Forum Activity for @natebuildstoys

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
10/04/20 10:39:25AM
52 posts

Double fretboard & 6 guitar strings


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

I do wonder how the middle strings  tuned to open D guitar tuning or DADF#AD would sound as a backing drone. (added benefit of replacing strings with no hassle or fuss since you can buy em all in a single pack from any music shop, just make sure the guitar strings are light gauge with that long of a VSL)  I would imagine very nice but I really have no clue. Thanks for sharing!


updated by @natebuildstoys: 10/04/20 11:14:23AM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
10/04/20 10:30:14AM
52 posts

How do I know what key I'm in?


Playing and jamming difficulties...HELP ME!

Hey guys I have been trying to practice writing my own tab and I wrote out tab by ear for an old folk song called sally wheatley. Because I did it by ear, and I'm still just beginning to learn music theory, I didnt really know what key I was in. because I didnt use any half frets my first thought was that I was in the key of D, but I noticed the key of D has a C sharp, and my arrangement has a C natural, so I think this means it is in the key of G? This seems weird to me because I assumed that since the dulcimer is diatonic, that the non half frets would be the diatonic scale, but if C# is in the scale of D, why is it the 6 1/2 fret? whereas C natural is the 6 fret. Would love some help this stuff is not very intuitive to me !

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/17/20 06:08:17AM
52 posts

Embarrassed: just picking out tunes


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Don Grundy:

Does anyone else hear a tune in their head and have to pick it out on the melody and middle string?



Pick it out and if you mess up you might just accidentally make a song :)
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/04/20 03:18:25AM
52 posts

Choice of Wood: Pertinent or Purism?


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

Skip:

A random thought occurred to me, how's your hearing? Hearing aids or not? Audio preferences? I quit messing with penny whistles and harmonicas because their sound is unpleasant to my wife's ears, too shrills. I have poor hearing so almost all MD's sound very similar to me, no nuances. And there's always the 'ego' factor.whistle




This is a pretty good point honestly. I am hard at hearing and was told over 10 years ago I should get hearing aids but have not yet.I  hadnt really thought about how much this might  alter my tone perception. Mostly I just have a hard time discerning noise thats on the quiet side, so I guess maybe some subtle overtones are lost on my ear.
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/02/20 04:58:55PM
52 posts

Choice of Wood: Pertinent or Purism?


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

CJ:

Given the same craftmanship, what do you hear is the difference in particular woods. Of the three I'm considering one has a poplar body with a paulownia top. The 2nd ones has a figured walnut body with a spruce top. The 3rd has a cherry body with a California redwood top. 

 

I am assuming you mean multiple dulcimers from the same plans that are the same size and shape by the same builder. This would imply that if the same builder made two identical dulcimers from the same plans and same wood they would sound identical, yet most luthiers seem to agree that is not the case.

Even then, the sound could be  affected by thickness of wood, how long the wood has settled for, presence of knots, etc.
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/02/20 05:05:18AM
52 posts

Are there fretless dulcimers?


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

WOW. That is seriously cool. That slide dulcimer has mountain banjo vibes as well as lap steel! Thanks for sharing I have a new rabbit hole to fall down!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/02/20 04:54:16AM
52 posts

What's the deal with Aquavinas?


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

Strumelia:

This is super cool.
I think it would be additionally fun to make a little folded paper origami boat to float in the 'canal' while playing it.

I totally overlooked this message but it's brilliant. I have just added a rubber ducky to the 'moat'
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
09/01/20 11:14:21PM
52 posts

Glass Bottle Resonator Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/29/20 08:42:57PM
52 posts

Choice of Wood: Pertinent or Purism?


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

Skip:

Keep in mind being a 'luthier' can be a hobby or a business.  If a hobby, the luthier can do what (s)he wants and can afford, In business, money and customer satisfaction is king.




That's a great summary dulcimer




NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/28/20 04:34:03AM
52 posts

Magnetic pickup vs Piezo vs Mic pointed at dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Hello all! With lockdown finally dialing back I have been offered a gig at an antique mall, a barber shop, and a juice bar. Given that I build my own dulcimers I have been faced with the decision of how to amplify my sound so that it can span these venues.

