Guitar Strings?

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

Glad to hear that the new strings are working out for you Clare. Have fun playing.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,051 posts

Sounds great, @Diane-R!  New strings look better, feel better, and sound better.  I know a professional guitarist who changes strings every month.  I try to do so every 3-6 months on the instruments I play regularly.  I am not sure why some people keep the same strings on for years.  They just get hard and start hurting your fingertips, as you can testify.




--
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
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
3 weeks ago
20 posts

Thank you Strumelia!  I'm absolutely thrilled!  And all this time I was afraid I was losing my dexterity... jive

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,881 posts

That's wonderful news Diane!  Yay!  pimento




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
3 weeks ago
20 posts

So happy to say that I received my Folkcraft strings and the playability is so much easier!  I can actually do hammer ons and pull offs again!  Cannot believe the difference!  I can actually play the chords without pressing down with much force.  It actually sounds like a dulcimer again!  dulcimer  Thanks for all the advice and patience...

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
one month ago
20 posts

Thank you for the advice Ken & everyone else...just waiting on my strings now & keeping my fingers crossed...

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,795 posts

OK.  Knowing his is a Tom Yocky and his standard dulcimers have a 27.5" VSL, the strings you need, as KenWL said, at .010 plain for the two melody strings, .014 plain for the middle drone, and a .020 wound for the bass string.  These are the gauges commonly found in most dulcimer string sets.

The notches in the frets aren't 'critical' to a good sound, but down the road you may want to get those notches frets replaced -- it looks like they are too deeply notched to just the filed and re-crowned.  

Remember, when you tune it to make sure your two D strings are in two different octaves -- the melody d string should be the same as the bass D when the bass string is fretted on the 7th fret (not the 6+ fret).

FWIW -- you've now learned a painful truth -- most music shop folks, even those who have a dulcimer or two for sale, really don't know squat about our favorite instrument!

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
one month ago
20 posts

Thank you Salt Springs...yes, I love my Yocky, just not too much recently.  If I knew how to post a video I would so everyone could hear it.  

Strumelia, Thanks...Yes, it did sound fine but the strings were rusted so thought I'd grab some new ones and clean it up.  With my lack of knowledge I just took what the man gave me.  I figured he knew what he was doing running a music shop.  He even played my dulcimer for a few minutes!  I've ordered some strings online because I don't want to use my local music shop and will try it again.   I really hope this resolves the situation  :)  I'll let you all know...

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,881 posts

From your first post, it seems the dulcimer sounded and played fine when you used to play it a while back, and then you changed the strings and it sounds and plays badly now?  If that's true and the gauge of strings you say you put on is true, then you just have the wrong strings on, and 'might' also be tuning one or more of the strings to the wrong octave.

You need to get the right sized strings for the tuning you want to use.  That way, it won't feel and sound 'sloppy' as you put it.




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 10/05/18 09:44:07AM
Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
one month ago
112 posts

Wow, that is a Tom Yocky dulcimer and those are really good instruments!   I am sending you a link that you may or may not have seen that could help you set that "Island" up.   I would double check to make sure the bridge and the nut have not gotten reversed somewhere along the line...........

https://reverb.com/item/655791-tom-yocky-mountain-dulcimer-2010-heartland

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
one month ago
20 posts

Ken, all I have for the strings are .012 .30mm plain steel ball end & .014 .36mm plain steel ball end.  I went to the Stay in Tune site last night and couldn't even find them.  As for photos I really didn't know what to take so here it is...

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,795 posts

Looking forward to the pictures. 

Grooves in a couple frets are not really part of the problem you describe.  If you have the string package (Stay In Tune) it should tell you the gauges of strings it contained, which might tell us a lot.

When you change strings, DO Not remove all of them and them put all new on.  Remove and replace 1 string at a time, to keep that loose Nut and maybe the Bridge from shifting position.    

Question.  Is the bridge setting on top of the fretboard?  Or in a groove in the fretboard?

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Thank you... I'll take some photos & post them.  It does look like there are grooves worn into some of the frets but I haven't had a chance to really examine it.  It may just be dirty from the strings.  These strings are a generic brand I guess called "Stay in Tune"  made in Akron Ohio.  They just seem to be very thick ( and painful ) compared to the ones I used to have that I had purchased from Tom.  

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,795 posts

Yep.  We're at the point where we need to see what's going on.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 months ago
1,881 posts

Diane, if it were possible for you to add a few photos to this thread, it would definitely help those who are trying to figure out what's wrong with your dulcimer's setup.  A mountain dulcimer shouldn't sound 'awful' and shouldn't need lots of strength to fret the strings either. I'm thinking there's probably something else going on here that's causing problems for you.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Thank you Ken Longfield...my daughter took a look at it and tried to play it and said it was awful.  She noticed that the frets have grooves in them also and she said with her callouses she was also having trouble pushing the strings down to play.  So, I guess I'll have to learn how to "repair" the frets.  Sorry for the ignorance and thanks for all the advice...

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
649 posts

It sounds like the tension on the bass string is greater than the tension on the other three strings. Once you remove all four string you should be able to push it back in place with your fingers. If the nut is very loose, you can use a drop of white glue to hold it in place, but don't use too much. You should be able to remove the nut if you need to make adjustments like lowering the action. When you restring the dulcimer, start with the middle strings first and bring them up to proper pitch. That should hold the nut in place while you add the melody and bass strings.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,795 posts

Dulcimers don't have a left or right.  They have a head, a tail, a near (player) side, a far side, a top and a bottom.  Did the nut shift towards the near side or far side?

