How and if to add a 1 1/2 fret

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Salt Springs:

Looks like a Roosebeck to me Grace Mountain model

 

.......check it out on Amazon.

Yes, it looks a lot like that, so I'd say, that's it. I haven't measured my instrument, and I'm not sure the description of the wood is an exact match — it's hard to tell if the bridge and the neck are the same wood; maybe it's just a difference in the grain — but it does seem to be the same. Same tailpiece. Same tuners. Same f note holes and same arched bridge, plus of course the contrasting light and dark colors. Mine has an extra screw at the end for holding a strap, and it has only three strings (through slots for four), plus of course the 1.5 fret, but these three differences are easily explained as after-market changes. 

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Yeah, a more correct placement may require making a third cut between fret 1 and 2. But I'm not sure I want to spend the money for that. And it does seem to tune within my tolerances. 

Salt Springs
@salt-springs
3 months ago
101 posts

Looks like a Roosebeck to me Grace Mountain model

.......check it out on Amazon.


updated by @salt-springs: 04/09/17 11:29:50PM
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,764 posts

The 1.5 fret should be just slightly closer to the 2 fret than to the 1 fret...because the space between note steps get closer together slowly as you go towards the bridge.  Looking at your photo, the luthier at the string shop was absolutely right- someone did a poor job installing that 1.5 fret -it's not in the right place at all.  Plus in the side view it looks like they may have made two attempts with a fret saw.  To reinstall that fret in the right place will also require some repair of the fretboard cut(s) where the current fret is removed. 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,460 posts

UserNo4 said "Another problem (perhaps) is that the luthier at the string shop said the 1.5 fret was installed too close to the 1 fret; it should have been closer to fret 2."

It may be called a half fret, but it isn't exactly half way between the 1st and second fret.  The location can be calculated if you know the exact VSL (distance between the inside of the nut and the inside of the bridge).  There are any number of fret-spacing calculators that will give you the precise location if you know the VSL.  

Using your electronic tuner you should be able to tell if the existing 1+ fret is in the right position. For a given open string tuning, you know what note that the 1+ fret should be -- check it with your tuner; it should be right on or perhaps a couple cents either way.

 

 

 

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Someone suggested I find the builder of the dulcimer if I'd like to add a fret to. The label inside says "Sylvan Music, Harbor Springs, Mich." It's dated 2-9-11 (so no antique here) and has a serial number. It also has the signature "Michael Sanderson." I found two online references to him leading a workshop at a folk festival in his region of Michigan, but that's it. 

Is anyone familiar with his work or how to contact him? On occasion, I get to that part of the country, so I might be able to return the instrument to its maker and see if he would put in that fret for me. 

Skip
@skip
3 months ago
219 posts

I've added frets to my dulcimers and some other folks dulcimers. So far the only difference I've noticed is in the appearance of the fret board, not in how they sound or look overall. All of them sound the same as they did before the added frets were installed. I don't play using a noter though and usully use hammer-on's instead of slides. So fo me adding frets is very much a personal preference. Besides you can always have some of each.😆

Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
3 months ago
451 posts

Excellent point, Kevin.  Also, McCoy Tyner (jazz pianist) wrote a piece "Mode for Dulcimer."  In all the pictures I've been able to find of him playing a dulcimer it's one with no extra frets.  

Kevin Keating
@kevin-keating
3 months ago
13 posts

Mountain dulcimer for me is my newest instrument.  Until then I played chromatic fretted instruments, guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc.  So my first thought when I got a dulcimer was that I would not find much versatility with it and would eventually want extra frets added.  But I've since come to the belief that it's diatonic for a reason.  It's a, dare I say, "simple" folk instrument created to be played by anybody.  Hence adding frets takes away from the simple folky charm of the instrument to the point where it won't be a dulcimer anymore.  Mine has no added frets and I don't miss the "missing" frets.  I work with it in the way it was intended as far as the fingerboard is concerned, capo, change tuning, etc.  Just sayin'.

