Forum Activity for @matt-berg

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
06/30/20 08:59:04PM
57 posts

Size of Soundbox and Loudness


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

Nate,

Many things impact loudness, size of the sound box, thickness of the soundboard, weight of the strings, size of the soundhole and how hard the player hits the strings.

Matt

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
05/10/20 07:10:36AM
57 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

Most of us know the story of how Jean Ritchie and the 20th Century revival saved the dulcimer from the dustbin of history.

When starting to build dulcimers, I joined a different online group to share ideas.  Using the word dulcimer was like kryptonite, no responses, no comments.  I get the same reaction bringing my dulcimer to many jams,..., "oh, now we are limited", "can you play our songs".  I have also noted the lack of young people at our festivals.

Soon, we will need a 21st Century Jean Ritchie to save our instrument.

Much of this is self inflicted.  Only a few musicians play music from the last 25 years.  And many dulcimer builders insist on using terms that make them sound like they do not understand acoustic instruments.

I may seem pedantic when referring to parts of an instrument, but really, I would like to our instrument take its rightful place as an American treasure.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
05/09/20 03:55:07PM
57 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for researching a subject.  However, this quote is taken directly from the Wikipedia page on Wikipedia:

 

Wikipedia does not consider itself to be a reliable source   . Many academics distrust Wikipedia   [23]    but may see it as a valuable jumping off point for research, with many of the reliable sources used in its articles generally seen as legitimate sources for more in-depth information and use in assigned papers. For this reason some academics suggest ‘Verifiability by respected sources’ as an indicator for assessing the quality of Wikipedia articles at the higher education level.   [24]

 

And just for the record, in its early days I submitted two short articles to Wikipedia that were published and I regularly donate to Wikipedia.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
05/09/20 07:02:51AM
57 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

Mounting on the soundboard produces more over and undertones.  Mounting across the soundboard produces fewer.  If you are ever in a session with a Gallier, you can hear a clear difference.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
05/08/20 08:16:06AM
57 posts

VSL Breakpoint Angles, Radiuses, and Excess String Lengths


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

And speaking of controversial, if you are comparing dulcimers to guitars, it helps to use proper luthier terms.  Technically, very few dulcimers have a "bridge".  A bridge bridges the internal bracing.  As most dulcimers either lack internal bracing or lack anything that spans them, most dulcimers do not have a true bridge. What dulcimer builder call a bridge, every other luthier calls a saddle.  However, as to part of your question.

Most guitars have the strings anchored to the soundboard.  Some dulcimers, Gallier in particular, anchor their strings in the same way.  The vast majority of dulcimers anchor their strings to the edge of the soundbox.  Comparing the string angle on a instrument with the strings anchored to the soundboard to one with the strings anchored to the soundbox is an apple to oranges comparison that will get you nowhere.

Jazz guitars anchor their strings to the edge of the sound box.  I read an article in American Lutherie in which the author tried various string angles to see which was best.  The author decided that a more shallow string angle led to a louder more jangly sound.  As the angle sharpened, the sound became clearer.  Beyond 15 degrees, the angle noticeably reduced the volume.  The author concluded that 15 degrees was the optimal angle.

As noted above guitars are not dulcimers and dulcimers are not guitars.  I build my instruments with the 15 degree angle at the saddle (bridge).  I like the sound, but sound is musician's choice.

For the headstock, I also use the 15 degree angle.  I have no particular reason for doing so other than it works for me.

And just for full disclosure, my dulcimers do use internal bracing, a true bridge and a floating fretboard.  So take anything I say with a grain of salt.  The attached picture is of a build I intend to finish this weekend.


IMG_20200508_080638.jpg IMG_20200508_080638.jpg - 138KB
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
02/21/20 06:13:51AM
57 posts



The violin sound post transmits vibrations to the bottom of the violin because the string press down on the saddle and the soundboard would collapse without the post.  The fret board/neck of a dulcimer, even one with vaults, is too stiff to have that problem.  To keep the posts in place, the luthier would need to put pressure on the back of the dulcimer.  Any vibrations would be absorbed by your legs.

Try using a Galax bottom, "possum board".

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/23/19 06:53:15AM
57 posts

Richard and Denise Wilson dulcimer - needs a bridge


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

I have had good luck purchasing the nut for an acoustic guitar and using that as the saddle, what you are calling the bridge.  The saddle (bridge) is what transmits most of the string vibrations to the soundbox which in turns amplifies the sound.  Your choice of material will influence the sound of your dulcimer.  Yes, wood works.  Softer woods will produce a softer sound with more overtones.  The harder the wood, the crisper the sound.  Some musicians will use very hard substances, including brass, to get a sharp twangy sound.

