Use of 8 1/2 fret

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Hi D-  if you don't use the 1.5 fret, then you'd not likely use its 'mate' that's one octave higher (the 8.5 fret).

The reason we don't often see such extra frets mentioned in tab is this- the reason for adding them is to enable you to play in a different mode and key without re-tuning.  90% of tabs seem to be written for DAd or DAA tuning... both of which can be played without using the 1.5 or 8.5 frets.  Bluesy tunes might use them more often though.

I find the 1.5 and 8.5 frets are handy for me when playing in fiddle tune sessions. One example of where I find it useful is if fiddlers switch to a modal-y sounding tune in the same key and then switch back to a major-y sounding tune in the same key, without much of a pause.  Since I don't use capos either, those two extra frets give me more options in weird fiddle session situations.  But for folks who play typical pop and/or traditional folk tunes mostly from tab, they might rarely run into instances that call for a 1.5/8.5 fret.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

I have it on two of my dulcimers and I've yet to use it. I'm guessing those of you who do, are playing at much more advanced level than myself, but again, I've yet to encounter the 8.5 in a tab. Mainly, it just messes with me when I go to quickly hit the 9th fret.

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

By the way, the distance between the 8 and 8+ frets is less than an 1/8" than that between the 6+ and 7. The spacing is not the challenge, it's the fact that it's there that you need to learn.

Sheryl St. Clare
Sheryl St. Clare
@sheryl-st-clare
6 years ago
260 posts

I added a 1+ to my dulcimer last weekend, for two reasons. I really wanted to play Larry Conger's  Summertime tab, but more importantly, it's trending in the three area groups I jam with. I'm getting used to it. If you go with muscle memory, you fingers know how to find the 2 fret without looking. 

robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
6 years ago
256 posts
I've built fully chromatic dulcimers for folks who wanted to go all the way. You might do the same. You can even string them reverse and play them like a guitar... But be sure to keep a true diatonic model nearby. I played with extra frets and it's just not for me.. It just ain't fitten... Robert...
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

I have a folkcraft with a 22" VSL which has the 1+, 6+,8+, and 13+. and have had no problem with the fret spacing at the high end. You just get used to it like any other spacing. I suggest you get the higher one if you are getting the 1+ and 6+, you may grow into playing at the higher frets over time. Keep in mind the music you play now and any future changes in your play lists and style of playing.


updated by @skip: 02/04/17 10:44:55PM
Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
6 years ago
419 posts

Don Pedi says he'd rather have an 8 1/2 than any other 1/2 fret.  In fact he says the 1 1/2 gets In his way a lot for making smooth sounding slides.  That being said, I agree with Ken.  Look at all the great players who didn't or don't use extra frets: Roger Nicholson; Robert Force; Michael Rugg, Dan Evans and many others.  I've declared this my year of no extra frets.  I'm really finding there is little necessity for a 6 1/2 even.  Now I just need a great diatonic instrument.  Anyone got one they'd like to donate?  violin  joyjoydancetomato  dulcimer

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,028 posts

Someone has to be the con here!  poke   The voice of reason crying out in the wilderness!

I never recommend any additional frets, not even the 6+ .  I think people should learn to re-tune to a proper tuning to get the so-called  "missing" notes for a particular song .  After all we're only talking one string, in most cases, and everyone should be intimately familiar enough with their instrument to re-tun one string in something less than a minute -- I can, why can't you?   That's my humble opinion, and I'm stickin' with it!whistle


updated by @ken-hulme: 02/04/17 09:55:52AM
Martha E
Martha E
@martha-e
6 years ago
8 posts

I'd recommend getting the 8 1/2 fret, too. When you go to play tunes higher on the fretboard, it will be confusing if you have a different fret pattern than you have in the first octave, and you may not be able to play the same notes and chords that you've played lower on the fretboard.

I hadn't planned on having an 8 1/2 fret put on my main dulcimer with a 1 1/2 fret, but the person building the dulcimer convinced me that it was a good idea. I am very glad now that I listened and had the extra fret put on. My main dulcimer has a VSL that's slightly over 26 inches, and there's plenty of room for the 8 1/2 fret.

Wayne Jiang
Wayne Jiang
@wayne-jiang
6 years ago
7 posts

I would definitely get the 8 1/2 fret.  When I capo on the 3rd fret to play in the key of G,  I see the 8 1/2 fret is like the 6th fret if I'm playing in D.   This way it helps me to play the same chord shapes as if I'm playing in D.   For example in D    0 6 5  is the 4th chord (G major)  when capo up to 3rd fret.  0 8.5  7  is also the 4th chord (C major).  Hope this makes sense.  


updated by @wayne-jiang: 01/18/17 07:12:59PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,633 posts

Hi Jill.  I think the way you phrased your question actually answers it.  The 8-1/2 fret is the octave of the 1-1/2 fret.  So all the reasons you might want a 1-1/2 fret can be used to justify the 8-1/2 fret.  When you are playing up there you might want those notes (minor thirds, 7ths. etc) that the fret offers. On the other hand, as you mention, frets get thinner up there and harder to use.  That issue really depends on the dulcimer's VSL. The shorter the VSL, the thinner the frets.  The other issue for beginners is that is is harder to identify where you are on the fretboard as you move higher up.  My main dulcimer has a 28" VSL and I have no trouble with frets that are too thin until about 13. Everything below that is fully usable. 

My advice would be to keep the two octaves the same.  If you get a 1-1/2 fret, get the 8-1/2 fret.  Otherwise you will have to recalibrate your thinking as you move up the fretboard.  As you get used to the 1-1/2 fret your brain gets used to having those notes available, and then not having them in the upper octave will pose a mental obstacle. TO help identify frets up there you might ask for fret markers placed at the usual spots (frets 3, 5, 7, and 10).




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
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Jill Tyler-Endicott
Jill Tyler-Endicott
@jill-tyler-endicott
6 years ago
1 posts

I'm having a new dulcimer made for me.  Adding the 1 1/2 fret as occasionally I've used it.  I do understand that it's just the reverse at a higher octave.

I have not ever seen where I would need an 8 1/2 fret and am concerned about the small space it would allow for the high frets (8, 9, 10)

Can anyone please give me input on the use of the 8 1/2 fret?  Both pros and cons are welcome.