3, 4 or 5 strings

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby jcurtis55 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:37 pm

I bought my first dulcimer two weeks ago. It is a Bill Berg elliptical with sycamore soundboard and bottom. Oak sides.

Anyway, I am having fun with it, but am having some trouble fretting cleanly. It came with 5 strings, 2 bass and 2 treble. The two bass strings are a 9 and a 24. The difference in size can make it more challenging to fret both strings. I am not sure if it affects the in strums, but I can imaging it might be harder to get the 9 string without catching the 24 a little heavy. I'm definitely getting the clacking sound of the pick fairly often.

I thought about removing the extra bass string and possibly even the extra melody string while I am learning, but decided to try to practice and learn how to play it effectively. Should I remove one or both of the extra strings?

Jeff
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Re: 3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby KenH » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:42 pm

Jeff -- since you are playing chord-melody style, I would leave the doubled string courses as they are for at least a year, until you've got some decent amount of experience under your belt. If you are fretting properly it should not be any problem getting both bass strings held down adequately. You might consider experimenting with an 18 or 20 plain string instead of the heavier wound bass string; but again I'd wait a few months before trying anything.

If, in six months, you actually hear that you are constantly not fretting the bass couplet right, then it's time to experiment.

Pick click is caused by how you are strumming, not any differences in string gauge. The easiest way I know to eliminate the click, after 40 years of messing about with dulcimers, is to change your pick grip and your 'attack'. Don't have more than say 3/8" of pick sticking out of your fist. Rotate your pick hand from the wrist, so that the pick strokes 'out and up', 'in and down' -- / and \ only flatter than the keystrokes. That way the pick brushes the strings, it doesn't jump from string to string because you're rigidly holding the pick at right angles to the strings.
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Re: 3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby kwl » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:28 pm

I don't often disagree with KenH, but I have a differing opinion. I think when playing chord/melody style the less strings the better, i.e., no doubled courses. I find I pick cleaner in this manner both for just strumming and C/M style. This opinion is based on about 30 years of trying to play C/M with a double melody string and trying to execute hammer-ons and pull-offs with a double string. Again, just my opinion.

Ken
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Re: 3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby Judy K » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:09 am

"There is no wrong way to play a dulcimer" is one of the first things I read on Everything Dulcimer. Each player needs to find their own way to make their dulcimer sing for them. If doubled strings make it harder to make music, remove them, particularly if playing chord/melody.

Both Kens above have a ton more experience and expertise than I have. But, for me, removing the extra strings made the music much clearer, tuning much easier, and playing more fun. Experiment to find what works best for you. A string removed can be easily replaced if needed/wanted.

Have fun, Jeff!
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Re: 3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby jcurtis55 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:57 pm

Thanks everyone. I should just try both ways and see what feels more comfortable. I have a lesson in 10 days, so I will wait for that and then decide which way to go.
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Re: 3, 4 or 5 strings

Postby philips » Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:04 am

I have found that chord melody style with 3 strings works best for me. I also often pick the 3 strings individually rather than merely strumming across all strings, and doubled melody strings sound strange against the other 2 single strings when played in this way.
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