Dulcimer String Anchor Pins

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
6 months ago
873 posts

That's good news SoR. Glad to hear that some of this discussion was helpful to you. Keep on strumming.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

StudentofRhythm
StudentofRhythm
@studentofrhythm
6 months ago
15 posts

When I put the thin string on the bass it wouldn't hold a pitch lower than the G below middle C but if I tuned it to the D above middle C the other strings would pull their pins and/or break.  When I put the thicker string on I just tuned it up to the same pitch - like, how did it not occur to me to just try the lower D again?  Well, now that's done with.

The DAC I'm playing in now is the D and A below middle C and then middle C itself.  That tuning I got from my old book and the old Jean Ritchie record, if I'm remembering right.  I just strummed out "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman," "Noel Nouvelet" and "Douce Dame Jolie."

Onward and upward!

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
6 months ago
873 posts

Dusty Turtle:

In any case, it appears you and I don't really disagree on the appropriate string gauges; we are just not sure how  studentofrhythm has his dulcimer set up.

I agree that we don't really disagree. I was trying to find the appropriate strings for the first tuning he mentioned which was GDD. As I understand the pattern for identifying the notes by letters in the system we use, middle C is designated by a lower case "c".  The octave below that is capital letters. The next octave lower is a capital letter followed by an apostrophe. The octave with middle c is lower case and the next octave above is lower case followed by an apostrophe.In American Standard Pitch Notation notes are designated by letter and octave; middle c being C4.

The original poster wants to tune his dulcimer "up to minor tuning." If that is D minor those notes would be D, F, A. I don't know whether one would tune those strings in the same octave giving a open minor when the dulcimer is strummed. I guess I need a more information and a better knowledge of music theory.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

StudentofRhythm
StudentofRhythm
@studentofrhythm
6 months ago
15 posts

Well, heck it if I didn't get the thing tuned right finally!  I've got me a DAD tuned dulcimer at last, and it's now a cinch to get it down to DAC and play in minor!  I see I was making very silly n00b mistakes, and after paying more careful attention to octaves and gauges I've got it sorted out.  Thanks all for your discussion and your patience!

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 months ago
1,571 posts

Ken, maybe I am misunderstanding something.  @studentofrhythm appears to be tuning to a G ionian, which would either put him in the baritone range or in the ginger range.  Ken H concluded that studentofrhythm was tuning to a "high Gdd," meaning the G below middle C and the D above middle C.  I could obviously be wrong.  It has happened before.  smile

In any case, it appears you and I don't really disagree on the appropriate string gauges; we are just not sure how  studentofrhythm has his dulcimer set up.




--
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: 12/06/21 08:35:19PM
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
6 months ago
873 posts

Dusty, if the string VSL is 24 inches and the tuning is the D below middle C, according the the Strothers string calculator the string should be a 0.022. If you were tuning the "d" an octave higher the recommended string is a 0.011 but I think you could use a 0.012. I based my calculation on G and D as I thought that was what the original poster was going for in his question.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 months ago
1,571 posts

@ken-longfield, I think you mean .012 and not .022 for the D strings. Is that correct?




--
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
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
6 months ago
873 posts

And GDD would be a 0.016 for G and 0.022 for the D strings. String companies market dulcimer string sets mostly for two tunings, DAA and DAd and a VSL of about 26 to 28 inches. Dulcimer players need to learn that if they choose to explore other tunings and VSLs they need to find the right size strings. That's what is good about FOTMD. People can ask questions and folks here help them find the correct information. I trust that has been helpful to you StudentofRhythm.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song. 

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 months ago
318 posts

To be clear; The notes for DAd are D3A3d4, much higher the strings break. 

http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 months ago
1,926 posts

Sounds like you're trying to tune UP to the "high" Gdd.  Optimum string for the G, based on 24" VSL would be a 16 or 18 plain, not wound as they can be hard to find. For the high ds you'll want an 11 or 12 gauge.


updated by @ken-hulme: 12/06/21 10:49:57AM
StudentofRhythm
StudentofRhythm
@studentofrhythm
6 months ago
15 posts

VSL is 24" and the string gauges are 20 wound for the bass, 12 for the others.  I bought a pack of GHS dulcimer strings and broke the bass string immediately, then one of the 12 gauge.  That was when I gave up on the fourth string.  I tuned it as low as I could while still sounding clear and then compared notes with the piano and found it to be GDD.  Recently I bought another 20 wound and put it on the bass again and it sounds much better, even on that low G.  I paid more attention to how I put the string on to avoid stressing it like I did the last one.  I've been thinking about all the discussions here about how to put strings on and I'll probably try starting over with the melody string one more time.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 months ago
1,926 posts

As Dusty says, the string gauges you are using for the tuning you want may be the issue. 

