Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn
Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions
There is nothing particularly special about 'banjo strings' vs 'dulcimer strings'... except in relation to their being offered in convenient pre-packaged sets. Banjo 'sets' are geared towards banjo scale length (generally 25"-30") and standard banjo tuning: gDGBD (the last D being an octave higher than the first D, equal to a dulcimer high d).
The reason old timers and older books mention using banjo strings is not because they thought banjo strings were better suited than dulcimer strings. Rather, it's simply because there didn't used to BE many places to buy pre-packaged sets of 'dulcimer strings' in those pre-1970s days, whereas banjo string sets have been around for a lot longer and were way easier to find in music stores. Old timers were resourceful and used whatever they could get their hands on. This was pre-internet- there were no websites to order strings from- you had to either go to a music store or order from a paper catalogue using stamps envelopes and sending checks. (and then "allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery", LOL)
The truly best approach is to use a string calculator (Strothers is the current best one online) and based on the VSL of YOUR dulcimer and the notes that YOU want to tune the strings to, select the gauges you'll need for that tuning. Then buy some separate steel strings (usually loop-end) from a site like juststrings .com. Have some extras on hand for breakage. If you have a typical sized dulcimer and simply want to use typical DAd or DAA type tunings, you can buy packets of dulcimer string 'sets' and it'll work just fine in most cases. It's convenient if you don't need anything out of the norm.
Commercial strings heavier than a certain gauge will more likely be wound, which you'll notice when ordering strings online. If you have your heart set on unwound heavy bass strings then you 'may' have to buy a spool of that heavy gauge music wire and cut/twist your own unwound bass strings. It depends on just how heavy the gauge is that you want. Personally, I found heavy unwound bass strings to really hurt my fingers when fretting, so I do use wound heavy bass strings on my banjos and dulcimers. If you always play with a noter this wouldn't matter.
updated by @strumelia: 03/02/22 08:57:22AM