Forum Activity for @dwain-wilder

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/12/23 12:25:13PM
22 posts

to get chromatic or not


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

John C. Knopf:

Dwain, we'll welcome you to the fold of just-tempered and mean-tone dulcimer/dulcimore luthiers if and when you cross that bridge!



Thanks, john


First I'll have to delve into exactly what such temperaments entail. I've got notes and web-page bookmarks stored on these matters. My current understanding is that the strings can only be tuned to one set of pitches on instruments other than equal temperament. No idea whether certain tunings are better than others in other temperaments.


And is "just tempered" and "mean-tone" the correct usage? I'd sort of gotten fond of the phrase "mean-tempered."

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/11/23 09:28:51PM
22 posts

to get chromatic or not


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I really like what @sam-edelston has to say about choosing the instrument on which a piece of music, or a certain arrangement, sounds best. A dulcimer is not simply a guitar without all the parts. It has its own voice, its own dynamics.

It is telling that so many people get introduced to the mountain dulcimer and are so astounded that they buy one right then and there. The instrument is capable of having a strong tug on the heart. And it is charming that so many dulcimer players want to build their own instruments —and many do.

lt seems to me that a great deal of the charm of the instrument is that it is what I like to call a small window into a huge world of early music, a time before the advent of equal temperament that allowed music to be played in any key. Before then, a piece of music had a great deal of its tonal color and its visceral pull on the imagination due to the diatonic mode.

That will forever be part of the diatonic dulcimer's charm for me as a listener: its ability to render music completely differently than the major or minor modes that almost all music has been written in since the advent of equal temperament.

As a builder, it is not for me to say what a musician should or shouldn't demand of the instrument. My job is to build the instrument that best suits the client's needs and musical comprehension. But, as I often say, the most remarkable musical experience I've ever had was hearing, at a NEFFA Festival, a women's choir singing, a capella , a Serbian folk song in Phrygian mode. The hair stood up on the back of my neck!

From time to time I dream of building a line of dulcimers that are not equal temperament. How could one resist a mean-tempered Bear?

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/11/23 02:12:47PM
22 posts

to get chromatic or not


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Well, there is pretty much a good spectrum of how the dulcimer community considers diatonic and chromatic instruments and playing, Earthling ! The suggestions here all have merit, in their various modes…

I should have clarified what FlexiFrets are, though. These are removable frets that ride in square brass channels inset into the fretboard. Since they are designed for use with short pieces of regular fret wire, they can be fitted to any mountain dulcimer, matching its other frets.

The brass channels themselves can be distracting when their frets are removed, though. I suggest to clients for whom that is a difficulty to buy a colored Sharpie pen that matches their fretboard and color the brass slots out of visual existence. It's a temporary fix for a temporary problem, as most players find they get more adjusted to those empty slots over time.

FlexiFrets aren't always the desired solution —but watching, for the first time, a fret being easily pushed right out of the fretboard often breaks people into hilarious laughter!

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/10/23 09:41:31PM
22 posts

W. Martin Dulcimer History


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Glad you liked it, Robin. One of my faves.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/10/23 06:47:09PM
22 posts

to get chromatic or not


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


ErthLing:

If I get a Chromatic Dulcimer can I play it the same as a diatonic by just ignoring the extra frets?" 

Hi ErthLing! Yes. And you could paint the chromatic frets with a magic marker to help distinguish them from the diatonic frets. That will wear off, but easily re-painted until your eyes and hands are thoroughly familiar with the difference between the diatonic frets and the chromatic sharps and flats.

Or you can have one built for you with features that help you switch between diatonic and chromatic play:

  • For instance, you could ask that the chromatic frets be a different color, such as Jescar's EVO Gold frets. These are harder and will last a lot longer than the standard German silver frets, and make a nice visual contrast.
  • Or you could have FlexiFrets installed in the chromatic positions. FlexiFrets is an invention of mine. They are available as installation kits for other builders also, but getting the fit just right is tricky.


updated by @dwain-wilder: 01/11/23 12:17:30AM
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/10/23 01:53:19PM
22 posts

W. Martin Dulcimer History


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

@Leo , @randy-adams , @robin-thompson , @badrepp p , thank you all. I don't have videos of my building process, and don't have the equipment for that. But there is one video of James Maguire, of Laliya, an Australian duo with his wife, Melissa. He is playing a Baby Grand with electronics and guitar synth output, the first dulcimer I ever made with advanced electronics. The composition is Weave.