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

For the record, here's a top-side view of the dulcimer. I have no idea who built it, so if for some reason someone recognizes it, I'd appreciate a comment.

The yellow spots you see on the top side of the fretboard are tiny pieces of post-it notes I had in place at one point. 

Dulcimer 1.jpg
Dulcimer 1.jpg  •  609KB


updated by @userno4: 04/09/17 06:58:02PM
UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

I prefer having a 1.5 and 6.5 fret but that's just me. But I will say that having someone other than the original builder might cause problems. Here's a close-up of the fretboard with fret 1 (left) and 1.5 (right). The other frets on the board resemble the fret on the left.

Another problem (perhaps) is that the luthier at the string shop said the 1.5 fret was installed too close to the 1 fret; it should have been closer to fret 2.

 

Frest 1 and 1.5.jpg
Frest 1 and 1.5.jpg  •  466KB


updated by @userno4: 04/09/17 06:52:11PM
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
3 months ago
451 posts

Well, I hadn't intended to get involved in this new conversation, but....  here goes.

After playing for 4 months now only on dulcimers with no extra frets (not even a 6 1/2) I am more and more convinced they are not necessary.  In fact I even bought a used Jeremy Seeger just because it had no extra frets.  Just listen to Dan Evans and Robert Force and hear the creativity that comes from no extra frets.  Robert Force and Michael Rugg, do not re-tune but used DAd tuning. (Michael Rugg in an email to me in 2015 said he still prefers an instrument without a 6 1/2 fret.)  Dan Evans and Roger Nicholson do/did re-tune though playing mostly in DAA.  I do too, though I don't think I can put myself in their league.  I am enjoying the instrument as much or more than ever without extra frets.  As an aside, I am playing mainly on 3 strings now, as I only have one 4 independent string with no extra frets.  I think I can see 4 strings no extra frets would give more possibilities than 3 strings and extra frets.

 

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,460 posts

George, Bear Meadow does indeed have a "removeable fret system" called Flexi -fret.  It does require installing a permanent small brass channel at each fret position, into which a fret is slide when required.  You router a 3/32" groove across the fretboard at the desired location, and install his special brass channel in that groove   So if you want/don't want say the 1+ fret, there will be a flush-mounted brass channel at that position, which does not interfere with fretting until a fret is slid into that location.  Chck Dwayne's website for pricing.

Estes George
@george-desjardins
3 months ago
105 posts

I had indeed at one point considered adding the extra frets to my "historic" dulcimers, a couple anyway. But in the end left them as is, The ones I added to after the fact were done by the original builders of the instrument as well, I still felt it may detract to have someone else add them. I also got luck and found a John Stockard original that he had added all the extra frets, ebony fret board etc.

 I also don't change out wood friction pegs either, and actually have come to appreciate them, (once I get the darned things tuned anyway)

 As of now, unless it is of historic value, I don't buy a dulcimer unless it does have the extra frets.

 Has anyone considered the "fret" that can be placed in those positions but removed as they are not permanent, thought I had heaard of something like that at one time, don't know what they are called, or perhaps it was just a "dulcimer dream".

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
891 posts

I am someone who uses a 1+ fret everyday and wouldn't want to go without it. However, I agree fully with those who suggest that historic dulcimers should be left as is.  If you want to add a 1+ fret to a McSpadden that's a few years old, as George did, by all means, go ahead.  But if you have an older dulcimer without any extra frets, you might want to leave it as is and restore it rather than change it.  I don't think Ken's mustache on the Mona Lisa is an accurate image, but perhaps adding some enhanced coloring to the painting would be.  Either one would detract from the original rather than enhance it.

 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Dan Goad
@dan-goad
3 months ago
164 posts

You took the words right off my fingertips, Ken.  I was trying to compose a post saying the same thing basicley,  I'm in awe of your

'word smithy-ness'

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,460 posts

UserNo4:  Post your photos in a discussion in the General Group, probably.

