tuning my guitar into a three string dulcimer

Butch Ross
Butch Ross
@butch-ross
one week ago
13 posts

Folkcraft makes a cardboard dulcimer kit for around $75 US. The advantage to this is that (unlike apple creek and some of the other cheap, foreign-built models) the fretboard is going to be spot on. Plus it shouldn't be too hard to remake the cardboard part in that cherry you mentioned sometime down the road.

Here's the link


updated by @butch-ross: 12/03/19 09:13:40AM
RonD
RonD
@rond
4 weeks ago
10 posts

Strumella, the trouble is that I live in Canada and I am now on disability,  the cheapest cardboard kits are about 50 to 60 US.

With the exchange and shipping it does not make sense when I will want a wood one much sooner than later. This is why it would not be feasible for me to get a wood one as a kit till'  late winter;  and that is scraping every penny.

Sure, I can get Appeldorn or Hora for about 200  Can.    I will try and build one first. And I know this is not fleeting because I actually know how to pronounce Appalachia correctly as opposed to pronouncing the third syllable and making it sound like AY.    This in  itself should be a good start to a   YOU KNOW YOU LOVE THE MOUNTAIN DULCIMER WHEN.......

Ah, Ah,   Ronald 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,715 posts

I too recommend you get one of those cheap but great to play cardboard dulcimer kits.  You can save your money for a good dulcimer (or build one) later this winter like you planned.  Meanwhile, you'll have a fine inexpensive dulcimer to play right away, and you can use it for camping or travel later on if you get or build a higher quality one. Having an instrument that you don't have to worry about losing or damaging is a great thing!

But the real question is... Is your goal right now to build a dulcimer?, or is it to get started playing a dulcimer?  You can start with one and do the other later, or vice versa. But not both at the same time.  ;D

Once you own or put together a cardboard kit, you'll understand all the various things that everyone is trying to convey to you right now... because you have experience in guitar/chromatic setups.  In my opinion, once you have a dulcimer in hand it'll all become clear pretty quickly, in a way that's much better than long drawn out explanations and theory.   :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
IRENE
IRENE
@irene
4 weeks ago
128 posts

Another suggestion is to get a kit.   Just type in "mountain dulcimer kit" in google and many come up to choose from.   I've heard that cardboard kits are also good to learn on.  Do your own research and see what one calls your name.   IT'S A JOY TO BUILD YOUR OWN DULCIMER.   After you build one, then...............oh oh..........you'll build another.   aloha, irene

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,647 posts

If you want to build, join our Dulcimer Making Group, and we can guide you along the way.  The most critical bit is getting the fret spacing right.  There are good fret spacing calculators that will give you the diatonic frets for any VSL.   Since you're into re-sawing, you'll want boards that will be about 1/8".  Unlike guitars, dulcimers have almost no braces.  The fretboard itself is a giant eternal brace from one end to the other.  You'll want that fretboard about 1.5" wide (or a bit less) and about 3/4" tall (for finger clearance).  A simple elliptical shape is a good place to start, but if you enjoy bending thin wood, the jigs for more complex shapes are easy to make.  Here's the jig which I made recently for my interpretation of a North Carolina Holly Leaf shaped dulcimer that originated around the time of the Civil War.  The side planks here are 1/8" maple.
Burnsville Frame.jpg

RonD
RonD
@rond
4 weeks ago
10 posts

I see, like I thought but was not sure the Octave is at the 8 fret only because it is diatonic, but 8 fret diatonic and 12 fret chromatic is the same place as it is the string length that still forms the octave at a certain place, frets placed accordingly

If I am wrong tho' please let me know  BTW I have just joined the Everything dulcimer on FB Thanks Ken for the info.

Guys, my guitar will remain a guitar , it was born as a guitar and nothing will be removed or added.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,647 posts

This diagram will explain the diatonic/chromatic situation.  Dulcimer Make Tony, on the FB Everything Dulcimer Farcebook page, posted this today.    Forget everything guitar... you'll just confuse yourself going back and forth.  

Diachromatic fretboard.jpg

RonD
RonD
@rond
4 weeks ago
10 posts

No, I don't think so, I live in Northern Ontario near the Quebec border, it is pretty much country music.

However, that being said, I may just have a change of plans.  I am welder by trade and worked with wood all my life. My father was a contractor.  I have a bunch of well dried cherry wood some of which is quite near quarter sawn and I have just been truing  the five inch bandsaw.  Have gathered all the information about dimension.  I know quite a lot about guitar building and I would make a Fender type  headstock at about 14 degrees. One thing ( amongst other) that I have not quite gotten into my head. If the open string octave on a guitar is at the  twelfth fret and the octave from the first fret at the 13 th. Why is the 1+ fret octave at the 8+.  Something just occured to me, 8 is diatonic, is it at the 8+ fret because it is diatonic and missing some frets?

