Bridge and Nut fix question

traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts

Ok I went ahead and put the string on. You are right the tuner shows no difference when fretting the strings. I can feel a noticeable difference when putting my finger on the strings. The new one is obviously higher. I use a noter so I’m not sure if it will be a problem for my sister if when she plays it or not. I’ll have to let her try it. Sorry to be a pain. Thanks for the help. 

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

Right, was not sure how high an action then we were talking about. Thanks Again

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

Maybe you mean bending a note, not a slide. But in any case, on a dulcimer you're not going to have action so high off the frets that you can get much of a sharp note by just pressing down harder with a noter on a slide. Most people will sharpen a fretted note by pulling it towards them or pushing it away from them with the fretting hand while fretting it, using the fretting finger or a noter stick. That's a side-to-side stretching of the string to sharpen the note, not a pushing down to the fretboard. I think maybe you are thinking about instruments where the strings are bridged or fretted way high up so that you can push the string down on either side of the bridge to sharpen a note without contacting any fret or fretboard?




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Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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updated by @strumelia: 11/17/20 03:22:55PM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

Thanks, but I was thinking use of a noter for a slide on the melody, and a possible technique of pressing the higher string down to create increase tension thus creating a sharp. (technique used typically on Chinese stringed instruments). I gave up guitar due to first bleeding fingers, then calloused one, then no feeling in the tips.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

Nathina:

The only reason I can think of for higher actions is performing a slide or tremelo. Are there others?

It can create a slightly louder volume if an instrument is too quiet.

Pull-offs are easier.

Helps reduce fret buzzes that can happen with very low action. Additionally, you can put on heavy strings without risking buzzes. Eliminates 'mystery' buzzes that appear out of nowhere during the dry winter indoors.

You can strum more aggressively without strings slapping against the finger board, if you like playing vigorously.

Right hand fingerpicking can be easier depending on the fretboard, bridge, and 'strum hollow' design.

Less bumping into the fretboard with either flat picks or finger picks and the resultant thunking noise or pick clack noise.

Reduces pick scratches on the fretboard when you play further away from the bridge to get a mellower tone. True for either flat picks or fingerpicks.

Noter players tend to like higher action... maybe for some combination of the above or maybe they just like the feel. They can get away with higher action if not using bare fingers or making chords.

-----------

All this said, overly high action is both uncomfortable and causes its own problems.

Not sure why you say a slide would be easier with high action...?




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Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 11/17/20 01:38:31PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,769 posts

No real excuse for a high action on a mountain dulcimer.  Slides and tremelos are easier to do with a properly set action.

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

The only reason I can think of for higher actions is performing a slide or tremelo. Are there others?

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

traildad:
Strumelia:

You tune it so it's not sharp. You tune all your open strings to be in tune.

How does that work? Tune them while fretted? Wouldn’t that cause it to be flat when unfreted? If they’re stretched different amounts I can’t see how they would make the same note. Maybe it wouldn’t be enough to notice depending on the difference in height off the fretboard. Isn’t it customary to set the action for all strings to the same height?

As I wrote, tune the open strings to be in tune.

A couple of basic concepts here are:
1) the mere act of tuning = stretching the string to various tensions, causing the note to go higher or lower. If an open string is out of tune, you turn the pegs and tune it to be in tune. Just because a nut notch is higher or lower than the one next to it won't doom an open string to be out of tune by nature.

2) as to fretted strings: if a bridge/nut is very tall and makes the string action too high off the frets, then fretting the string can push down the string enough of a distance to cause a slight bend in the string and pull it a fretted note a little sharp. A 32nd of an inch slot height difference is not likely to do this enough to be able to hear it, especially while playing tunes.

Notches have two jobs: to keep the strings securely spaced from each other from side to side, and to hold the strings at a good height above the frets (action) so that playing will be comfortable for the way you play and so there won't be buzzing if the action is too low. Most folks like as low an action as possible without buzzing (especially beginners with hurting fingers), but there are good reasons why other folks might want slightly higher action. Too high an action causes problems too. Most people agree that dulcimer string notches should be of uniform action height, since there's no reason to purposely make them different heights.

The tiny amount of difference between notches in your photo of notches is probably not going to cause discernable out of tune-ness when playing. If a notch is a tiny bit too low though, it might cause fret buzzing, depending on the action height.

3) Assuming a reasonable action height for all strings, if the frets are in the right places, your fretted notes will sound generally in tune if the open string is in tune. 

Overall, it's common that people wind up buying used dulcimers that have had prior owners file nut and bridge slots to various heights and widths over time. Maybe they put on heavier strings at some point and widened the slots. Two of those U slots in your picture look way too wide for that string shown. Over time or with changing playing preferences, people can change their mind about action height they prefer, or string spacings. It's not uncommon for nuts and bridges to accumulate notch adjustments over time until the best option is to put in a new nut and/or bridge and start fresh, since nuts are cheap and it's usually a simple procedure. A good guitar luthier should have no trouble doing it right, and the job shouldn't cost a fortune.




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Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 11/17/20 03:17:36PM
traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts

Strumelia:

traildad: Wouldn’t one be sharp as it is stretched more?

You tune it so it's not sharp. You tune all your open strings to be in tune.

How does that work? Tune them while fretted? Wouldn’t that cause it to be flat when unfreted? If they’re stretched different amounts I can’t see how they would make the same note. Maybe it wouldn’t be enough to notice depending on the difference in height off the fretboard. Isn’t it customary to set the action for all strings to the same height?