You touched on, not off, a deeply philosophical debate (not a religious debate)  There are indeed people who buy and collect truly old (pre-1960s), truly rare and collectible dulcimers because they are what they are: a piece of musical history. Those people look at their collection (and invite others to do so) as well as play them periodically -- in the manner intended by the original builder.  They want to keep the old dulcimers original, not "tart them up" with all sorts of modern innovations like geared tuners, extra frets, etc.

Then there are others who would buy the Mona Lisa and paint a mustache on her just because they think it looks, cool and hip and modern.

My feeling is that if you like the looks of an old collectible dulcimer, but want it to have all the modern bells and whistles, you (and the dulcimer community as a whole) would be better served by finding one of the many fine dulcimer builders here or elsewhere, and have a replica of the old instrument made with all those "mod-cons" like built in acoustic pickups, geared tuners, extra frets, etc.   The replica will probably cost the same or less as a collector's item, and being new construction will take the abuse of modern playing styles much better.

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Uh-oh. I feel like I've touched off a religious debate. "Is it sacrilegious to add a fret to an old dulcimer?"

I can't see why you would buy a dulcimer just to admire it (and not play it the way you wish), but opinions differ.

 

 

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
3 months ago
140 posts

The comments here regarding a historical dulcimer make sense, however, what if you owned one of these and you truly wanted to use the dulcimer to its fullest and there's nary a song now that doesn't have the 6 1/2 fret? Personally, I wouldn't be able to play any of my favorites without that fret and I've bought two dulcimers without it. I added it to both and now enjoy them fully but truly do wonder, would anyone really be buying one to just hang on the wall...or, can you fully enjoy a dulcimer without the 6 1/2? 

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Where's the best forum for that?

I have posted a top view in my user profile and am looking for a way to link to that.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,460 posts

Post a couple photos in a new discussion and maybe we can help identify the maker(s)

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

There's no indication on or in the instrument to tell me who made it. My mother gave it to me as a birthday gift two years ago, and I don't remember her telling me where she bought it. She died six months ago, and I have yet to find any records of it in her stuff. So the maker of the dulcimer is a mystery.

Estes George
@george-desjardins
3 months ago
105 posts

I agree with looking for the maker name and contacting them. I sent one back to McSpadden to add 1 1/2, 61/2, etc. they dressed the frets, replaced the strings for $100.00

 The other was easier, but I took my Bonnie Carol over to them, (they live close by), but because of no shipping, they did the same for less.

 And for me, it's not about how often you play using the 1 1/2 fret etc., but it's about when you want to!!

 "Dulcimer is the Voice of Angels"

IMG_2131.jpg
IMG_2131.jpg  •  634KB

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

Ken, thanks for the reply. Yes, "dressing" is the word I was looking for. And yes, I think the fee would include dressing all the frets. The guy said it would probably be closer to $100 but he wanted to leave some room.

The string shop works mostly on guitars, though it builds mandolins and has repaired sitars and some other stuff. 

At this point, I will wait until I find someone who does a lot of work on dulcimers. I would like to get that 1.5 fret. 

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,460 posts

Hi userno4;  the price for adding a fret can vary widely as you've discovered.  The number of strings your dulcimer has doesn't matter, but who made them could.  

Do you really play that much using the 1+ fret???

Th "tinny" sound you were hearing was probably caused by that raised 1+ fret.  If he re-set the 1+ fret that probably fixed the problem.  A fret that floats can sometimes be re-set with a drop of superglue to hold it.  If it doesn't stay down, he's right that it would require removing and completely replacing the 1+ fret and at least dressing it down to the height of the other frets.

Your local "stringed instrument shop" likely didn't want to 'mess around' with a dulcimer; they aren't very common, the sh.op makes a lot more money working on guitars.  The $200 he's quoting you is for a complete fret job including dressing all the frets to the correct height, and is actually pretty reasonable, as that is not a simple job.