Thanks, Ronald

marg
@marg
4 weeks ago
546 posts

Sorry you don't  live near me, I could just lend you a dulcimer till yours came in, unless you wanted to change the guitar around.  Is there no one in  your area?

good luck,

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,164 posts

Ronald, the Kens have already highlighted the most important obstacles: the chromatic fretboard, the placement of the bass string, etc.

I think the biggest obstacle you will have is string spacing.  The strings on the guitar are placed much closer together than are the strings on the dulcimer.  If you are going to play in a modern chording style in which you fret across all the strings, string slots that are next to each other (say the G, D, and A strings, for example), will be too close together for you to get your fingers in there. And if you choose string slots further apart (say the B, D, and low E strings), they will be too far apart and will make chording difficult.

If you want to play in a traditional droning style that string placement will be less of an issue because you will only be fretting (either with a finger or a noter) the string closest to you, so the strings won't have to be equidistant.

But regardless of how you proceed, as Ken states, the slots that exist in your nut and bridge may not work for dulcimer string gauges.

I would suggest another option.  Keep your guitar in playable condition as a guitar.  Find yourself a cheap cardboard dulcimer.  None of them are that loud, but some of them are ridiculously nice and make me feel silly for spending so much money for fancy dulcimers made of fancy woods.  Backyard dulcimer makes a kit and so does Folkcraft.  They take about an hour to put together, or you can pay a little extra and have it pre-made.  You can sometimes find used ones as well.  Those cardboard dulcimers are more than adequate to get you started while you wait for your winter dulcimer.




--
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.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 11/12/19 12:49:40AM
RonD
RonD
@rond
one month ago
10 posts

Thanks, as for too many frets, they do have chromatic dulcimers which I absolutely do not wish to start with,  if ever.

What I would do to my guitar is highlight the frets that are corresponds to the dulcimer with a sharpie. and be careful when learning

Ronald

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,647 posts

Your conversion won't be a dulcimer, of course -- dulcimer's don't have necks that extend beyond the body.  Which tuning you choose is, at this point, irrelevant.  The first step in to do the conversion of strings as detailed by @Ken-longfield.  

You don't mention whether you are going to play your instrument upright -- like a guitar -- or flat on your lap like a dulcimer.  With the dulcimer, the strings are "backwards" to a guitar.  That is -- the heaviest strings are farthest away when the instrument is flat on your lap (if playing vertically the heaviest string is on the bottom).

As Ken mentions, if you intend to play a diatonic dulcimer, all those extra frets that make up the chromatic fretboard of a guitar will undoubtedly cause you issues when it comes to learning/unlearning fingering positions and other things on a diatonic fret pattern.   All that to say, we won't say "don't do it", but converting a guitar to three strings and trying to use it as a dulcimer may not be the "best" thing to do if you really want to learn to play dulcimer.  

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
627 posts

I forgot to answer your other questions. I am not sure to which of Mel Bays books your are referring to in you question. Some of the Mel Bay books offer both DAA and DAd tunings. These being the most popular tunings. Other books also include DAc and other tunings. Currently, DAd is the default tuning for most dulcimer festivals and clubs, although folk are beginning to discover and appreciate DAA and other tunings.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
627 posts

As I think was mentioned before you started this thread, you will not have a doubled melody string unless you want to rework the nut and bridge on your guitar. If you choose to do a three string configuration, take off the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings. You will need to restring your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings. The bass D string (in either DAA or DAd) should be a wound 0.022 or 0.023. The middle string would be a plain steel 0.014. If tuning to DAA, the middle and first string (melody) are the same gauge. The first (melody) string for DAd tuning is a plain steel could be 0.011 or 0.012. You may need to modify the slots in the guitar nut to fit the these string sizes. Another possibility would be to buy and inexpensive guitar nut, slot it yourself, and run your strings down the center of the fretboard. Also, you will not be playing a traditional diatonic dulcimer by doing the this. The guitar fretboard is fretted for chromatic playing.

You did not say what style of dulcimer playing you want to do, but if you are going to play a traditional diatonic dulcimer, trying to learn on the chromatic fretboard may cause you fits when moving to the diatonic fretboard.

Best wishes for your project. Let us know if you have more questions.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

RonD
RonD
@rond
one month ago
10 posts

Hello, I am not getting a dulcimer till'  late winter.

How can I convert my guitar to a three string dulcimer.

It is a Yamaha folk size  witha 25 inch string length.  I am getting the book Complete dulcimer method  Mel Bay.   Should I convert to dad or daa, what is more common, or what tuning would work best for the book.

Thanks,  Ronald


updated by @rond: 11/15/19 06:09:37PM