My personal favorite is to purchase a guitar nut made from bone.  (Try ebay, less than$5, less than $1 if you can wait on shipping.)  You will need to cut slots for the strings, in a pinch a common hacksaw will work.  The clean sound produced will reward your efforts.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
04/14/19 07:51:30AM
57 posts

Dulcimer-Guitar Style Options?


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

The banjo-esque sound comes from the shallow body.  If you want a more rounded sound, look for a deeper body.  For example, compare the sound of a McSpadden v the sound of a Folkcraft or Blue Lion.  When playing an instrument in the underhand "guitar" style, you will find many of the chord/melody riffs of a mountain dulcimer impossible.  You simply do not have the same reach as the overhand dulcimer style.  Butch Ross gets around this by "playing in the box", similar to a classical guitar player.

Good luck and please post videos when you have settled on an instrument.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
02/16/19 05:51:25AM
57 posts

To hollow or not to hollow that is the question?


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

On a typical dulcimer, as opposed to a ukulele or guitar, the vibrations from the strings get transmitted to the soundboard through the fretboard.  A heavy fretboard will tend to dampen some of the vibrations.  That said, it you use a composite fretboard with light wood topped by a strong fingerboard, (think mahogany and ebony) you might not need to hollow out the fretboard.  If your instrument has good internal bracing, you might even try separating the fingerboard from the bridge/saddle portion.

Or maybe just take John's advice and go with a hollowed out fretboard.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
02/02/19 07:12:39AM
57 posts

Shipping in the cold


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


Two people were kind enough to purchase instruments from my Etsy site during the recent cold snap.  I messaged them that I would hold on shipping until the cold broke as I was concerned that the instruments may become brittle and break in the cold.

This was as much fear as knowledge.

Does anyone have experience with having instruments break during shipping due to cold weather?


updated by @matt-berg: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
01/28/19 02:05:00PM
57 posts

Removing grease spot


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

I would not try to remove the grease spot. You would have better luck rubbing the entire piece of wood with the same grease. Actually, that would help bring out the wood grain. I would also wait for other ideas.
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
01/08/19 06:24:31AM
57 posts

Narrow waisted hourglass shape


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

Although the wasp waist certainly adds to the looks of the dulcimer, I believe it does add to the tone.  It mellows the tone a bit, making it somewhat less jangly.  People compare the hourglass with the teardrop and say, see no difference.  They forget that a teardrop has an effectively shorter body than a teardrop.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
12/07/18 06:08:46AM
57 posts



Many dulcimers are made with hardwoods rather than the softwood soundboard in guitars.  Hardwoods tend to shrink and expand less with changes in humidity.  That is why many people get away with not humidifying their dulcimers.

With a spruce top, well, consider whether how much the air dries in winter.  People who live further north here in Michigan get more dry winters and may need humidifiers.  Not so much here in Detroit.

I believe Foldcraft used to sell dulcimer humidifiers.  Haven't looked for a while.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
10/16/18 06:16:29AM
57 posts

String gauge tolerance(s)


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

This does not directly answer your question, but the highest standard tuning that I generally see is EBee.  If you are just playing around, I would purchase multiple sets.  (If you have a guitar center, ask at accessory counter for individual strings at about $1 each.) Then just keep tuning until..."POP!"

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
09/19/18 07:39:52AM
57 posts

Sound Hole Placement


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

One thought to add, before deciding whether or not an instrument sounds good, try a few instruments.  If possible, listen to it in a jam.  Unless you have a very well trained ear (or the instrument is very bad or very good) it is hard to judge an instrument's sound in isolation.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/31/18 08:00:32AM
57 posts



The trapezoid and its close cousin, the Tennessee music box, have the potential for great instruments.  Here are two of my recent builds where I added rounded corners and a waist.  As with all of my recent builds, they feature a bowed back and a floating fretboard.  Both instruments have strong voices.  The larger, 27" VSL, twangy due to stiffer bracing and the shorter, 24" VSL, more mellow.  The sound boards were from wood recovered from a house renovation.  I believe they are white cedar.


two dulcis 7-31-18.jpg two dulcis 7-31-18.jpg - 198KB
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/27/18 07:45:51AM
57 posts

Extra Frets for CGG tuning (DAA)


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

The DAa forum would give you more guidance.  In DAd, the 1 1/2 - 8 1/2 frets give you the ability to play F on the D strings and C on the A string.  You would gain the same notes DAa or DAd.  Whether you would use them depends on the songs you play. 

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/19/18 07:12:59PM
57 posts

Clarification needed on playing 4 equidistant strings


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

For a beginning player? Just take off the fourth string and tteach standard Dad.
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
04/21/18 07:28:40AM
57 posts

Mikael Carstanjen 1975 Courting Dulcimer - Repair Question


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

I see two issues with your repair.  The first is getting the glue to where you want it, the second is holding down the loose brace while the glue sets. 