It would be ideal to be able to street perform and make a living off dulcimer in the future, so I'd like to build one that has a beautiful tone that translates well when amplified with a speaker.

For starters a pickup seems to not be affected very much by the tone of the dulcimer itself, as electric dulcimers have much less dynamic tonality than acoustic dulcimers I have heard.
I have been told that the only difference among magnetic pickup dulcimers comes from the pickup chosen (I would appreciate input on which pickups are good for dulcimers) and how much the 'soundboard that the pickup is anchored to' is vibrating matters very little.

I have been told that piezos limit the fidelity of the audio and will leave the instrument sounding duller than if it were an acoustic performance

I have noticed that the vast majority of stage performances with a dulcimer rely on electric pickups to convey the sound, whereas coffee shop performances with a physical microphone pointed at the dulcimer seem to provide much more expression of the instrument itself.

How does it all fit together? For gigging at small venues what is ideal?

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/28/20 03:20:52AM
52 posts

Choice of Wood: Pertinent or Purism?


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

In guitar communities, cigar box guitar forums I participate in, as well as dulcimer forums there seems to be a lot of status attached to some types of wood, for example koa or basswood, in California it's redwood, or in Arkansas, pignut hickory.

I started off using craftboard for my dulcimers when i was first beginning to learn. Due to the reliable access I switched to red oak, and noticed right away the sound was consistently much brighter and twangier. Eventually I built the one in my profile picture which has a soundboard made from softwood teaboxes coated in poly for some extra durability. I got a couple of huge pieces of 1/8th inch plywood which i have built several dulcimers out of. They all sounded great.

This begs the question, how much does any of it really matter? Since joining a local dulcimer group several people have asked me after hearing my instrument what type of wood it is, only to be totally shocked when I say plywood with veneer. It seems that they have an expectation that plywood should not be able to sound good, but where does this idea come from? Is it just the knowledge that plywood is dirtcheap that makes them assume it should "sound cheap?"

Is it a matter of the best luthiers choosing the woods that make the subtly best differences, thereby choice of wood could imply a level of craftsmanship?

Maybe my ears are too unrefined to be able to tell the difference but others can?

I'm sure there will be opinions all over the place, given that some woods seem to be EXTREMELY common, whereas National champ Grant Olson played for so long (maybe still does) on a styrofoam dulcimer, so I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.

Cheers!
-Nate

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/28/20 01:56:05AM
52 posts

Assessing Tone


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

Is it accurate to say that you can make generalizations about an instruments tone based on materials, depth, and bridge placement?

For example it has always been my experience that a harder wood without any large knots will sound brighter than a softer wood of the same thickness which also does not have any large knots.
Also, dulcimers with taller sides seem to give more bass response than shallower ones.
Finally a bridge placed near the very edge of the soundbox to me sounds twangier than a bridge that is more centered over the box.

These generalizations have seemed consistently accurate to me. What do you guys think?

I have noticed that every dulcimer has a different tone and you never really know for sure what it will sound like til you hear it, but maybe at the very least one can identify characteristics that will ensure their dulcimer's tone is not too terribly far from what one desires.

I'd love input from others as I am still very much a beginner!

-Nate

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/28/20 01:45:45AM
52 posts

Are there fretless dulcimers?


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

A topic I have heard several times among both players and builders is the pros and cons of various temperaments, with no consensus ever being reached. It does occur to me that a fretless instrument such as a violin avoids this problem entirely since the fretting hand determines how flat or sharp the note is by it's placement. Are there dulcimers made fretless, in order to achieve any microtonality the player might desire? Obviously it would be MUCH harder to play and also take a lot of knowledge to use correctly, but if it gives a sweeter sound, why not?

Stay well!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/28/20 01:33:30AM
52 posts

Blair fret compare - original Jumbos! installed on a dare?


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

I like very low and narrow mandolin frets because i think they make less noise when i slide across them. My dulcimer is chromatic so the 'thumping' of the frets is something I try to mitigate. I have heard it said that pressing too hard on strings makes them bend and stretch inconsistently and can affect tone, so I would imagine taller frets do this even more? Definitely gonna try them on my next dulcimer to see how they feel.

