Nuts may or may not float, but bridges often do. Almost always it's better to change one string at a time, than take them all off. Less chance of nuts/bridges not going back exactly where the belong. Order doesn't matter, but direction of wind -- over the top or inside to outside does. Masking tape, rubber bands or a capo if you have one are all good ways to keep those pesky strings on the string-pins and running down the fretboard before you start tightening.
Changing String Sets
It is rare that the nut is not secured, but a floating bridge is pretty common. When that is the case, you will want to change one string at a time so that the bridge and/or nut basically stay in position while you put the new strings on. You can always adjust positioning later if the intonation is off, but changing one string at a time will make things easier.
The order does not matter.
The direction the tuners tighten the strings depends on which side of the post the strings are strung on. If the posts are horizontal, you want the strings to go over the top of the post. If the posts are vertical, you will want the strings to go on the inside. The fact is that it will work either way, but those are the standard conventions.
One trick to keeping the string in place is to use a capo to hold it down. Put the loop over the brad nail or whatever is there to hold the end of the string, pull it toward the head of the dulcimer, and then put a capo on to hold the string in place while you wind it around the tuner. I learned that capo trick from and am embarrassed that I hadn't thought of it myself.
Dusty T., Northern California
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: 07/12/19 09:24:18PM
I once thought the thing I loathed most in the world was a root canal. That is now in second place, behind putting a new set of strings on my MD.
Admittedly, I’m new to the MD, yet not to stringed instruments. This is the first time I’ve tackled restringing an MD and I’d really appreciate any tips on how to do it properly and in a reasonable amount of time.
It’s a new instrument, and one I will replace after I get some experience. That said, I have these questions.
1) Should the bridge and nut be secured to the neck? Mine are not, and this made things ever so much more difficult. If yes, that’s a job I can do.
2) Is there an order for installing strings that’s better than others. For example, bass first, or melody first?
3) On my dulcimer, the tuning machines all tension the strings by rotating clockwise. This is different than my guitars. Is this all clockwise rotation correct for the MD?
Yes, keeping the loops on while doing the rest was challenging, so anything on that will be helpful.
As always, thanks in advance for any and all help.