Steady your nerves.

For the glue,  find a dentists mirror (Dollar Store, Harbor Freight, eBay) that will fit in a soundhole near the brace you want to glue.  Shine a small flashlight into the soundhole on the other side of the instrument.  This should allow you to see the loose brace.  Shape two curved pieces of wood that are long enough to reach the loose brace.  Use one to prop the brace away from the back far enough to insert glue.  Take the other and put a small enough drop of glue so that it stays on when you reach into the instrument to place the glue under the bridge.  Repeat until you believe enough glue is under the brace to hold it.  Pull out both pieces of wood.

Halfway home.

Fully insert the strongest of the shaped pieces of wood and flip it with a tweezer so that it  curves up with one end resting on top of the brace.  Take a dowel that fits through the sound hole and rest it on the wood piece.  Take a clamp and gently clamp down on the dowel until the brace is in place.

Walk away and let it sit for a couple days.

For better instructions, look up gluing a loose brace on stewmac.com.  They will show you how to do it on a guitar, which is easier because it has a larger body and a bigger soundhole.

Be patient, don't give up.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
04/20/18 05:46:18AM
57 posts

Mikael Carstanjen 1975 Courting Dulcimer - Repair Question


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

Jim,

Could you be more specific on the location of the loose bracing?  Also approximation dimensions of the heart sound holes.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
04/06/18 06:07:09AM
57 posts

Charity Case Pt.2: Side Crack and High Action


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

Other tunings,..., many.  This might not be the best forum to find people who can best discuss multiple tunings.  As a start, try tuning each string down a step so that your instrument is tuned CGc(c).  You can play all the same music, just everything will be slightly lower in pitch.  Many players find DAdd slightly too high for comfortable singing.

If you want to explore more tunings, I would suggest looking through the books written by Don Pedi.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
03/31/18 08:37:25AM
57 posts

Charity Case Pt.2: Side Crack and High Action


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

The nickel dime method works with the medium fret wire from Stewmac or C. Gitty reasonably well,...,except when I build a bass dulcimer.  Higher action is needed with heavier strings.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
03/31/18 08:34:43AM
57 posts

Charity Case Pt.2: Side Crack and High Action


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

When moving from a fixed saddle/bridge to a movable saddle/bridge, I have found that a standard (using the term loosely, Jim) acoustic guitar nut works very well.  If you use a true bone nut, you will be quite surprised by the improved tone of your instrument over any type of wood or plastic used.  Depending on the manufacture, you may need to lower the action on the new saddle/bridge.

I would say that is my two cents worth, but maybe I should kick in a nickel or a dime?

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
03/30/18 06:26:39AM
57 posts

Charity Case Pt.2: Side Crack and High Action


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

Is the action high because the nut or the bridge is too high?  Sounds like the bridge position needs adjustment.

The crack looks old, if you agree, just let it be.  Adds character to the instrument.  If it truly bothers you, GENTLY, try pressing it back into shape.  If it goes back into place, you can try putting a very thin layer of glue in the crack and GENTLY clamp it back into shape.  Use a clamp with rubber protectors to avoid flattening the final product. (Even better, cut out a caul the shape of the instrument where you plan to clamp.) Immediately take the clamps off once or twice to wipe up excess glue (if any) then clamp and let sit for a couple days.  Not my first thought, but you asked.

No comment on the finish.

 

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
01/02/18 09:47:43PM
57 posts

Using boiled linseed oil (mahogany)


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

No, actually, I have done it with other features, but not comparing oil to lacquer.  The times I have used oil, I was just not happy with the results.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
01/02/18 09:12:52PM
57 posts

Using boiled linseed oil (mahogany)


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

When asking such a question, I always build sibling dulcimers.  Cut the sound board and sides out of the same piece of wood.  Then finish one with tung oil and the other with lacquer or shellac.  That should answer the question.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
01/02/18 06:01:35PM
57 posts

Using boiled linseed oil (mahogany)


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

I am not a fan of using oils on any part of an instrument.  I find they soak into the wood and deaden the sound.  As Bob Schuler said use wax.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
12/18/17 08:49:40AM
57 posts

Play with ukulele and guitar


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

Seriously?  This is why other musicians groan when you bring a dulcimer to a jam.  We expect everyone to change for us.  How nice? Not.  If you plan to play a dulcimer with other instruments, you should change for them, after all, there are more of them than there are of us.  Majority rules in a jam.

Yes, the dulcimer is a wonderful instrument,..., that can change and play nicely with other instruments.  (And when you get REALLY good, you can bring just one instrument, or a fully chromatic dulcimer,..., hmm, fully chromatic CGg with a capo, that could do most everything.)