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/16/20 11:56:03AM
52 posts

Glass Bottle Resonator Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


IRENE:

Hey Nate, there are LOTS of dulcimer players in Oregon.  but then again, I don't know where you live.   yep, a didly bow is a very cool thing for sure.   I like your creativity and I hope you do keep experimenting.  This song was played very nicely.   thank you.   aloha, irene


Hello Irene! yes there are players across Oregon but where I currently live in southern oregon, they are sadly not culturally relevant like they were in Arkansas or Tennessee when I visited.. While some people here recognize mine right away, many younger folks here have never heard of them. Thank you for your kind words.
updated by @natebuildstoys: 08/16/20 12:02:24PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/15/20 11:06:51PM
52 posts

Glass Bottle Resonator Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Bob Stephens:

I applaud your creativity.  I would never have thought of a concept like this.  Keep up the good work.  

Thank you bob! Id be lying if i said it was my own original idea. I have always had a fascination with the 'diddley bow' an american roots instrument which stretches one string over a medicine bottle played with a slide. Basically a 1 string lap steel, and given that here in oregon most folks have never seen a dulcimer they often assume it is a lap steel, so its been on my mind for a while. This model however still has some major flaws, for ny next one, the bottle will be suspended within the box not touching the bottom, which i believe will allow it to contribute more to the overall tone.
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/15/20 09:04:46PM
52 posts

Glass Bottle Resonator Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


updated by @natebuildstoys: 08/16/20 12:02:08PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/10/20 08:42:33PM
52 posts

Truss Rods?


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

Bob Stephens:

I have also seen many dulcimers that have survived many decades with no issues.  Design and material selection are probably the keys to success.

Getting back to your original question, if the neck runs the full length of the instrument, a truss rod isn't a bad idea.  They are relatively inexpensive (about $15) and work well to correct any bowing that might start to develop.  The only down side I can see is that they do add some weight to the instrument. 



 I am noticing a theme in this thread and a few others on here that the quality of the cut of wood and the structure of the design seem to enable some to last much longer than others! Unfortunately I lack quality wood AND knowledge of construction so I might throw a truss rod in my next one bring it out to the coast a couple times and see if it stays straight, probably an adjustable one in case it  doesn't. Thanks for the feedback!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/10/20 08:29:35PM
52 posts

Truss Rods?


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


Ken Longfield:

On most dulcimers the strings are not anchored to the neck but to the peg head and the tail piece With a fret board spanning the length of the sound box, it acts as a truss rod preventing the dulcimer from warping by pulling up at either end.




This is a very good point I had not considered. A dulcimer with a peghead and tailpiece would probably fare MUCH longer than the sort I have been building, with just a 1"x2"x 32" piece of wood from the hardware store that i glue onto the soundbox, like this one, but I am trying to make more long lasting durable ones going forward. Thanks for the input!Duclpaintbox .jpg
updated by @natebuildstoys: 08/10/20 08:32:38PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/10/20 04:33:12PM
52 posts

Truss Rods?


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

Dan:

I've played several traditional pieces well over one hundred years old and no warping issues! The zither is a very different animal than the lute, requiring very different approaches to design.The truss use came about with the introduction of steel strings cir. 1830's ish for the guitars? I don't know of any one using truss rods for dulcimer traditional or contemporary. I'm sure some one has tried about every thing......



That makes sense. I am fascinated that there are well preserved dulcimers that old! Do you know where I could find visuals, recordings, or anything like that of dulcimers of that era?

Also, I know that @bob-stephens uses a carbon fiber beam that reinforces the neck, but that might not be for the same reasons as a truss rod.

Finally I have heard many people say they had to adjust their truss rod on their guitar after travelling and changing elevation or humidity. Is warping an issue for dulcimers that travel a lot?
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/10/20 02:08:41PM
52 posts

Truss Rods?


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

How common are truss rods in dulcimers? From what I understand they were historically built out of what was available, so it probably wouldnt be very traditional, but would it be practical? Is warping an issue for dulcimer fingerboards over time as much as it is for guitars, or does the rigid structure of the entire neck being glued to the soundboard prevent this issue mostly? 