First the VSL -- What is the distance betwen the nut and bridge (Dusty calls it the "scale length).  This is one of two pieces of information you need to have in order to get the right strings for a given tuning.

Second, the Tuning...  which GDD are you trying to tune to?   There are two common tunings which can be called GDD -- one higher in pitch than the conventional DAA, and one lower in pitch.

Is your bass string G three notes higher in pitch than the bass string D of a 'regular' dulcimer tuned DAA?   
Are the Ds in your GDD tuning the same pitch as the bass string D of a 'regular' dulcimer tuned DAA;  or are they an octave higher like the d in DAd tuning?   

In either case you probably cannot achieve a GDD tuning using "regular" dulcimer strings without either breaking strings or having them be uselessly floppy...

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 months ago
1,571 posts

Hey @studentofrhythm, the first thing I would ask is what gauge strings you are using and what the scale length (measurement of the bridge to the nut) is.  Tuning GDD is common for baritones and some 3/4-size instruments such as the Ginger.  But it's not common for standard dulcimers.  So let's make sure the string gauges are right for the scale length and tuning. Longer brad nails might be OK, but let's figure out string gauges first.




--
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
StudentofRhythm
StudentofRhythm
@studentofrhythm
6 months ago
15 posts

If I may revive this thread with a slightly different problem:

I have a cardboard-body dulcimer, like the backyard models but from a different maker.  I've had problems with the strings pulling the pins and detuning, especially the melody string.  Recently I drove a little nail in right by that pin and it doesn't pull as bad, but it still seems to pull a little bit: I can tune it to D in a GDD tuning, but if I try to tune it up to minor it seems to stop at about E and then I keep turning the peg but the pitch won't rise any.  I've broken several melody strings trying to tune it up to minor tuning before (let alone DAD) so I've always quit at this point.

IMG_6062.JPG

IMG_6063.JPG

You can maybe see that even the middle drone string is pulling the pin a bit, but it stays in tune so far - again, keeping it at GDD.  I'm not sure if I'm winding the string on wrong or if there's anything else I could do with the pin - replace all three with even longer nails?  These pins seem short and flimsy.

It's supposed to be a four-string, but I don't dare put any more strain on that one pin.

On the bright side, it does GDD and GDC just fine and I have a lot of fun playing medieval songs in Dorian mode.

dockildare
@dockildare
2 years ago
6 posts

John C. Knopf:


You could check these out if you like.  I've used them with great success:


https://www.folkcraft.com/collections/building-supplies-plans/products/dulcimer-string-anchor-pins-2340171



Yeah, I did actually find those cheers.  I was on Folkcraft looking for a combined bridge/pickup system ( had actually tried loads of sites to be honest ) and found the L R Baggs one.  I checked to see what else they did and came across the anchor pins.  But, they're metal and like someone else on here, I wasn't sure I liked the idea or sound possibilities.

dockildare
@dockildare
2 years ago
6 posts

Clive Quinn:

I got so fed up with pins that I decided to try something else. I drill 4 shallow holes big enough to hold the ball end and cut 4 slots between them and the bridge. It makes changing strings easier and makes the sound better, on my dulcimers at least, perhaps because it is attached to wood and not metal.

 

That looks a very nifty way around the problem.  Wish I'd thought of it before drilling the holes for the bridge pins. But I'm happy with the way I've gone and I think it looks ok.

Clive Quinn
Clive Quinn
@clive-quinn
2 years ago
3 posts

Don B:

I would think that eventually the hole will elongate from the tension of the sting pulling the ball end into the wood. The pin holds the ball end in place away from the wood. However I am not a luthier...

I thought the same when I first tried it Don, but since then I've made perhaps 50 dulcimers using this method and it works perfectly. I wouldn't want to try it on softwood though. This is what it looks like with the strings in place.

