringing-phobia* :)


updated by @d-chitwood: 05/16/16 11:06:30AM
John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
6 years ago
123 posts

There is nothing "special" about dulcimer strings. They are the same little looped-end beasties that are used on mandolins and banjos and all sorts of other instruments. A really well-equipped shop will stock single strings in various gauges and, in the case of the wound strings, windings. 

The "little nut" on guitar strings is called a ball end. Some dulcimers use them instead of looped end. 

I'll let more experience experimenters suggest gauges. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,010 posts

A string is a string is a string...  There only a couple of manufacturers in the world who produce "music wire" in a wide range of gauges and types (plain steel and various kinds of wound strings).  They sell this music wire in HUGE (miles long) spools to companies who make and package strings -- both branded (D'Arco, Martin, etc.) and private label (like JustStrings).  These are the people who have machines to put loops in the end or little brass eyelets.  Guitar strings, banjo strings, mandolin strings, dulcimers string and more all come from the same place.  The only thing special about dulcimer strings is the package and perhaps the length (mandolin strings are not as long as guitar or banjo strings).

The appropriate (or favorite) gauges of strings for specific tunings always depends on the VSL of the dulcimer, and the open note to which you will tune that string.

To cure RestringingPhobia and avoid DeathMissile injuries:

When re-stringing, only ever mess with one string at a time.  Off comes the Bad String.  On goes the Good String.   The new Good string has to go around the post the same way the old string did (clockwise or counterclockwise).  It only needs to make a couple turns around the post and through the hole -- trim off the excess string.  Turn the tuning knob until the new Good string makes at least a dull twang.  Tune the new Good string as below.  Rinse and repeat with the other strings.

Always tune a vibrating string.  Grab what you think is the correct tuning knob.  Pluck the string you want to tune.  While the string is 'singing', give the tuning knob a quarter turn one way or the other.  If you do NOT hear a change in the singing string, STOP! (because you have the wrong tuning knob).  If you DO hear a change in pitch, continue, a quarter turn at a time, plucking and turning the knob, while watching your electronic tuner.  The closer you get to the right note, the smaller your knob-turnings should be until you zero in on the right note. 

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

This weekend I was out and about in the mountains and went by a music shop  I needed some strings. The shop I visited had a huge selection of just about every other stringed instrument's strings but not for dulcimer. 

A very well known luthier told me once that dulcimer strings were just guitar strings without the little nut at the end. 

So my question is...is there anything special about packaged dulcimer strings? I'm wanting to experiment with different gauges but I have RestringingPhobia. :)  I'm all squinting and leaning away, just waiting for the string to break PIIIIINNNG!! and attack me like a death missile. 

What are your favorite gauges for a standard vsl when typically using DAD, CGC, DAA? 


updated by @d-chitwood: 06/08/16 09:24:05PM