Good VSL for chording? (DAD, DGD, CGC, DAA mainly)

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,267 posts

@CaonnorC, there are actually several variables to consider as you continue playing and thinking about what would be ideal for you. Obviously VSL is one, as is the width of the fretboard. Another is the distance between the strings.  I find for flatpicking I want strings that are close together, with an inch or less separating the bass and melody strings. But for fingerpicking I don't mind a little more space in there so my chubby picking fingers have some room.  The kind of fretwire you use is another issue.  Some dulcimer players prefer jumbo wire so that you don't have to press the strings all the way to the wood of the fretboard.  That allows a softer touch and faster playing.  And some luthiers are starting to make radiused fretboards, mainly with the goal of increased comfort of the fretting hand.   It's a lot to think about. 

But for the moment, just keep doing what you're doing.  Those stretches should get easier over time.




--
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
ConnorC
ConnorC
@connorc
3 weeks ago
5 posts

Thanks, @dusty-turtle I am glad I'm not alone, or doing it all wrong. I tried my wife's Dulcie-May (smaller, teardrop) and it was a lot easier to reach them, but the fretboard is narrower and I have wide fingertips. Swings and roundabouts. 

I'll keep at them, and hopefully my fingers will strengthen and stretch over the next couple of months. I like noter playing too, but it's fun learning to flatpick and play the arpeggios.

I'll probably look for a slightly shorter VSL with a nice wide fretboard around Christmas, by which time I should be able to play well enough to know what I want.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,267 posts

@ConnorC, a dulcimer with a 27" VSL should be fine for chording. In DAd tuning the 1-2-4 and 4-2-1 A chords are indeed the toughest to reach, but they can be done, and keep in mind that the muscles in your fingers will get stronger and will stretch a bit, so just keep at it.  And yes, you will want to you use your pinky.  Some dulcimer players don't use their thumbs and others don't use their pinkies, but I figure I need all the help I can get.

I still have and play dulcimers with 27" and 28" VSLs, but I have to admit that my main playing dulcimer has only a 25" VSL.  The shorter scale length not only makes certain chords easier to finger, but makes it easier to play fast since my hand can stay in a  relaxed position as I cover several frets.




--
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
ConnorC
ConnorC
@connorc
3 weeks ago
5 posts

Bruce, my dulcimer, has a 27” VSL (nut to bridge if I understand that properly). I have fairly large hands, but a few chords in D and E need quite a stretch even for this ploughboy. 4,2,1 Or 3,1,3 for instance. (My thumbtip to ringfinger tip is 10”)

What length is about right for chord players, or do you just adapt like I am having to do? My pinkie finger seems to get involved more often than people I watch on youtube. 😳

I play noter and drone when with my wife, but left to my own devices, DAD and chords come out. 😂