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
08/10/20 05:58:48AM
52 posts

Dulcimer sales in 2020


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Something I've been wondering a lot about! For those who lost their jobs or got hours cut, on one hand lots of people are cooped up and student dulcimers are pretty affordable so I could see how it could help sales for student models, but on the other hand many folks are justifiably being more careful with their money.  Some people's careers have not been affected at all by this, but have been seriously limited socially, so that probably amounts to some people with stable income sitting around bored all day looking for new hobbies. I would assume for this reason that the very high end ones may be taking the smallest hit. Also, quarantine has led a lot of people to explore 'DIY projects' so I wonder if companies like Folkcraft or similar kit brands have seen a positive change. Me, I tend to build very low quality dulcimers and just sell them to locals for ~50 bucks to clear up space in my living room! Needless to say I don't have any grasp of the real dulcimer market. Would love to hear more perspectives of people actually selling them. Covid lowering sales would indicate that people are being more cautious with money or simply don't have it, so if that is the consensus, now might be a good time to finish up the video I have been working on geared toward people with minimal woodworking experience for building dirt cheap dulcimers! The video, which is currently dozens of clips I have to learn to edit together, details how to build a craftboard dulcimer for under 15 $ in materials and some simple hand tools nearly everyone should have access to. If people can't afford them now is a great time to learn to make them!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/31/20 06:09:16PM
52 posts

Sound holes and air flow - interesting article


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Fascinating! I have always wondered how much the shape of the sound hole matters since i tend to build very simple dulcimers that usually just have round holes. They're pretty loud so I didnt think it would matter but now i have one more angle to come at my next build from!

An excerpt from the MIT study the article is discussing:

"By determining the acoustic conductance of arbitrarily shaped sound holes, it is found that air flow at the perimeter rather than the broader sound-hole area dominates acoustic conductance"

and a quick summary I thought was poignant:

"the circle is the shape with the lowest conductance"


Basically from my understanding of the study, any long narrow shape is ideal, not necessarily an f hole, although they are aesthetically pleasing. The is very fascinating since pretty much 99% of guitars use round soundholes! It also makes me think about placement more. Since the edges of a soundboard are the least resonant parts, maybe having a long narrow soundhole that runs at the same curvature as the edge of the soundboard just an inch or two in from the edge would allow you to get the most efficient shape with the most efficient location? Definitely a bit above my comprehension level for now, but I will be elongating my soundholes on my next build.
Thanks for sharing!

MIT Study: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspa.2014.0905#RSPA20140905C3

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/13/20 05:06:46PM
52 posts

Added some half frets....now what?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


Hello all I have been playing dulcimer for about a year on diatonic dulcimers. I added  .5,  1.5, 4.5, and 7.5 frets to my fretboard, because I kept finding people say that certain chords I was looking for werent possible without. I have to admit it is daunting to look at with all the gaps I relied on to know where I was on the board suddenly full of frets. (don't tell anyone but I sharpied the non diatonic frets black so theyre easier to filter out of my mind when im playing diatonic tabs)I am not educated in music theory and am worried maybe im in over my head. What resources are available for learning chromatic dulcimer? Also where can I find chromatic tabs? Finally where would one put the fretboard markers on a chromatic dulcimer? same places as a guitar? 

Stay safe y'all

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/07/20 04:31:13PM
52 posts

Size of Soundbox and Loudness


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


John C. Knopf:

Nate, look at a mariachi guitarra quintet.  They have all sizes of guitar soundboards.  The largest is pretty BIG.

But then, a dulcimer is not a guitar.  "Uncle Eddie", the world's largest (and longest) dulcimer is not particularly loud for its size and soundbox volume.  Usually taller sides equal more bass response, and maybe more loudness too.  I think overall loudness is derived from several factors working together, such as wood thickness, bracing, design, string gauges and tension, etc.



Hello John. 'Uncle Eddie' is quite a sight to behold. Very cool! I am curious to know if in hindsight you feel some alterations could have produced more loudness for its size, since you say it is not particularly loud for it's size.

Also, I have been reducing my bracings more and more in favor of loudness and I think I have reached a point where I am sacrificing the longevity of my builds by making the bracing so minimal. Ditto for wood thickness. 
This leaves me to wonder which matters more for volume of sound; having a sturdy build with heavy gauge strings, or a very lightweight build with lighter strings so as to not stress it?

