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help with a fretted dulcimer

GUEST,leeneia 26 Nov 15 - 10:45 AM
PHJim 26 Nov 15 - 12:50 PM
Dan Schatz 26 Nov 15 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Nov 15 - 09:59 AM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Nov 15 - 03:26 PM
maeve 27 Nov 15 - 04:09 PM
GUEST,Arkie 27 Nov 15 - 06:21 PM
PHJim 27 Nov 15 - 08:46 PM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Nov 15 - 11:18 PM
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Subject: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 26 Nov 15 - 10:45 AM

A friend of mine bought an old dulcie from her sister-in-law's sister-in-law, and the friend brought it to me for help in playing it. It looks simple, but it doesn't look actually homemade.

There is no label on it, the seller knew nothing about it, and the soundholes are three stars, about an inch across and casual in shape. We hit the rocks trying to decide how to tune and play it.

1. I have a dulcie that's meant to be tuned DAA. It is 73.4 cm from nut to bridge. The new one is smaller - 65.0 cm from nut to bridge.

2. The open strings don't play a major scale when you go up. (They don't give a minor scale either.) But you do get a major scale if you start playing on the third fret.

Can anybody tell me, based on this info, how it should be tuned? What gauge strings should be used? I don't want to get strings that are too thick and pull the instrument apart by having to put a lot of tension on them.
=============
Today is Thanksgiving for me, so I won't be back until tomorrow.


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: PHJim
Date: 26 Nov 15 - 12:50 PM

This is the normal fret spacing for a dulcimer (although some folks add an extra fret between the 6th and 7th, a 6+ fret, to make a major scale starting from the open string.)
I have always used 5 string banjo strings on my dulcimer. Mine has a double melody string and I use the 1st and 5th banjo strings for this course. I put the 2nd banjo string on the middle course and the 4th on the bass course. Needless to say, I've accumulated a pile of banjo G strings over the years.
Many folks who started in the fifties and sixties by listening to Jean Ritchie use the DAA tuning, since this is what she used primarily, but these days, DAD seems to be a more common tuning. I still like the DAA tuning myself.


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 26 Nov 15 - 01:22 PM

When tuned to a fifth, the third fret is indeed the place to start for a major scale. Use can buy dulcimer strings at Elderly Instruments, JustStrings.com or a good local music shop, and you're unlikely to pull the instrument apart - more likely to break a string first. There just isn't that much tension from three strings. As you tune up, keep testing the string; if it starts to feel very taut you can stop. If it's too slack the intonation won't be good. DAA is a good way to go., almost certainly safe.

Good luck and have fun!

Dan


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 09:59 AM

Why is her dulcimer 8 cm shorter than mine? That is a big difference.

(The advantage of the DAA tuning is the easy pattern that you follow to make chords.)


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 03:26 PM

I thought I would ask the Everything Dulcimer site. They tell me my membership is inactive, so I can't log on. When I try to register again, they tell me my e-mail address is already registered, so no soap.   There's logic for you.

I must have hurt their feelings by not chatting enough. Too bad, because somebody there might have been a dulcimer maker or something like that.


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: maeve
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 04:09 PM

Info regarding login on Everything Dulcimer: http://www.everythingdulcimer.com/discuss/faq.php#f0r0


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 06:21 PM

There is no standard for length of the dulcimer or fret board or width or depth either. Dulcimer makers would sometimes take measurements from existing fretboards and dulcimers and follow those. The actual critical measurement is from the nut to the bridge and an accurate placement of frets. Dulcimers with shorter fretboards that I have seen generally have a higher pitch.


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: PHJim
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 08:46 PM

A shorter scale would probably sound better tuned higher.
I agree with leeneia that DAA is easier for chords, but I've heard folks say that the reason they switched to DAD was so they could make chords.


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Subject: RE: help with a fretted dulcimer
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Nov 15 - 11:18 PM

I'm making some progress. I searched for "dulcimer fretboard length", and that took me to a discussion on Everything Dulcimer without having to log in. Somebody there mentioned Strothers' String Gauge Calculator, which I found and used.

Apparently this short dulcimer will be all right tuned DAA, but for DAD we would have to buy 10-gauge strings. That seems rather flimsy to me.

Other news: my friend has inspired me to get out my own instrument. I entertained my husband before supper while the Thanksgiving leftovers heated in the oven.

Thanks, all.

Maeve, I will come back and follow your link. Thanks.


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