Strings to use on newly acquired dulcimer

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 months ago
6 posts

Hello all,

This is my first post--I'm very excited to be here!  The dulcimer bug has me firmly in its grasp...

I have a Backyard Music cardboard dulcimer I made several months ago, as well as a Cedar Creek Walnut Classic I built more recently.  I initially strung up the walnut one in DAD, and found the melody strings very, very hard to press down.  Tuned it down to DAA and that's much better.  I got several different sets of strings in different gauges with the intent of optimizing the cardboard guy to DAA and the walnut to DAD (has 6 1/2 fret, so better to take advantage of that for DAD). 

While I'm not afraid of restringing, I don't want to do it every 10 minutes, either.  The question I have is whether I can swap strings between the two or, more generally, if it's OK to reuse strings if they aren't too old, or if once you string them, you should not attempt to restring them.  (And while I'm at it, how old is old?)

Thanks!

 

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
4 months ago
121 posts

Strings are not expensive. As Robin states, try a set and change back and forth and see which ones suit you and your playing style. You should be able to find some which will tolerate moving between DAA and DAd and be quite satisfactory in sound in either mode.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 months ago
947 posts

@foundryrat Perhaps just give .012's a go and tune and re-tune to see whether it suits? 




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
FoundryRat
FoundryRat
@foundryrat
4 months ago
7 posts

I understand why, ideally, string gage will vary with the tuned pitch, but what if you want the capability to shift between DAA and DAd? String for DAd and put up with potentially slack melody string for DAA or "cheat" a little bit on the melody string gage and make it .001 heavier?

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
5 months ago
83 posts

As with any instrument, everyone will have their personal preferences. Assuming you are playing a standard dulcimer and not a baritone or bass dulcimer, the bass strings tend to fall into a range of .020-.024.  Middle strings are usually in the .012-.016 range.  Melody strings range from .010-.014.

A lot will depend upon your preferred tuning and the amount of tension you favor.  My preferred tuning is D-A-A and I use a wound bass string of about .022 and unwound middle and melody strings of .012.  This usually gives me the degree of flexibility that I prefer.  Others prefer less flexibility and use heavier gauge strings on their dulcimers.

Someone playing in D-A-d with a preference for more tension may prefer a bass string of .024, a middle string of .014, and a melody string of .012.  Some prefer a heavier melody string.  

Try one of the suggestions given by myself and others.  If the strings are too floppy when tuned to your preferred tuning, then replace the strings with a heavier gauge.  If the strings feel too tight then replace the strings with a lighter gauge.  Eventually you will find string gauges that feel right to you.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
5 months ago
597 posts

Checking on the Folkcraft website, the Folkroots dulcimers that have a 29" vsl the string gauges are:  .012, .015, .024RW. Howard Rugg may see this and comment on what he initially put on the dulcimer.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 months ago
1,591 posts

Hi Mark -- the overall length and fretboard length don't matter when it comes to strings.  You need to know the distance between the nut and the bridge.  As KenWL says, then you plug that into the Strother's calculator  along with the desired open notes for your base tuning:  DAA, DAd, CGG, CGc or whatever.

Skip
Skip
@skip
5 months ago
236 posts

A starting place for you. The Strothers calculator is on the light side, you can usually go heavier a couple of gauges with no problems.

http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html

www.stringsbymail.com

https://www.juststrings.com

Or get individual strings from your local shop. Get 2 of each.

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
5 months ago
83 posts

Hello, Mark. Others with more dulcimer experience than I have will probably pipe in. But a good place to start might be a packaged set, or at least those gauges. The D'Addario set is .012, .012, .014, .022w. You may vary from this set as you settle into preferred pitches and tunings. But this seems like a reasonable set.

There is little difference among string makers, except perhaps with the one wound string.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
5 months ago
597 posts

You can use the Strothers' string calculator to get a good approximation of the strings to use. I think it tends toward the light side. http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html Just follow the directions.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Harpin Mark
Harpin Mark
@harpin-mark
5 months ago
1 posts

Hello Folks - 

This is my first post - hope it goes through OK.

I just took ownership of a 1979 FolkRoots D50S dulcimer. Solid spruce top and laminated walnut back and sides. It is a long scale (36 1/2 " overall length with a 29 1/8 " fret board and 2 1/2 " depth)  It had no strings on it, and I am trying to determine what gauge and brand would be best for it. I know that they should be loop ended. 

Any suggestions would be appreciated.  -  Thanks  -  Harpin` Mark