Measuring to the nearest 001 inch is overkill, as you can't cut wood that accurately!  $100 for a single fret installation is outrageous.  My advice is find a real dulcimer maker/luthierIf you know the maker(s) -- look inside the rear soundholes to find the maker's label -- that is the person/company most likely to "treat you right" when it comes to repairs.

UserNo4
@userno4
3 months ago
19 posts

I have a four-string dulcimer to which I'd like to add (or more accurately, have added) a 1.5 fret. 

I recall that some vendors at the only dulcimer festival I've been to (in Evart, Michigan) were adding frets for $15. So I thought, oh, great, this will be cheap.

Then I paid a visit to a local stringed instrument shop. First, I showed the guy my three-string dulcimer and asked him to fix a tinny noise I hear on the low notes. He pointed out that the 1.5 fret appeared to be an after-market job. The cut into the wood was not as smooth as it should be, and the fret had started to float up. He put the fret back down but said if it caused a problem again, he would have to ... oh great. Now I forget the verb. Bake it? Sand it? Whatever, I think it involves sanding down each of the frets. Total cost is about $200.

I show him the four-string dulcimer and asked about putting a 1.5 on there. He said it would be about $100 but could go to $200.

So .. .what's the price range for installing a fret? On the one hand, it looks like the after-market fret job (performed when and where I don't know) was substandard, and the guy talked about how hard it is to do things correctly. He said he should measure the place to 0.001 of an inch. Maybe it's gilding the lily?

I know that musical instruments can be expensive, but my (late) mother paid $300 for this four-string unit last year, and I didn't feel like paying $150 or so for a single fret, so I left.

 

 

john warren
@john-warren
8 months ago
22 posts

for a fret saw, i find the little xacto saw with a red handle,,sometimes called a razor saw, cut a perfect curf, and they are fairly cheap.

use a small piece of wire and a tuner to locate the exact spot for your fret to have it in proper tune, saw your slot and tap in a piece of fret wire, quite easy.

 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
891 posts

Thanks for posting that Molineaux piece, Rob.  That's superb playing.    I can't count high enough to play anything in 9/8 time!  But those partial frets are surely interesting.

One possibility if you want the option of extra frets but don't always want them on your dulcimer is the flexi-frets that Dwain Wilder at Bear Meadow has developed.  I have a friend here in Cali who has all the extra frets installed as flexi-frets, so he can go from a purely diatonic to a fully chromatic dulcimer or anything in between.  I was skeptical that they would work at all, but they actually do.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
last year
451 posts

A Miles and Davis?  No, I wouldn't add any frets to them.  I would not change anything on them.  But that's just me.  Here's an interesting take on some 1/2 frets:

John's a great player.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
891 posts

George, I write from the perspective of someone who uses a 1+ fret regularly in my own playing. I have dulcimers without it, but I use them mainly for teaching, since beginners get confused when my fretboard does not look like theirs.

If you have vintage dulcimers of any monetary or historic value, I would not add the extra fret.  But feel free to add it to modern dulcimers or those whose values you don't er . . . uh . . . value.

You ask what notes you get. Obviously the answer to that question depends on the tuning. In a DAd tuning, you get the lowered (or minor) third (meaning an F natural) on the bass and melody string and you get the 7th (meaning a C natural) on the middle string.  Just being able to play a 7th chord down low without jumping up to the 6th fret is really nice. And the lowered third of the D chord is also the 7th of the G chord, so you get D7 and G7 very easily.  With that C natural, you can also play a C chord, which is found not only in modern music but also traditional tunes such as Old Joe Clark, Red-Haired Boy, Salt Creek, and more. I often use the 1+ fret on the melody and bass string just to add a little bluesy sumpin in the middle of a short solo, but it also allows you to play the minor pentatonic scale, so you really can play the blues in D without a capo and without retuning. And of course, you get the entire D minor scale as well.