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IRENE
IRENE
@irene
2 years ago
168 posts

Grateful for the place to order the brass pins, thanks John.  and a beautiful job of how to hide the ball end of a string.   There are a lot of ways of tying those strings down.....but a stick out with all of 'em attached to one is not a good solution.   aloha, irene

Don B
Don B
@don-b
2 years ago
16 posts

I would think that eventually the hole will elongate from the tension of the sting pulling the ball end into the wood. The pin holds the ball end in place away from the wood. However I am not a luthier...

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 years ago
76 posts

Very neat workaround. Definitely an aesthetically nice solution

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
1,926 posts

That's an interesting design, Clive.  Wouldn't work for every design, certainly, but if it works for you, that's what matters.  

Clive Quinn
Clive Quinn
@clive-quinn
2 years ago
3 posts

I got so fed up with pins that I decided to try something else. I drill 4 shallow holes big enough to hold the ball end and cut 4 slots between them and the bridge. It makes changing strings easier and makes the sound better, on my dulcimers at least, perhaps because it is attached to wood and not metal.

 

brett2.jpg
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Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
1,926 posts

No reason you couldn't use guitar bridge pins; but they do take up more space than simple metal pins.  Make room for 4 pins though.  Two strings on a pen is no better than 4 on a peg.  Single pegs are not good.  Multiple smaller pegs tend to look too crowded though .  There are other tailpiece solutions but not ones that would readily retro-fit to a McSpad and look aesthetically pleasing.

There just isn't any real selection of sexy metal pins out there to choose from for making string pins.  I just use small finishing nails; others use escutcheon pins, or dedicated string anchor pins like those from Folkcraft, StewMac and other 'parts' places.  That's about it.


updated by @ken-hulme: 03/26/20 11:33:13AM
John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 years ago
304 posts

You could check these out if you like.  I've used them with great success:

https://www.folkcraft.com/collections/building-supplies-plans/products/dulcimer-string-anchor-pins-2340171

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 years ago
873 posts

I'm not a big fan of the single wooden peg as a string anchor. I think wrapping all the strings around it looks ugly. Just my opinion. I use brass coated brads which I install in a line, either in a horizontal line or on a slant. I generally cut the heads off the brads so that I can use either loop or ball end strings. I like having a separate anchor for each string.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

dockildare
@dockildare
2 years ago
6 posts

Thanks for that, but having checked out some escutcheon pins, they don't look wonderful - in fact they look terrible.  So, I reckon I'll leave this solution unless I really have to go with it.  I want something a little more attractive looking.  I'm not that bothered about keeping true to a McSpadden.

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 years ago
318 posts

I would just install the 4th string and use it. It will hold with no problem, It's pretty big and there is almost no leverage on it. If it really bothers you, cut it off, refinish and install the recommended pins. The escutcheon pins are standard for MCSpaddens, even the some of the older kits [I have one].


updated by @skip: 03/25/20 09:56:22AM
dockildare
@dockildare
2 years ago
6 posts

Thanks for that John.  Something to bare in mind, but I'm looking at something a bit more aesthetic looking.


updated by @dockildare: 03/25/20 08:55:49AM
John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 years ago
304 posts

You could easily hammer in 3 or 4 metal brads or brass-plated escutcheon pins between the slot and the present wooden peg.  You could just leave the wooden peg where it is.  Put masking tape on that area of the wood, draw a straight line and measure for the pin locations.  Then tap dents in at those 3 or 4 points, pull off the tape and carefully hammer them down to about 1/16" of the surface.  If you have a tiny drill bit, you can pre-drill the holes to keep the wood from possible splits.

dockildare
@dockildare
2 years ago
6 posts

I have an 80s 4 string McSpadden dulcimer that was finished off by a previous owner, who converted it to a 3 string instrument.  I'm in the process of converting it back to 4 strings.  My problem is, there is only one string anchor pin made of wood.  To my mind this really doesn't seem sufficient nor mechanically sound enough to accommodate 4 strings.  I just need to know how many anchor pins I can realistically replace this one with.  I think there's enough room for 3, 2 for bass side strings and one for the 2 that are tuned at the same pitch.  Also, I have loads of guitar bridge pins, and was wondering if I could use these in place of wooden or metal ones.

So, I'm throwing this out there for advice/suggestions etc 

Thanks in advance  - DoC 

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updated by @dockildare: 03/25/20 01:05:48PM