@badrepp , forgot to tag you when I wrote that I'd be interested in how the Sunhearth is received at the guitar show!

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/09/23 01:06:06PM
22 posts

Looking to Upgrade/Add to my Dulcimer Collection


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


Ken Hulme:

I believe John does put feet on, and he would certainly do so by request.  Freeing up the bottom of the dulcimer to vibrate acts as a natural natural amplifier, giving you a noticeably louder voice...   I love Darlin' Corey!



Ken, John, very interesting to read. Up in the northeast, dulcimer builders do not feature feet, so I thought I was the only one doing so.


Here's an idea passed to me by Walt Martin of Sunhearth: place the feet offset in the major bout, so there is a space for the player's right leg to pass between them, instead of having to shift the instrument to avoid having one's thigh embossed.


So I place the treble-side foot between the bout and the waist, the bass-side foot between the bout and the tail, leaving plenty of room for the posture to shift.  See "Baby Grand" detail .


Looking forward to more discussion of the Tennessee Music Box!


updated by @dwain-wilder: 01/09/23 01:07:35PM
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/09/23 12:40:17PM
22 posts

W. Martin Dulcimer History


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Randy Adams:

Ok I'll say it out loud. Dulcimers built by Dwain Wilder have far surpassed the level of craft and are in the realm of art.

Randy, I blush! I entered this craft standing on the shoulders of a giant, and feel I owe it to the community to demonstrate the craft's evolution at every opportunity.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/08/23 11:13:04PM
22 posts

W. Martin Dulcimer History


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Hi Badrepp, Leo, Robin, Ken, Dusty,

Those photos bring back such memories of my old mentor. He was like a second father for me.

And I never knew Walt encountered L. Alan Smith! Ken, thanks for pointing Leo to my website's Sunhearth page. Glad you still have your Sunhearth!

Badrepp, 12 12 14 22PBW will work fine with the Sunhearth. You might find that the higher tension of this set sharps the tone in frets above the 7 (first octave), as Walt didn't know about intonation and compensation. But Sunhearth action was so wonderfully low that intonation problems could only be perceived by those with very keen pitch recognition. If you have trouble with the 14 string sharping, try a 13.

I'd be interested to hear how the guitar players assessed that Sunhearth.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
10/11/22 02:10:01PM
22 posts

Fret that won’t stay put


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


One other trick: use a business card to apply the glue:

  • First make sure there is no 'garbage' left at the bottom of the slot! A flexible 6" ruler can be used to shove sawdust and old glue out (though it's a shame to use such a nice tool for that).
  • Apply glue along edge of card and draw it through the slot. Just half an inch of glue might be enough
  • The first application is a "primer." Wait for it to dry, then repeat
  • Matt Berg's tip about putting down tape is a good one, but be sure to remove it before putting in the fret
    • His tip about using rubbing alcohol or acetone to dissolve CA glue is interesting. I'll have to try it! There is also an "Uncure" fluid for CA glue, but it only softens the glue, and can possibly make a mess if used to completely remove all traces of glue.
  • Then press fret in. Use a true straight-edge long enough to span the 6, 6-1/2 and 7th frets to make sure the fret is not put in "high". Any rocking can be cured with a small block of wood and a tap with the hammer.
  • Also check the 5, 6, and 6-1/2 frets, to make sure the fret isn't too low
  • CA glues are available in a variety of thicknesses for different gap-filling uses. I find that a medium-thick AC glue is perfect for such repairs.

