Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

Matt Berg:

Why not try indented markers that are slightly below the surface.  They would be tactile and not interfere with a noter!

I don't know why that is not done. It would work equally well.

Bob Reinsel
Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
3 weeks ago
81 posts

As a player, and builder, I think the fretboard should be a smooth as possible.  I don't install fret markers on dulcimers, but if I did, they would be inlaid, and planed, or scraped, level with the surface.

I just measured the crown of the fret wire that I use for dulcimers (very light) which is about 1.25 mm.  Anything sticking up on the fretboard would be felt under the fingers, which might be intentional, but could also unintentionally cause a buzz, or work as a fret itself.

If a tactile guide was needed I would probably add it to the edge of the fretboard.




--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

@matt-berg  ...genius!  




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Why not try indented markers that are slightly below the surface.  They would be tactile and not interfere with a noter!

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

Dusty Turtle:

I've heard of tactile position markers on the back or top of the neck on guitars, so that you can feel with your hand where you are on the fretboard, but I've never seen anything like that on the fingerboard itself.

But we don't wrap our hands around the finger board /fret board on a dulcimer. There is no back. The markers I have come across are unobtrusive, you can feel them, they don't interfere with a noter, either they are just outside the proper position for a noter, or they are too "slippery" to be a problem. We are not talking a square wall and less than a 2mm rise, enough to feel, not enough to interfere. In fact they are usually not higher than the string itself.


updated by @nathina: 01/03/21 08:13:19PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,397 posts

I've heard of tactile position markers on the back or top of the neck on guitars, so that you can feel with your hand where you are on the fretboard, but I've never seen anything like that on the fingerboard itself.




--
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
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

They can be fancier, rubies, sapphires. depends who the dulcimer is being given too or was given too. There are some interesting instruments among European royalty. I haven't seen them added to really narrow fret boards that were specifically for noters. Rubys are not expensive, used for jeweled watches and clocks. Same with sapphires. Low grade diamonds are even cheap enough to use as fret markers.


updated by @nathina: 01/03/21 07:57:31PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

My noter tip would crash into anything closer than the middle string. You mean like those little stick-on circular plastic jewels kids put on their faces? I'd think they'd get in the way of any smooth sliding by either fingers or noters. I suppose a very gentle slow player might not have a problem with them.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

Strumelia:

I would think that raised fret markers could interfere badly especially with noter playing, particularly if they were located between the melody string(s) and the middle string. That'd be bad!

Besides, on any dulcimer other than a chromatic one, if you're not looking while playing anyway then raised fret markers are already there... they're called frets.  ;)

Actually those for the blind are placed just outside of proper noter placement for the melody. They are sloped on all sides and do not create an obstruction to fingers.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

I would think that raised fret markers could interfere badly especially with noter playing, particularly if they were located between the melody string(s) and the middle string. That'd be bad!

Besides, on any dulcimer other than a chromatic one, if you're not looking while playing anyway then raised fret markers are already there... they're called frets.  ;)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 01/03/21 06:08:21PM
Bob
Bob
@bob
3 weeks ago
90 posts

And then there's the Chromatic Dulcimer with fret markers on EVERY Diatonic fret dohh and an inlay at the second octave ...  (I named this one "Dotty")

Chromatic.jpg
Chromatic.jpg  •  230KB


updated by @bob: 01/03/21 05:08:44PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,397 posts

Yes, you can have fancy decorative inlay work on a fretboard.  And you can also have fret markers.  Those are clearly two different things. 

Obviously, decorative fretboards are pretty.  (Don't we all love that long-stem red rose on the Blue Lions?)  And if the decoration varies up and down the fretboard, then it might serve the purpose of fret marks, but only for the owner.  Anyone else grabbing that instrument for the first time would have no idea what's going on.  That's why there are standards.  The standard fret marking pattern of 3, 5, and 7, means that I can borrow anyone's instrument--or switch among the several that I own--and know at a glance where I am on the fretboard, even if there are one or two extra frets.  That obvious advantage cannot be overstated.  If one of my instruments were marked at 3, 5, and 7 and another at 2, 4, and 6, and another at 1+, 3, and 4, those fret markers would lose their purpose and would have to be ignored altogether.  They would confuse rather than clarify.