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
12/18/17 05:51:28AM
57 posts

Play with ukulele and guitar


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

Bring two one DAd/DAa and one CGc/CGg and a Capo.  (DAd/DAa depends on your playing style.)

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
11/12/17 07:53:28AM
57 posts

Fretboard Crack!!


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

The builder did a wonderful job of putting together a unique instrument.  Eight strings on a thin scroll head is a lot of pressure.  The sides of the head are perhaps a tad thin for that many strings.

Every instrument has the danger of cracking.  An instrument as detailed as yours needs continuous care, especially to maintain constant humidity.  It cracked once and could crack again.  If you know a luthier nearby, ask them to look at the crack.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
11/10/17 08:50:20PM
57 posts

Fretboard Crack!!


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

It looks like a fracture from drying rather than stress. Place the instrument so the opening Dave's up.mask off the sides of the crack. Then SLOWLY, one or two drops at a time put in thin super glue and let dry. It will take a while, but eventually the crack will fill. Patience.
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/25/17 06:28:56AM
57 posts

bridge compensation


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

The short answer, yes.  The long answer, for most players it is one additional feature they need to worry about, will only modestly improve their play and generally makes them more frustrated.

If you plan to play many different styles of music, perhaps.  It really comes down to how much time you want to spend messing with your instrument for a modest improvement in sound.  Some people obsess over the tiniest improvement, some people say, close enough for rock and roll.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/24/17 06:30:56PM
57 posts

bridge compensation


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

Uh, yea, the article on frets.net is confusing.  Try going to Stewmac.com (a site everyone who builds instruments visits from time to time) and type in saddle.  A much more authoritative source.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/24/17 06:27:57PM
57 posts

Fret Markers


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

Maybe the play Flop-eared Mule and other songs that use the 9 & 11 fret?

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/24/17 07:19:28AM
57 posts

bridge compensation


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

Ken, just because YOU can't hear the difference doesn't mean the rest of us can't.   Your responses to too many questions are that no one will hear the difference.    The idea is to continue improving the dulcimer.  If you have given up on improving the instrument, I am sorry for you.

Before responding, try stringing a compensated instrument DAA with the same gauge strings.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/24/17 06:50:34AM
57 posts

Fret Markers


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

Fret markers go where they are of most use to the musician.  3-5-7-10 tend to be positions frequently used by many musicians.

When building chromatic dulcimers, I will sometimes use guitar marking, the same 3-5-7-10, but that would be a 2-3-4-6 on a diatonic dulcimer.

In other words, whatever works for you.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
07/24/17 06:46:04AM
57 posts

bridge compensation


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

Well, first, it shows that McSpadden does not understand the art of lutherie.  The bridge is not compensated, the saddle is compensated,..., and no, it doesn't change just because you are making a dulcimer.

That aside, because of the difference in gauge of strings, thicker strings tend to become sharp as you play higher and higher frets.  To adjust for this, the saddle is angled so that the distance from nut to saddle (bridge) is greater for the thicker strings.  Longer distances tend to produce lower notes.  This keeps the thicker strings from becoming sharp as you play up the scale.

In the guitar world, a compensated saddle will not only be angled, but frequently has recesses carved into the saddle itself.

A compensated saddle does not prevent a musician from playing DAA.  Simply string the instrument with a thinner melody string, maybe a nine, and a thicker middle string, maybe a 12 or 14.  Works just fine.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
06/01/17 06:10:43AM
57 posts

Action/ nickel under the 7th


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

the action (distance from fret to string) at the seventh fret is just one place on the string.  It is determined by the height of the nut (what the string rests on near the tuners) and the saddle (what the string rests on near your strumming hand).  For example, I have a twelve string guitar where the height of the nut is actually lower than the first fret.  This makes the action at the first fret very low, even though the action at the 12th fret (equivalent to the seven fret on a dulcimer) is about the height of a nickel.

Many dulcimers use what is called a -0- fret instead of a nut.  Doing so will lower the action at the first fret to less than that of a dime.  The action at the seven fret is determined by the height of the saddle for these instruments.

The ease of pressing the strings depends on the string action along the entire length of the fret board.  Most players spend 80% of their time below the seventh fret.  If you are truly looking for an instrument with easy action, look at the nut height and action at the first fret.

Matt Berg
@matt-berg
04/25/17 06:49:35PM
57 posts

6 String guages and tuning


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

You didn't mention what part you are planning to play.  If you are going to play a true bass line, as implied by the CCGGCc tuning, then the CCGGcc tuning will sound funny when you play the melody strings.

 

If you are trying to play melody with a deeper drone then the CCGGcc tuning would make more sense.

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