6 String Dulcimer Question

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Appreciate everyone's input. I decided to drop and couple of strings and am now down to four (I kept the octave string at the bottom. I like it a lot more, but may end up going to 3 strings. I'm learning to play finger dance and fewer strings makes everything easier.

Bob Stephens
Bob Stephens
@bob-stephens
4 months ago
20 posts

Another possible direction is to use the extra strings to create a non-standard sound.  I typically tune my five string dulcimers with an unmatched pair of notes in the upper and lower courses.  Use of DA-a-da yields a very contemporary sound that is great for improvising.  When playing with double strings it is important to have the action low at the nut so that it is easy to fret them.  Lots to try- have fun exploring.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,103 posts

Nate's right -- 6 strings give a richer, fuller sound... but it can be difficult to learn to play, pressing down pairs of strings.  If you're trying to learn chords you might find it easiest to just remove one string in each course.for 6 months or so until you're comfortable playing.  Then you can add back strings one at a time and see if you like the effect.  Many of us who play Finger dance or Noter & Drone -- fretting justthe melody string -- like the tradition and simplicity of just three strings.  But the real thing to know is -- whatever works is right for you -- regardless of what anyone tries to tell you

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
4 months ago
55 posts

Most of my playing is on a small 6-string dulcimer which I adapted from a Korean instrument probably made in the 1960s.

I play noter-drone in Daa, but I use octave pairs on the middle and bass - Dd-Aa-aa. I use an 0.030W on the middle A. It probably is 0.012, 0.012, 0.014, 0.030, 0.012 and 0.028W.

I like it, and it is soft enough that no one in our group notices my mistakes, or at least is polite enough not to mention them.

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Nate - Thanks for your detailed reply. It gives me a lot to think about and experiment with. Maybe I'll try muting different strings just to get an idea of the sound.

Brad

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
4 months ago
229 posts

6 strings provide a fuller "choral" sound. In my opinion, if you are doing a lot of chording, it is much more comfortable with three strings. If you are playing noter drone, more strings often make for a fuller sound. If you are mostly fretting on the melody string, you might consider leaving "courses" (aka 2 strings right next to eachother) for the middle and bass string, or just a "course" for the bass string. I usually play with three strings, and a lot of other folks do as well, but I personally prefer the sound of the extra strings, though it is more difficult. I hope you have a lot of fun exploring this instrument, and there is no harm in removing strings if you prefer to play that way.
Nate

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

I have a 6 string church dulcimer I built from a kit about 45 years ago and have decided it's time to learn how to play it.smiler I find it very difficult to play as is and am thinking about making it a 3 or 4 string. Is there any compelling reason to keep it at 6? Thanks for your help.