Would love some input 

Thanks,
Nate
updated by @natebuildstoys: 07/07/20 04:32:09PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/07/20 04:23:14PM
52 posts

Size of Soundbox and Loudness


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

Dan:

I'm going to suggest a large Galax with heavy strings drawn up tighter than a banjo.......like a Mahhee in steroids?



Hello Dan. Does 'galax' mean a dulcimer with a 'false bottom' or 'possum board?' Or is it the wide oblong shape that denotes a galax? I do not have access to any means to curve wood into the shape of traditional dulcimers such as a lozenge dulcimer, however if you are referring to the false bottom, I have been adding these with noticeable benefit!
Thanks, 
Nate
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/07/20 01:42:58PM
52 posts

Grant Olson Website


Dulcimer Resources:TABS/Books/websites/DVDs

It's working great for me as well now!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
07/07/20 01:15:33AM
52 posts

Grant Olson Website


Dulcimer Resources:TABS/Books/websites/DVDs


was not able to access the site. Screen looked like image attached. Hope I can check it out soon!

<Edit: Nate, I doubled-checked the link in Grant's post- it's working fine and so is Dusty's link- strumelia>


updated by @natebuildstoys: 07/07/20 09:54:03AM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
06/30/20 03:30:37PM
52 posts

Size of Soundbox and Loudness


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


Hello all, I was wondering how much loudness is affected by the size of the soundbox. I am trying to make an extremely loud dulcimer that doesn't rely on any metal cones, pickups, or microphones, and have been testing lots of concepts to try to get the most efficiency I can, but my understanding of the physics of acoustics is very limited. I assumed bigger means louder, but i would also imagine that the more wood which has to vibrate, the more energy is needed to get the whole box vibrating before it can project any sound. So it would make sense to me if a small box lets the energy be more concentrated and therefore agitate the air more, but it would also make sense to me that a bigger box is more wood moving more air and therefore more loudness. I really am out of my depth so I'd love some input. 
1: Is taller louder?
2: Is a larger soundboard louder?
3: Is there a size that is accepted to be loudest?

Also, I have reduced as much extra mass as I can off my last build with the most minimal bracing necessary to not warp or flex, a false bottom, an almost entirely hollow fingerboard, and a saddle that sits directly on the soundboard. Pretty dang loud but I want to leave no stone unturned so I am very open to more ideas for loudness.

Thanks!


updated by @natebuildstoys: 06/30/20 03:32:07PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/21/20 11:58:10AM
52 posts

Beer Bottle Bridge/Glass Resonator


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

The first instrument I ever built was a diddley bow. If you dont know its just a string stretched over a glass bottle laying on its side, which acts as a resonator chamber. I have attached a picture. I always thought it sounded very neat, jangly, and old timey. I have conceptualized a prototype and am whipping it up right now for a wooden dulcimer with a glass beer bottle for a bridge. I have also attached an image of some concept drawings for how it will work, and will post a video when it is totally assembled. What do y'all think? I find it very puzzling that so few string instruments use glass resonators, probably because they would be less durable, but most players take exceptionally good care of their dulcimers anyway. Has anyone ever seen a glass dulcimer? Ever tried building one?


20200521_081501.jpg 20200521_081501.jpg - 94KB

updated by @natebuildstoys: 08/04/20 04:48:34AM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/21/20 11:43:20AM
52 posts

Is the strumhollow redundant?


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

Corvus:

The strumhollow is certainly not redundant, in fact dozens of thousands of players pick & strum in that area. That area provides a slightly stronger and brighter tone which is precisely what many dulcimer players want.

A huge majority of dulcimers are built with strumhollows & that is driven by public demand. If nobody wanted strumhollows then builders would not build strumhollows.

Hello Corvus. The best I understand it is that the stronger and brighter tone noticeable over the strumhollow is due to picking/strumming near the end of the string length, not the hollow itself. An easy demonstration of this is if you strum the open string all the way at the top just above the first fret, the tone is nearly identical to over the hollow. This leads me to believe that the same tone could be accomplished without the hollow. It's also worth noting that the demand for strumhollows does not imply an actual utility function to them. A couple builders have already mentioned that they don't consider it functionally important, but know that their customers want it. It is aesthetically nice, and more importantly it is the norm, but is it actually useful?

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/19/20 09:29:50AM
52 posts

Please tell me your very favorite love song...