We should really create a discussion in the Extra Frets group about why people like the 1+ fret.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
last year
157 posts

That's the $100,000 question, George.  Fine dulcimers made by known builders have recognized value in the marketplace, but sometimes they're not set-up the way we would prefer them to be set-up.  So the question becomes "Do I change things and ruin the recognized value (but be able to play them as I wish), or do I leave them as-is, and not want to play them?"  You indeed may want to (or need to) sell them at some future date.

Years ago I found a Warren A. May poplar dulcimer on eBay, selling for an attractive price.  I won the auction, and when the dulcimer arrived, I found that it sounded odd to me at the low end.  The first fret sounded way off, so I considered changing its position. Then I ran into the same quandary that you find yourself in now.  Incidentally, I inadvertently ruined that dulcimer's fine lacquer finish by taking the very cold dulcimer out of the box in a warm room.  The finish crazed instantly!  The good news is that I resold it on eBay (for a higher price!) to a person who didn't mind the crazed finish.

Estes George
@george-desjardins
last year
105 posts

Just a follow up to my 1 1/2 fret question, thanks to all of you for the input.

 I am meeting Miss Bonnie Carol next Wednesday for her to put the fret on , (of course), my Bonnie Carol, may have to see about any other upgrades when I'm there.

 But still need to find someone to add it to a couple others, but therein lies the next question, On dulcimers such as my Bill Davis and Bob Mize, should I not add the extra fret for the historic, and possible future value, even if I have no intention of selling?

robert schuler
@robert-schuler
last year
242 posts

Also. To match your fretwire you can exchange a little used fret like the 13.5 for the 1.5. With care you can make a fret slot with a box knife. Just an idea... Robert...

robert schuler
@robert-schuler
last year
242 posts

Simple way is to CA glue a piece of wire in the location. Find the location by ear or measure it using Stewart Macdonald fret calculator. Doing the job yourself even buying tools will be cheaper than a luthier... Robert.

 

joe sanguinette
@joe-sanguinette
last year
90 posts

'you can contact bonnie who would at least be able to reccomend someone if she don't care to do it

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,460 posts

I'm not sure Bonnie's shop is set up for that sort of thing.  Give them a call, though. It can't hurt.  There are other dulcimer builders in the area.

Skip
@skip
last year
219 posts

I agree with John with a follow-on point, it may cost as much to get needed tools and fret wire, if you don't have them, as it would cost to have it done. The notes gained depends on the tuning, they are increased a 1/2 step from the 1 fret (eg.: E>F; B>C).

Strumelia
@strumelia
last year
1,764 posts

Estes George:

So, pay someone to do it!! :)

Yes, definitely!   winky     lol




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Estes George
@george-desjardins
last year
105 posts

So, pay someone to do it!! :)

John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
last year
157 posts

George,

The issues involved are: Can you get the correct size of fret wire?

Do you know the exact position to place the new fret?

Can you accurately cut a new slot there, of the proper width?

Can you hammer it in, trim the ends, and level it to the other frets?

If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, go for it!

Estes George
@george-desjardins
last year
105 posts

Owning a number of dulcimers, I have only one, a June Apple "Cello-Mer", that came with the 1 1/2 fret, and I really like it! So I was curious on opinion of how hard or can a 1 1/2 fret be added to one or two of my others. I do some minor repair and restoration to older vintage dulcimers I find around, but mostly fixing small cracks, broken head stocks etc. but am far from being a luthier. Would adding one be something I can do, how difficult would it be? Or, does anyone know anybody in the Denver, Boulder Colorado area able to do this?

 I am only an hours drive  away from Bonnie Carol and her shop and was considering asking if they could do it?

 Also what is the "note" that the 1 1/2 fret creates, I just love that extra, somewhat haunting, minor tone it gives.

 Thanks all!

 


updated by @george-desjardins: 06/08/16 09:24:05PM