And here is a tip for builders:

  • before inserting frets, dress the edges of the slots with a 45° chamfer just wide enough so the barbs of the fret go in on the chamfered edge not the top surface.
    • When it is time to pull the frets, this will avoid the dreaded grain pull-up.
    • Both the person who does the re-fretting job and the instrument owner will be grateful for that small task.
    • I use a small pillar file with one edge blank, so I'm only cutting on one edge at a time. That keeps the file from jumping out of the slot!

updated by @dwain-wilder: 10/11/22 02:15:09PM
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
09/30/19 01:38:57PM
22 posts



Saw this discussion a little late. Was looking around after posting a fret calculator I designed for my own dulcimer making. You can find it at https://bearmeadow.com/calculators/fret-calculator.html

I just posted an article on this forum discussing some of the problems it helps dulcimer makers solve.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
09/30/19 12:49:59PM
22 posts

Bear Meadow Fret Calculator lives again


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


The fret calculator on the Bear Meadow website is live again, thanks to Google! You can find it under the "Calculators" menu. I haven't gotten the others converted yet.

This calculator has a few features of special interest to mountain dulcimer builders:

1.You can change the scale length (of course! duh...)

2. You can get an idea of what kind of error (in cents) is being introduced by your cutting method. This is particularly helpful for those who hand-cut fret slots. To get that estimated error, enter a number for "Saw Error." A good beginning estimate is the width of your saw.

3. Positions of every "extra fret" is shown, and its distance from the previous diatonic fret. Very useful for knowing where extra frets go on your scale

4. In addition to "Nut to Fret" distance, "Fret-to-fret" distance is shown. This is helpful if you don't have an accurate ruler long enough to range all the way to the highest fret position. Though measuring fret-to-fret will accumulate errors, at least you have a better chance at getting it right if you have an accurate distance (these are shown in the closest 5 ten-thousandths of an inch, the upper limit of digital calipers on the market.

5. "Fret-to-Saddle" distance is also shown, giving you a way to double-check your fret-to-fret measurements at the high frets (but that depends on how accurately you can mark your nominal saddle position). CAUTION: Don't use this on existing fretboards, as it will not account for any intonation or compensation offset!

My next chore will be to add a choice of measurement units. Right now, the display and "rounding-off" is appropriate for English units (inches). I hope to get to proper display and rounding for milimeters, and a selectable user's choice for that.

Another thing I'd like to add is the math for the calculations of fret positions and error. Haven't figured out how to present math symbols on Google Drive yet!


updated by @dwain-wilder: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/03/16 06:15:06PM
22 posts

recommendation on a capo for the dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Jim Yates:
Mine was not influenced by Ron Ewing.  In fact I'd never heard of him or anyone else using a dulcimer capo when I made mine about 30 some odd years back.  It's still my favourite dulcimer capo.

Interesting idea! It would be nice to have a telescoping model, so you don't get stabbed!

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/02/16 11:01:01PM
22 posts

recommendation on a capo for the dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Just a shout-out to Ron Ewing. He originated the mountain dulcimer capo, from which all others derive, to one extent or another. I have one of those brass ones that Dusty Turtle mentions, and love it for some technical reasons special to dulcimer builders. But I highly recommend Ron's work!

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
08/29/14 11:34:07PM
22 posts



"...you can then sand it with fine sandpaper and get the shape pretty close without damaging the wood."

The danger with this technique is that sanding will give you an irregular surface. Fret tops need to be flat all the way across, so my procedure is to use a series of fine files to do all the cutting, and only then touch up with sanding.

For sanding, by the way, if you want better control than you can get with fingers, Skip's advice on the wood block is good. For finish polish in this sort of situation, though, I use foam-core nail files. They are available in grits from 100-600 at Sally Beauty Supply (they are usually around in shopping malls everywhere here in the Northeast, at least or go to their website). The 400/600 pink stick, with just a drop of mineral oil for "wet sanding" gives a great finish on a fret, with just enough "give" to form around the crown but not enough to cause lumps an bumps.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
08/11/14 11:47:07PM
22 posts



Very much agree, David. The acoustic dynamics (the method of making sound) is completely different in the dulcimer, the violin family and the guitar family. Making assumptions that what improves one type of instrument will hold in another is largely unfounded, though people sometimes get lucky...