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I am a big fan of Annie's Song by John Denver, (though I have been hesitant to play it for my lady friend as it seems a bit cornysun )  so I guess my favorite to play would be Can't Help Falling in Love :)

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/08/20 11:47:15AM
52 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

Yes, a zero fret seems to me to be an easy way to ensure a nice radius to your nut.

Interesting I have always just used the term bridge i guess because the book i learned from (which is not a credible book) says it.

I would say though that where the strings are anchored should only matter if you assume that the portion of string length outside the VSL matters, which seems like it may not be the case. I would wonder mechanistically how it is that where the string is mounted affects anything and what it may affect?
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/07/20 01:07:54PM
52 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

This might end up being a controversial topic, since I cant seem to find a lot of agreement on it elsewhere, but I'd like to know what y'all know and have observed about how much the headstock angle, length of the headstock, radius of the nut, and bridge breakpoint angle, radius of the bridge, and excess of string between the bridge and tailpins affect tone, volume, and sustain.

My research has indicated to me that people just dont agree for the most part on these questions. The highly credible @Ken-Hulme said in a forum post *"Position of bridge relative to the string pins or break over the end (how much string is aft of the bridge) affects sustain"* Lutes have an extremely sharp headstock angle, apparently due to the desire to ensure that the strings have a rigid boundary to their VSL. Brian May's Red Special has such a subtle headstock angle it almost appears that the string is not bent over the nut at all. One local luthier has personally told me that a 10 degree headstock angle is necessary to ensure that the string is held in place and anything past that is just builders preference. Gibson has some guitars with infamously sharp headstock angles, which their website claims improves tone. My friend Allen took a board and stretched several strings across it at different angles, and told me that a 6 degree angle was the lowest he could avoid buzzing at. (interestingly I looked at my acoustic guitars and noticed both of them have a <10 degree angle that they stretch over the bridge at) He is much stronger than me at physics, so I'm inclined to believe his explanation that you need enough downward force on the VSL boundary to be greater than any upward force from the string's vibration, and any additional force past that is redundant. Makes sense to me since that's the case with fretting; you only need just enough pressure to keep the string in contact with the fret, adding more pressure past that does not give extra sustain, tone, or volume, so why would the bridge and nut be different?

One key difference that has come up in my own experiments is that in the past I often cut my nut and bridge at a straight angle (whereas frets are obviously rounded on their tops) and noticed buzzes, and abnormally quiet sound. It was explained to me that I should not expect a steel string to bend at an angle, rather at a radius.  When I went back and cut new bridges with a radius past the break point the difference was night and day in terms of increased volume and resolving buzzing issues. In the attached image the black objects represent 'bridges' the red lines represent 'strings'. The first diagram shows a 'bridge' with very minimal contact, which I believe puts tremendous amounts of extra stress on the bridge and the string. The second shows better contact but still a sharp angle at the breakpoint, which i believe can cause intonation issues and buzzing since the string might not actually be able to bend all the way to match the angle of the bridge without over-applying string tension, and therefore the breakpoint may be further back on the bridge than intended. The third diagram is what I currently do more or less, which is round off the side of the bridge and nut that is outside the VSL so that the string has a lot of contact and no sharp angles. I have never paid attention to the length of string outside the VSL, I have always assumed that if you have adequate downward force on the bridge and nut, that anything past them is irrelevant. A lot to think about but I'm sure plenty of you have thought about these things before! I'd love some more perspective


Tensions.png Tensions.png - 24KB

updated by @natebuildstoys: 05/10/20 02:34:31PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/06/20 03:04:38PM
52 posts

Adding Extra Strings to Courses


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

That is very insightful, thank you Grant!

Reading your perception of the differences it's pretty apparent to me that I am not at a level of knowledge yet to be trying to add in other equidistant strings. I think at the core, I am wanting to move towards all kinds of changes to improve my sound including chromatic scales, extra strings, and more elaborate courses, but probably the only one I am ready for yet is  more elaborate courses. I think at this moment I am mainly just considering any ways i can make the sound itself fuller or prettier, not necessarily ways to give it more notes.....yet!