So that brings us back to the original post, which was about the proper placement of fret markers, not decorative inlay.  An individual player can request fret markers anywhere s/he wishes.  Fret markers do not change the sound of an instrument.  But anything other than the standard pattern would confuse anyone else.  I would strongly urge luthiers to either use no fret markers or use the standard pattern, unless, of course, they are responding to a specific request for a custom dulcimer.  And again, for a diatonic fretboard, there is no need for fret markers anyway since the pattern of whole and half steps tells you exactly where you are on the fretboard.

I personally would not be able to play with raised fret markers at all.  As you slide from one chord position to another, you need the fretboard to be as smooth as possible.  And even when not sliding, you want your touch on one fret to be identical to the touch on another fret.  There would be no way to play with any speed with an inconsistent touch on the fretboard.  There is a reason why everyone uses inlay both for fret markers and for decoration.




--
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
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

I'll add something else. What about raised fret markers. The purpose is to allow the player to know what fret they are on without looking. Thus eyes can be on the strum or picking, or music. These markers do not interfere with the strings. Simply provide sensory feedback.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

Interesting discussion!  nod

Yes we all agree that 'fret markers' or fret board inlays can be decorative or utilitarian, or a combination of the two.

But just for the sake of argument-  if we put aside inlays and decorations that are for decoration only.... then does the very term 'fret markers' imply that they are marking frets in some purposeful utilitarian way?  Is the purpose and definition of a 'fret marker' by its very nature to mark/differentiate a fret so as to enable the player to more easily tell one fret from its neighbor frets?

--------

I mean, you could have the standard of a simple dot inlay on certain frets (say 3, 5, 7, 10). Some might say that was all practical purpose without any decorative intent. If they were inlaid abalone of something you could say they were practical makers that were decorative as well.

But if you had those exact same dots on every fret they would not differentiate any fret from the others. They would have no practical purpose to differentiate certain frets, only a decorative purpose. You could have fancy leaves or vines on every fret and if they were all the same visually for every fret then they would be only decorative.

OR, you could have inlays on every fret but maybe on the 3, 5, 7 etc they could be larger or fancier. Then they'd fall back into having the practical purpose and maybe decorative as well.

I would put forth the thought that a 'marker' implies marking something so that it is recognized and stands out. And 'decorative' implies simply visual embellishment. But you could have 'markers' that are also decorative. But if they are all the same on every fret then they are simply decorations and not 'markers'.

What do you think?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
282 posts

Strumelia:


Which brings up the existential question... if one were to put a fret marker on every fret- what purpose would it serve?



Could be both decorative and/or useful, depending on the design. winker


Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

One word of caution to those who use stickers on their fretboards-
There are good products for removing sticker residue once you've decided to remove longtime stickers. However, few people take into account that wood darkens over time when exposed to light- even normal room light while playing. If you leave stickers on for a year or more, when you remove them you may find that the wood is lighter colored under the stickers, thus you are left with unsightly 'ghost' marks where the stickers used to be. These marks don't even disappear when you rub oil on. I've seen these poor dulcimers on Ebay with their ugly light colored rectangles up and down their fretboards. So, consider removing fret board stickers after your initial learning period, before they create permanent cosmetic damage.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Not sure everyone agrees with minimalistic fret markers.  https://www.pinterest.com/deachasuravanic/fret-markers/  Besides, what is wrong with decorations?  (In case it wasn't clear, I am laughing a little at this discussion.)  Fret markers are very much the choice of the luthier/musician.  I have made instruments with no fret markers and a 4 equidistant chromatic dulcimer with both dulcimer and guitar fret markers so many more people could play!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,798 posts

Lisa has it right.  Too many fret markers, like Matt apparently does, are no longer meaningful, merely decorative.  The  original intent of the fret marks is/was to indicate to the player significant points in the fret pattern, not just decorate the bare spaces between the frets. 

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Well, when I first started, I put stickers with 1,2,3,4... on each fret, that helped.  Actually, I think fret markers help develop a pattern in a person's mind.  After playing for a couple years, I realized I didn't look down at the fret board anyway, so maybe everyone should have removable fret markers so when they become extraneous, you can remove them?

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,923 posts

Which brings up the existential question... if one were to put a fret marker on every fret- what purpose would it serve?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Wow, I hope this group never dissects one of my instruments.  Not only do I put fret markers at 3-5-7-10-12, I also put a marker under the frets at 1+,6+,8+ and 13+.  Guess it all depends on what the builder prefers!!  Never noticed that the placement of fret markers influenced the sound of the instrument.  (-:

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 weeks ago
241 posts

Bob, what you need to do is make the dot really big, and engrave "Don't blame the builder" on it!