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
05/07/14 11:11:16PM
22 posts



My experience has been that a dulcimer builder who knows the woods they are using, knows how to test their vibrating characteristics, can definitely and specifically influence the voice of the instrument.

In fact, after doing so for a number of years and keeping careful notes of choices and the resulting voice, a builder can forecast what the instrument will sound like, and thus custom shape the voice for the client.

This all depends, of course, on having enough stock of each wood used so that one has a range of choices. And that the woods used are adequate for good voice quality.

And that depends on what the client wants from the dulcimer. That's why so many different dulcimer builders are at work: there are so many differences in what a musician is looking for in a dulcimer. In an instrument like the violin, there is such a long history of what works and what doesn't, there is far less variation in what a violin should sound like.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
05/13/11 01:16:45PM
22 posts

Need Advice--Buying a New Dulcimer


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Melissa, there are a few very good articles and guides on the web about how to choose the right dulcimer for you. I've written on on my website, Dulcimer Buyer's Guide . There is another (which I also wrote, though long ago) on the Sweet Music index, hosted by bearmeadow.com. You'll find that at Buying a Mountain Dulcimer . Jerry Rockwell also has good things to say in an article on choosing the right dulcimer on his website at Buying Guide .

Read all these carefully and you'll get a lot of insight into how to choose best. Hope that helps.

Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
01/08/11 10:49:38AM
22 posts

A Tool for Choosing the Right Strings for Mountain Dulcimers (and Psaltrys!)


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Hi Keltia,

Thanks! Do you mean that "at last, your website has achieved some beauty"? Or "at last, I've found a beautiful website among so much garbage on the web"? Or...? Inquiring minds want to know! ;o)
Keltia said:

Beautiful website at last. : )
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
09/13/10 09:57:05PM
22 posts

A Tool for Choosing the Right Strings for Mountain Dulcimers (and Psaltrys!)


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Dwain Wilder said:
I just posted V4 of the String Choice Tool worksheet on my website. See the menu item Calculators>>String Choice Tool...
It's been suggested that it would be helpful to give the url of the String Choice Tool. Here it is: http://www.bearmeadow.com/calculators/string-tension-workbook.html
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
09/13/10 02:38:14PM
22 posts

A Tool for Choosing the Right Strings for Mountain Dulcimers (and Psaltrys!)


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I just posted V4 of the String Choice Tool worksheet on my website. See the menu item Calculators>>String Choice ToolThe main improvements are (1) it is now on google docs, which supports guided input (known as drop-down menus, in the trade), so it is easier to understand what kind of input is required in the user input boxes; (2) the tool now lets you enter a couple of different phosphor-bronze materials for plain wire (Many people are switching to phosphor bronze wire for its warmth, and as a squeakless bass.); (3) the tool is now fully color coded, so it will be obvious where you are to enter date, and where the tool is giving you calculated results; (4) I've made the instructions on the About page more readable. They still aren't as accurate as I'd like, but the new tool should be much more self-explanatory.
Dwain Wilder
@dwain-wilder
09/05/10 11:35:51PM
22 posts

A Tool for Choosing the Right Strings for Mountain Dulcimers (and Psaltrys!)


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I just published the latest version of the String Tension Workbook. This is a tool for finding out what tension your present strings are operating at, and how to choose a set of strings that will give you that performance at different tunings. There is also a string diameter calculator, where you can enter the pitch of the strings you are looking for, a target tension, and string length, and this tool will give you a good list of strings to use. The tool is located on my website at Calculators>>String Choice Tool.

My colleague in this effort, Karl Mouck, is a psaltry builder, so he added a worksheet to help choose strings for that instrument. Take a look, all you psaltry players and builders!

Let me know if you have questions about how to best use this tool. Karl and I have put a lot of work into this. I'll be putting up the final version tomorrow, but take a look tonight if you like. I'd also like to thank Terry Downs, guitar builder, for creating this workbook in the first place.


updated by @dwain-wilder: 02/19/19 10:15:20AM