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/06/20 02:48:40PM
52 posts

Adding Extra Strings to Courses


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

Thank you for such a comprehensive response Ken. I guess I am mostly asking about different tunings to the courses but also dont really know if it makes more sense to just add extra strings in equidistantly. I'll try to notate the tunings more coherently going forward, I was not aware of the correct way to write them.

And yes 12 strings are a bit of a challenge for me but specifically my hands have gotten used to the freedom of sliding around and only having to stay over 1 string per finger while they do. So i have gotten used to hand positions that put pressure in the exact place on the string that I need, and when another one is added in, my muscle memory doesnt compensate for having to move my finger slightly to the side well enough. That being said if I can find a tuning that has a sound I really like, it would be a pleasure to put in the practice.

Anyway, I am very curious  if you can still use DAd tabs with the tunings you mention? Will they still sound correct? I have a hard time understanding how our ears interpret these intervals but intuitively it seems like if your melody string was Ad it would change some chords. Is this the case? Also if the middle string is tuned 'Aa' (which I think is A3a4) then the highest pitch open string would be the middle correct? Does this affect the way the sound is perceived if the melody you are fretting is lower in pitch than the drone, instead of typically always being higher? Again, to be clear, this is all coming from an uneducated perspective.


updated by @natebuildstoys: 05/06/20 02:49:11PM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/06/20 01:57:26PM
52 posts

Is the strumhollow redundant?


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

Yes, unfortunately I had my doubts that the spaces would be big enough, though I would say it may still be useful for picking styles where the pinky is used to anchor the hand in place. Of course I eventually intend to practice enough that it stops being a concern, but since I build all my own dulcimers, I frequently indulge on 'crutch' modifications that help the sound along in the meantime. Not to correct the mistakes in my technique, but to correct the sound even in the event of a mistake so that it's more appealing to listeners while I am still learning and often mess up! 

NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/06/20 01:01:36PM
52 posts

Adding Extra Strings to Courses


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

I'd like to put more strings on my next dulcimer. I have a 6 string dulcimer which is tuned dd-AA-DD. Very cumbersome to get used to fretting those extra strings and not all that much 'fuller' of a sound in my opinion. @Granto has one which I've seen in his videos that is tuned D3 A3 D4 A4 which I'd love to do eventually but for now I gotta study theory more so I can actually get some use out of the extra range. The same goes for adding an f# string as in d-A-F#-D Someone mentioned on here a dulcimer tuned dd-a-Dd with a D4 string running in course with the D3. That's hard to wrap my head around.I am aware that 12 string guitars often use 'octave tuned' courses, but It seems to me that this might get in the way. For example 'dyad' chords which only use the middle and bass string would still have those high notes that you are meant to be specifically avoiding playing. Also I'd imagine the bridge would have to be cut bizarrely for better intonation. What do y'all think? Have you heard dulcimers tuned like this? Are you aware of specific issues in building or playing that relate to adding extra strings? What do yall think is an ideal 'extra' string or strings to add to a dd-a-D dulcimer? Finally what about these two extremely radical tuning ideas: d4d4-A3A3-D3D2 as well as d4D3-A3A2-D3D2 basically, all three strings running in course with their lower octave. Conceptually i would think it would sound good but I have no education in music or building so It might very well be muddy or chaotic or impractical. I'd love to hear thoughts!


updated by @natebuildstoys: 05/07/20 11:38:18AM
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
05/06/20 11:44:38AM
52 posts

Is the strumhollow redundant?


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


I saw a Stephen Seifert video where he showed a dulcimer made for him that had a strumhollow which went all the way up to the 14th fret (16th literally) and he explained it was made this way because that was where he preferred to strum. I have attached an image. What do y'all think of the idea of hollowing out one of the spaces between two of the frets low down the fretboard? For example, if there was a strumhollow between the 8th and 9th frets, another between the 12th and 13th and another just past the bottom frets? Then while playing the top of the fretboard you could use the top strumhollow, while playing the middle you could use the middle strumhollow, and when playing way down the frets you can use the traditional strumhollow. Maybe this would be structurally weak or ugly, but I would expect that it would be more practical for consistent sound quality with less effort and technique and also would maybe reduce the damage over time caused from the pick hitting the fretboard.


Duclpaintbox .jpg Duclpaintbox .jpg - 68KB
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