Bob
Bob
@bob
3 weeks ago
90 posts

I had a customer ask for her build to have a position dot at the first fret.

Well, hope people in the future don't think that was my idea shrugger

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,397 posts

Ken Longfield: And 10 and 12, also. There is no octave for the 1 1/2 which would be 8 1/2.
 

True, Ken.  Those are the octaves of the 3 and the 5.

I, too, find it interesting that there is no 8+.  I understand not adding the half frets on smaller scale instruments, since the frets get so small, but on a full-size dulcimer most people want the second octave to mirror the first.  There is a 13+ fret, after all.




--
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
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 weeks ago
734 posts

And 10 and 12, also. There is no octave for the 1 1/2 which would be 8 1/2.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,397 posts

Yes, that dulcimer has frets at 1+ and 6+.  But notice that the fret markers are still at 3, 5, and 7.




--
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
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 weeks ago
187 posts

Here is a Mcspadden with I guess 1.5 6.5

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,923 posts

We're talking about fret markers, not fret placement.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
4 weeks ago
187 posts

Without using the apps, it should be possible to know where the frets go. Tune the first string to D, and work your way up until E is found, then mark that and continue.At least I would think you could use this method.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,923 posts

Sounds like he's not very experienced in dulcimers and diatonic instruments. He may be a good luthier at other intruments, but I don't think he understands how the concept of modal scales applies to mtn dulcimer fret patterns in particular. He's defensive because naturally no one who presents themselves as professional likes to have their lack of knowledge pointed out to them. duck   Still, you have done him a favor because future clients will have a hard time with his strangely placed fret markers as well, if he doesn't understand a diatonic scale with its half and whole steps and how they are used in tuning and playing. 




--
Site Owner

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

Update...

After thinking about his reason it made me realize that, if true, would have put the placement off by one in the OTHER direction starting with a marker at the 2nd fret.  Anyway, a couple of days later he messaged me (a little defensive this time) saying that he spent some more time researching markers and could find no consensus himself so everyone could be right.  He then said that he actually felt that he couldn't be wrong because he had followed the example set on the Folkcraft dulcimer site.  I knew right then what had happened because every time I open up the Folkcraft dulcimer all the dulcimer's they offer for sale include the 1 and 1/2 fret...LOL.  I messaged him back and pointed this out telling him to find the 7th fret (pointing out it is the last of the three thin ones in the center of the fret board or the double marked one) and count backwards and he will see that the dot on all Folkcraft instruments begin on the 3rd fret.  Soon he messaged back and thought he might just add the 1 and 1 1/2 fret on all his new units too.  

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,923 posts

sonnyandbecky:

After hearing all your replies I felt confident in contacting him and letting him know he definitely did not have the Fret markers in the correct/standard places.  He took the critique kindly and informed me that his confusion came because he counted the nut as fret one when he began putting in the markers.  Mystery solved.

 

Well that solves the mystery. You helped improve things for the next person who buys a dulcimer from him!  Still gotta wonder though why he didn't do two minutes of simple google research or just looking at online dulcimer images before inlaying the markers. shrugger




--
Site Owner

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

After hearing all your replies I felt confident in contacting him and letting him know he definitely did not have the Fret markers in the correct/standard places.  He took the critique kindly and informed me that his confusion came because he counted the nut as fret one when he began putting in the markers.  Mystery solved.  Thank you all.

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 weeks ago
282 posts

I came to the dulcimer without any music background at all. Fret markers were just a decoration and my 1st dulcimer was a kit  without markers. I didn't realize they had a purpose until I went to full chromatic fretboards. I looked at the 3-5-7-10 but they didn't make any sense to me [still don' t actually] so went to marking the diatonic frets since that layout was familiar. I suppose, considering they are really just location identifiers, that it's what a person gets used to using [without even thinking about  them].

I just looked at my Folkcraft, it's marked at the 3-7-10. Didn't realize that before.

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
4 weeks ago
75 posts

I suppose if someone played Capo 1 a lot, 4-6-8 might make some sense, maybe.