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 weeks ago
53 posts

I am no professional luthier so take this with a grain of salt, but I find it to be very important that the two melody strings played together have the same action as one another. In my experience the quality of intonation and the comfort of playing can be messed up quite a bit by the action at the nut or the bridge being too high.  It is hard to get a sense of just how big the difference is but I know that if it is great enough this can cause the strings to have slightly different VSLs and therefore if the open strings are tuned exactly the same, *fretted* notes will not have the same intonation. In my experience having a string too high up will cause fretted notes to be a bit sharp, which can be compensated for with the bridge placement, but that becomes much trickier when the two strings are not equally high, as you would have to place the bridge in a way that compensates for the height of either one string or the other. I agree that the easiest solution would be to take a triangular file and simply bring the new slot to the same depth as the outer melody string, or to ask a luthier to do it if you are not comfortable doing it. 
Moreover as others have said, the difference may be too small to matter, again, it is hard to get a sense of scale from the photo.


updated by @natebuildstoys: 11/17/20 04:49:11AM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

traildad: Wouldn’t one be sharp as it is stretched more?

You tune it so it's not sharp. You tune all your open strings to be in tune.




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Site Owner

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

You are adjusting the stretch of each string independently as to obtain the note.If you want to stretch it more, the note goes up the scale, until the tensile strength of the string is reached and they break.

traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts
Wouldn’t one be sharp as it is stretched more?
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,769 posts

No difference in tone.

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

There shouldn't be any difference in tone as you are using a tuner to bring it into true. Tone would vary by quality of string.

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
273 posts

traildad: Won’t the two strings sound different as one is stretched more that the other? I assume it’s important to have the action the same, especially for two strings tuned the same. 

The difference is only a few thousandths of an inch. I suspect any difference in tone would be difficult to detect even with top notch equipment.

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

On the HD, all choruses are doubled, and each string is offset from the other, thus the "stretch" is different but the sound is the same. I see no reason why it wouldn't be the same for the md. In fact the chorus strings are also offset in the head.

traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts
Won’t the two strings sound different as one is stretched more that the other? I assume it’s important to have the action the same, especially for two strings tuned the same.

The dulcimer is a kit and was assembled by a boyfriend. It looks like the piece on the bridge was “adjusted” by putting two short pieces of zip tie under it. I planed for both pieces to be replaced with properly cut and adjusted parts. Grooves cut correctly and action set properly.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,769 posts

V notches are much more "acceptable" as string notches!    The string, regardless of gauge, will settle into the bottom of the V and not move back and forth.  The U shaped notches allow small diameter strings to shift back and forth which can cause issues including odd noises.  

For the gauge of strings shown, the V notch is not too deep or too shallow.  A notch does not need to be more that 2x the string diameter deep.    The fact that one string of the couplet will set not as deep as the other, might conceivably cause an issue, but the individual strings of a melody couplet aren't picked individually.

If you have a small triangular file you could deepen the new notch a hair with a couple strokes of the file.  I have a cheap set of half a dozen jewelers files that I got from Ace Hardware for under $10, and the triangle file has made a few hundred perfect notches.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

If it were me I'd get someone else to make a whole new nut. None of those 3 slots looks well made at all, though it's hard to tell anything for sure from the photo. Bad slots make for bad sounding notes, buzzes, and wolf tones.

KenL has it right though- have you determined that you want a pair of melody strings, or 4 equidistant strings? or.. the slots to switch between those two choices later if you want? Decide that first.
Also, remember the bridge will need to at least approximate a similar slot arrangement that echoes the nut.




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Site Owner

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

How does it compare in with the nut?

traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts
The v is the new one. I expected to leave it with him but he whipped out the saw and worked on it then. I was surprised but gave him the benefit of the doubt. The more I thought about it the more I figured the two different depths would not be compatible.
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
689 posts

I am assuming the fix is the large cuts and not the "v' shaped cuts. The saw cuts appear to be too wide to provide a good fit for the strings. They do lower the action. Was there a "v" where the left side (in the photo) cut was made? If so, it looks to be a wider separation of the melody strings. Does this dulcimer have a zero fret? A wider shot of the head stock and first fret would be helpful also. As it looks now, I think you need a new nut made for this dulcimer. You need to determine whether you want a double melody string, four equidistant strings, or a combination of the two.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,769 posts

Can't really tell what we're seeing here.  There appear to be a V notch and a couple round bottom slots, but what's the old and what's the new and where's the edge of the fretboard.  Which is which?  Are the round bottom slots the new fixes?

A saw slot is a fix.  But as a luthier I would have asked whether you wanted new slots or a new nut/bridge. 

Does the fix work or are you getting weird tones?  You should have said something to this person at the time, or specified "cut new slots versus replace the nut/bridge,  

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
2 weeks ago
1,082 posts

Traildad, it is really difficult to make any determination from the photo.  When I increase the size of the picture, it is grainy and blurred.  




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Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
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traildad
@traildad
2 weeks ago
55 posts

The dulcimer I borrowed from my sister is a kit that was assembled by an old boyfriend and the job was imperfect. The groove for the inner melody string was set too far from the outer string. I’ve been looking to have it repaired in return for the favor of the loan and as a birthday present for my sister. I recently had an opportunity to have a luthier fix it and the photo shows the repair. I thought he would replace the nut and bridge, but he used a saw to make some cuts as I watched. Would you accept this as a repair, or do you think as I do that the difference of the shallower cut is not acceptable?


updated by @traildad: 11/15/20 01:56:43PM