If the nut has shifted that radically without being serious tapped with something or falling, your strings are far too loose, which would be a major factor in your "issues".  What are you using for a tuner?  It's possible you may be tuned to DAd but in the wrong octave (too low), which would explain floppy sour sounding strings...

String tension should hold the nut and bridge in place.  Bass string rubbing the headstock where it enters the slot to the tuning shafts isn't normally an issue, as it is outside of the nut-bridge VSL.

You "repair" the loose nut by pushing, or gently tapping the nut back to where it is supposed to be and then tightening the strings. If the nut won't simply push back into place, set the dulcimer on top of a towel, on the dining table or a counter, before doing any tapping. Use a short 'punch' -- a stick, dowel, or piece of chopstick -- and a hammer.  Put one end of the punch on the end of the nut and tap the other end.

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Thanks for all the replies.  I'll have to get down to the music shop tomorrow & purchase a few to make sets & go from there...anyway while I was at work yesterday & practicing I noticed that the nut has shifted about 1/4 inch to the right & that the bass string is rubbing the wood of the head stock on the side!  Obviously it's loose & I hadn't noticed...could having a loose nut cause some of the issues I'm having?  And how does a person repair it?  And why do I have that much space in the slot for it to shift?  Sorry about the neediness but I'm not a builder...I can't even play that well...lol Laugh

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,051 posts

Eventually, @Diane-R, you will need to experiment, develop your own preferences, and find the right strings for you.  Kusani has a preference for plain steel on the bass. I find plain steel does not have enough power for a bass string.  I also prefer heavier strings, so I use .026 wound on the bass, .016 on the middle and .014 on the melody. But I would not recommend that for others unless they've been playing for a while and specifically want to play in a flatpicking or other style that demands tighter strings and more volume.

My advice is to start with the kind of setup that was probably intended when the instrument was built, which was likely a wound .020, .022. or .024 on the bass, .012 or .014 on the middle, and .010 or .012 on the melody. 

Start there and then you can experiment with replacing the wound string or getting slightly heavier or slightly lighter strings or squeakless strings or whatever.




--
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
2 months ago
649 posts

Plain steel 0.020 string should be available in a local music store. As Kusani said, "opinions vary." I use squeakless wound strings for chord/melody playing. I like the plain steel on my noter/drone dulcimers. Your dulcimer looks like a Tom Yocky instrument. If it is I would think Tom set it up to take a 0.020 - 0.024 bass string. If it is set for the 0.024, the slot may cause a 0.020 gauge string to vibrate in the slot causing a buzz. This can be corrected by any luthier or even yourself depending upon how handy and confident you are. I hope the new set of strings will work well for you.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
2 months ago
253 posts

Opinions vary on the plain steel, many of us do not like the 'squeak' you get from the wound strings. I don't. There are 'squeakless' base strings that are some what better; but I still prefer plain strings. Try both and see which you prefer. There is no 'right' way on this one. dulcimer


updated by @kusani: 09/29/18 03:27:59PM
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Thank you Ken.  I will try down at the music shop where I bought the others and will let you know.  But I do NOT want the plain steel for the bass string correct?  Thanks again, I really do appreciate the help & advice. 

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
649 posts

Given that VSL I would try .010s on the melody strings, .014 on the middle, and a .020 for the bass. You could go up just a little if these are still floppy. If you can't find them locally as single strings, PM me and I can send you a set as I described.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Thanks for the replies...the length is a little over 27 1/2".  I'm tuned to Dad & have been playing with these strings for about 2 months now almost daily and no improvement.  And with the sloppy, choppy, it's also twangy...lol  Thanks again :)

Slate Creek Dulcimers
Slate Creek Dulcimers
@slate-creek-dulcimers
2 months ago
12 posts
Along the lines of what Ken and Dusty said....... I figure most dulcimers would benefit from a custom string set instead of a generic set.
Different scale lengths are a major factor and then some we all have our favorite string tension. And as you also learned we all have a preferred tone we like.
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
649 posts

Diane, the size of the strings you use is determined by the vibrating string length (VSL) of your dulcimer. That is the distance from inside the nut to the place where the strings contact the bridge. If we knew that length, we could make better suggestions. Just looking at the dulcimer in you avatar I would guess you should have the .012s on the melody strings, the .014 in the middle, and what Dusty suggested for the bass; .022 or .024 wound string.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,051 posts

Diane, standard sized dulcimers usually use a wound bass string that's somewhere around .022 or .024.  .014 is way too light for a bass sting.  Secondly, how are you tuned?  If you are tuned DAA, then it makes sense that your middle and melody strings would be the same gauge.  If you are tuned DAd, you might want to use a melody string that's a bit lighter than your middle strings.  If you use .012 on the middle, try .010 on the melody.  Or you might use .014 on the middle and .012 on the melody.

Also, remember that new strings stretch a lot.  Whenever I put on new strings I play for a while, retuning every few minutes and also literally pulling on the strings to stretch them.  I figure this gets the stretching out so they'll stay in tune better.

And if you haven't played in a while, you should sound "choppy and sloppy."  I find I lose technique if I just take a day off.  So taking off a few years might require a bit more time before you're back into the swing of things.




--
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: 09/27/18 01:19:24PM
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 months ago
20 posts

Hello, after not playing for quite a few years I finally pulled my Dulcimer out, cleaned it up, oiled it up, changed the strings ( was given .012, .012, .012, .014 plain steel ball ends) and I feel that now I sound terrible.  I sound so sloppy now and have tried to rack it up to older age but this seems ridiculous to me.  It's seems like I'm pushing down too hard and the sound is no longer smooth and flowing but choppy and sloppy!  I've even tried different picks but it still sounds awful...any advice?  Thanks 


updated by @diane-r: 09/27/18 09:14:10PM