BTW, after hearing people complain about confusion over plus frets, I place a fret marker underneath the fret for plus frets as a visual marker.  I drill a hole and use a wooden dowel to plug it, then saw the fret slot.  Never had any problems doing so.

sonnyandbecky
@sonnyandbecky
4 weeks ago
5 posts

Thank you all.  You were very helpful.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,923 posts

I suspect fret markers were invented for chromatically fretted instruments. Guitar, banjo, mandolin players really need them. Sometimes they have tiny inlaid dots on the side of the necks as fret markers rather than on the fretboard itself.

I agree with the others that on dulcimers, the distinctive fret spacing patterns serve as a good visual map.  If someone wants fret markers anyway, the 3/5/7/10 placements would not cause objections form players. Other placements such as 4/6/8 don't make much sense to me and would cause confusions for many players.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,798 posts

Back in the day I put fret markers on my builds, but not any more. As my brother Ken says, when you make and play only true diatonic fretboards, the spacing pattern tells you everything you really need to know.


updated by @ken-hulme: 12/25/20 11:40:56PM
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
734 posts

I agree Dusty. I don't put position dots on the dulcimers I build. I think I have two with position dots, a Folkcraft and Blue Lion.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 weeks ago
1,397 posts

One could possibly come up with a reason to put a position dot anywhere. But since the point is to quickly recognize where you are on the fretboard, standardization is a benefit.  Since 3, 5, 7, & 10 are the most common places for such markers, anything else would risk confusion.

The fact is that with a diatonic fretboard there is no need for fret markers since the fret pattern clearly tells you where you are.  I have some dulcimers with no fret markers and have no trouble.  I have some marked at 3, 5, 7, & 10, and have no trouble.  But I woundn't even considering buying a dulcimer with frets marked elsewhere as that would just be confusing.




--
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: 12/25/20 07:17:01PM
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
734 posts

The problem with the diatonic fretting on the mountain dulcimer is that the root note, third, and fifth vary from tuning to tuning. Position markers at frets 3, 5, and 7 because the scale in 1 - 5 - 5 tuning starts at the 3rd fret. If you use 1 - 3 - 5 tuning, then the 2, 4, 6 placement makes sense. For those of us who use both tunings on the same dulcimer, position markers don't make sense, at least to me. So before you reply your friend, find out what tuning he intends those who play his dulcimers to use.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
4 weeks ago
187 posts

I see a lot dulcimers with 4, 6 and 10, 13 marked, and some 8s. I restore and mark at 3, 5, 7 and 10.

sonnyandbecky
@sonnyandbecky
4 weeks ago
5 posts

I think I was sounding like I was just complaining but actual I would like to know if there would be any technical or rational reason to place them there.  (fretmarkers @ 4,6 &8)  He is a new builder and wanted my opinion and before I tell him that, for me anyway,the markers are not in the correct positions and going forward her show move them.  But maybe there is some research he did to place them there that I have not come across.  I did see where the 4th fret in integral in dorian tuning.  Educate me here on this before I possible lead him astray.  TY

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,923 posts

I can't blame you. That would be somewhat distracting if you play more than one dulcimer. I suppose you could get used to it, but yeah I think you did the right thing.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
sonnyandbecky
@sonnyandbecky
one month ago
5 posts

Why would a builder place the markers at 4-6-8?  I thought it had a 1 1/2 fret when I bought it because of the confusion that caused me at first glance.  I had to return it as it was too distracting to play. 

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
4 years ago
75 posts

Maybe the play Flop-eared Mule and other songs that use the 9 & 11 fret?

marg
@marg
4 years ago
535 posts

So why would they be at 9 & 11, that doesn't make sense OR would that be for something in a higher scale?

fret markings.jpg
fret markings.jpg  •  43KB


updated by @marg: 07/24/17 01:27:10PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,798 posts

What Matt said -- there is no standard arrangement of dots; I put them at

3 to mark the start of the Ionian scale,

4 to mark the start of the Dorian scale and to  indicate where to fret the bass string to tune the middle drone,

7 to mark the end of the Mixolydian scale and

10 to mark the end of the Ionian scale

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
4 years ago
75 posts

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.

marg
@marg
4 years ago
535 posts

Most fret markers I see are place at the 3, 5, 7, 10 etc. 

    Why would one be place on the 9 & 11?

Is their a reason for putting them at certain frets, is 9 & 11 where someone wanted them or someone just didn't know where they should go? Or is it just me not knowing where they go?

 


updated by @marg: 01/03/21 05:08:22PM