The Drifting Thread...
OFF TOPIC discussions
Ken, I hope everything goes well for you!
This is an example of an arched fretboard that I built with only one pier between the nut and tail end.
As a player, and builder, I think the fretboard should be a smooth as possible. I don't install fret markers on dulcimers, but if I did, they would be inlaid, and planed, or scraped, level with the surface.
I just measured the crown of the fret wire that I use for dulcimers (very light) which is about 1.25 mm. Anything sticking up on the fretboard would be felt under the fingers, which might be intentional, but could also unintentionally cause a buzz, or work as a fret itself.
If a tactile guide was needed I would probably add it to the edge of the fretboard.
Ralph contributed much to our understanding of dulcimers, where they came from, and how they evolved. For anyone interested in solid scholarship his books are worth reading. I met him once. He was a kind person who was generous in sharing his collection of instruments as well as his knowledge.
I think you will be fine with those strings. In fact, after so many years with the old ones, these will feel positively silky to you. And the slightly heavier bass and treble strings should balance each other well.
Make sure double check your order for loop end, or ball end strings, whichever you need.
I use Audacity for audio. If I am producing a multi-track recording, I usually dub the tracks sequentially. After you lay down the first track, you can over dub the next track while playing the first one back through headphones. Here is an example:
Here is another:
First thing that came to mind for me was Eensy Weensy Spider (or Itsy Bitsy spider, if you're my wife).
Then I remembered a tune that my dad used to sing to us. One he learned from his mother.
Did you ever go down to an Irishman's shanty
Where money was scarce and whisky was plenty
A three leg-ed stool and a table to match
An old broken door and an old broken latch
Sung to the tune of the Irish Washerwoman. I've known this tune as long as I can remember. My grandmother's name was Susanna McGranahan, btw. She knew something about being Irish. :-)
If you are right handed the lightest (thinnest) strings go on the left side pegs starting with the one closest to the nut. Like this:
Top of Peghead
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William, you can order pre-packaged string sets from several different makers. Martin and D'Addario make dulcimer specific sets which are available through Amazon. You can also easily order sets from McSpadden and FolkCraft.
Be careful to order either loop ends or ball ends depending on what your instrument needs. Both are readily available.
Paula, I think Matt may be on the right track. If there is a buzz in a particular area, you can check it with a short straight edge or a small square. It needs to be long enough to rest on at least three frets. As you check the frets you will quickly see and feel where the high and low points are. You might also be able to see a curve or twist in the fret board by holding the instrument up to your eye and sighting down the length of the fret board from one end.
I generally use a bronze or nickel wound .22 or .24 gauge on the low string. It's really a personal preference, up to a point. Especially if you want to go to lighter strings. Heavier strings cannot be tuned to as high a pitch. Light strings will be soft and unresponsive if they are tuned too low. If you tune somewhere between C and E on the low string you could even use a .20 or .18 unwound string for the base if you want to.
I have never really understood how I memorize music. It's a thing that I have done since I began playing piano as a child. In fact, reading music has been harder for me than playing by ear, which comes kind of naturally. I would only read music until I had it in my head. I don't know if I have ever successfully learned a tune on dulcimer from tab, but maybe I haven't really tried.
For me, the learning process starts with listening to a tune until I have it in my head. YouTube is a great resource for finding various interpretations of songs. I usually will listen to several different recordings when I am learning something. I also learn the music first and put the words to it later.
Ken, that's a good suggestion on the padded/insulated case.
One of my instruments has a Sassafras top. I took it with me to Cape Cod last year where it got exposed to a little more humidity than normal, which must have revived the oil in the wood somewhat. The Sassafras scent would hit you in the face when you opened the case. At home, it's a pretty constant 32-35% humidity when the heat or AC is running, so the oils stabilize and don't give off so much scent.
Kandee, changes in humidity rather than temperature are the challenge. Wood takes on and gives off moisture continuously and will naturally mimic the ambient air conditions. The wood will give off and take on moisture until it is in balance with the moisture in the air. As wood takes on water it expands and as gives off water it contracts. Dry enough conditions, for a long enough period of time, can eventually cause cracking. The more stable you can keep the humidity in the instrument, the better.
Wood doesn't expand and contract much due to air temperature.
The good news for you is that the process is usually slow, so you likely won't hurt your dulcimer by leaving it in your trunk for a day. I wouldn't leave in the cabin of the car where temps can get really high (well above 120). That could cause issues with the glue joints if it was made with a traditional hide glue or something like that. If it was made with a contemporary wood glue (which it most likely was) you probably won't have an issue.
Wow, I am so sad to hear this. John P was a good friend of mine here, and a good FOTMD Citizen as well. I will miss him.
Dry and Dusty, and Elk River Blues seem to be on the top of the list right now. My pocket song seems to shift around some. In fact, about a week ago I was playing for a friend, and for the life of me I could not remember where I was going in the middle of a song I play nearly every day. Right now I can't even remember which song it was. I just remember the feeling of having a total brain cramp.
Another thought is that the strings may be old. Over time, the metal in strings gets work-hardened from tuning, re-tuning, strumming, etc. Eventually they loose their ability to stretch and they become brittle. If you are still using the same strings that were on the instrument when you received it, I recommend putting new ones on.
Yes, McSpadden squeakless strings are flat-wound.
I've used McSpadden squeakless strings. I have them on two instruments right now. To me they are warm and mellow, but not mushy or muddy. I like them.
Terry, your posts about harmonicas inspired me to dig mine out. I have about half a dozen that I played in high school and college. That's over 30 years ago now. I guess they are all getting to be "vintage." I have a couple of marine bands, a blues harp in b-flat, a chromatic (which I never really learned to play well) and a Piccolo in C. I like the piccolo because it slides right in my pocket.
Although it is hard to tell from the photos, the fret board and body may have been finished differently from the body. If the fret board looks a lot less shiny than the rest of the instrument, then this is probably the case. For everything but the fret board you are probably OK with a guitar polish, or believe it or not, Pledge furniture polish. I would try a small spot first to make sure. Not knowing what is on the fret board, I would probably apply a light coat of lemon oil to it. I use Old English lemon oil.
Dusty, what's more important, the instrument, or the musician?