Dulcimer-Guitar Style Options?
Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions
Perhaps a Seagull Merlin would be appropriate? http://www.seagullguitars.com/en/products/m4
Perhaps a Seagull Merlin would be appropriate? http://www.seagullguitars.com/en/products/m4
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Could you be more specific on the location of the loose bracing? Also approximation dimensions of the heart sound holes.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Bring two one DAd/DAa and one CGc/CGg and a Capo. (DAd/DAa depends on your playing style.)
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.
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.
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.
Maybe the play Flop-eared Mule and other songs that use the 9 & 11 fret?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ken, majajog, so here is the challenge to you. Build two instruments from the exact same wood, take alternating strips to build the two instruments. Then put different nuts and frets on the two final builds, say one with ebony and brass frets, the other with bone and stainless. Then tell me you can't hear the difference. I have, I can. Think I am wrong, build the instruments and post the results.
Ebony makes very good nuts and frets. Personally, I prefer bone as I believe it produces a cleaner tone. Whenever you use ebony, consider the following link:http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/ebony-dark-outlook-dark-woods/ .
Frets are one part of the whole system that makes the sound you hear when you play. A general rule is that that stiffer the material used, the brighter the tone. A maple soundboard will produce a brighter tone than spruce. The same holds true for your frets, but to a lesser degree. Brass is softer than stainless and will (modestly) soften your sound. Whatever frets you choose, you will eventually need to replace them. Once you find a good luthier who can talk to you about fret material, choose the fret material for the sound you wish to produce rather than how long the fret will last. (While you are at it, talk to the luthier about the saddle and nut material you are using. These will also have an impact on the sound your instrument produces.)
Please keep in mind that, just because an instrument has a diatonic fretboard, it does not automatically become a dulcimer. The dulciborn is really an instrument called a Weissenborn to which a diatonic fretboard has been added and two strings removed. The Weissenborn and dulciborn are very solidly in the guitar family. The main difference is that, being in the zither family, the dulcimer has its strings all the way across the soundbox. A Weissenborn/Dulciborn, being in the guitar family, has the string attached to the soundboard and does not stretch across the entire soundbox.
Musicians who can play the dulcimer will find the transition to a dulciborn easier. However, as with those who play the Gallier "dulcimer" (actually a three course lap guitar), you will find that your instrument sounds like a guitar, even when playing dulcimer songs.
As most of our ear are very used to hearing a guitar, this instrument may sound more familiar to your ears. Instrument sound is a choice a musician makes. If you like the sound, play it.
No, sorry, I won't be in the state on Saturday. When do we meet in November? Are you going to any nearby festivals?
Do you know if your dulcimer has a zero fret or a nut? If it has a nut, I would check to see if the nut is properly adjusted.
Paula, happy to look at it during the next jam,..., when is that exactly? It almost sounds like your fretboard is warped. If you have a good straight edge, usually a metal ruler 18" or longer will do, place it on the frets between the strings without touching the nut or saddle. The straight edge should touch all of the frets. See if the straightedge rocks on the center frets. It so, the fret board may have bowed out and is causing your problem. It doesn't sound like your fretboard bowed inward as you said the action is too high by the upper frets, not the middle.