Newbie String Questions (and Hello!)
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
Hi, all. I recently got a new Sweet Woods Instruments mountain dulcimer. First off, I wanted to say hi! And thank you for all the welcome message I got when I signed up here a while back.
I've been learning a few songs and trying out a few different ways of playing, mostly going back and forth between flatpicking and fingerpicking, both with finger fretting. Anyway, I started thinking about which strings to buy for when I need to replace them. Just for some background, I play the mandolin, so I'm familiar with string gauge and tension, although the mandolin usually has much higher tension and, it seems, usually lower action.
Anyway, to my questions. First, does anyone ever use a plain string instead of a wound string for the lowest string? If so, what are the differences in how they play/sound? (Or if not, why is that a bad idea?)
Second, I noticed that I get a lot of noise from the string vibrating between my fretting fingers and the nut - basically, an unintentional dissonant hammer-on on the wrong side of the string. And that happens even fretting as close as possible to the fret and trying not to push down too hard. I can mute the back of the string with another finger, but that seems like a lot of effort. I have my string tension especially low since it's tuned to C-G-C (with .024, .014, and .012 gauge strings). Is that low tension probably the cause of the noise? Is there something else that could be done? Adjusting the action? (Although I'd rather increase the tension than raise the action.)
Bonus question: Does anyone ever play a standard (not bass/baritone) dulcimer with a low string an octave below typical (with proper string gauge to get the right tension)? I was thinking of playing around with something like four-string equidistant DDAD (low to high) tuning with all the Ds being in different octaves. Would the intonation just be too far off to be tolerable (if not played just as a drone string)? Maybe GDGD to be less extreme? I'd be curious with people's experiences good or bad if they tried something like that.