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Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:21 pm
by CathyA
Does anyone have or know of a good video showing how to change the strings on a Mountain Dulcimer?
Buying my strings was extremely confusing also, I ended up calling the maker and he told me the sizes to get. But when I looked on Amazon and E-bay not one saler had the four strings sizes I was told to get. I ended up calling a dulcimer shop Mt. Home Arkansas and they sold me each string separately. I wouldn't think that this could be so complicated! But now that I have my strings I need help putting them on.
I would appreciate any guidance and help. Thanks

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:50 am
by bret
Hi Cathy,

Changing strings is fortunately pretty straight forward :) Here's a video that walks through it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaIoaVm91j8

In the future, you can get guitar strings or banjo strings as they're all the same thing really. The gauge is the important thing. For the bass string it's a wound string so you may care if it's flatwound or roundwound depending on the sound you're looking for, but either will work.

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:58 am
by bret

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:39 am
by jakstall
There are several places that will sell you individual strings. Many good music shops sell them but I have found that getting them often depends on the knowledge of who is working the counter. Since you have found out from the builder the sizes he uses and I guess you know if you need ball end or loop end strings, you can order from a number of places on-line.

For years I have bought all my strings from Gary Sager at PrussiaValley.com (Prussia Valley Acoustic Music) in Waverly, Ohio. I can place an order with Gary early in the week and usually have what I need by the end of the week.

Most dulcimer shops carry individual strings. A couple of the better known shops are McSpadden (mcspaddendulcimers.com) and Folkcraft (Folkcraft.com). There are also bulk string sellers like juststrings.com

I try to keep a variety of strings on hand as there are several folks in our dulcimer club who rely on me to change their strings and I usually try to keep an extra set for each of my instruments.

Other than loop vs. ball end there isn't really any difference between brands of plain strings. Wound strings come with different types of windings and winding methods. The most common windings are bronze and phosphor bronze and you can also get strings that are coated to reduce the squeak when you move your finger. Winding methods include round, half-round and flat wound. In general, phosphor bronze strings have a warmer tone and bronze wound strings are brighter sounding. Round wound strings tend to be brighter sounding and flat wound give a warmer tone.

Don't let all that string type mumbo jumbo confuse you, though. For now, just buy strings in the gauges and end types you need. Eventually you may want to try different strings for your wound strings (and maybe even your plain strings) to see if you prefer one type over another. You may also choose to try different string sizes (gauges) at some point. You don't have to do that, though.

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:28 am
by kwl
You already have the information you need. Dulcimer players have confusion about what strings to put on their dulcimers for two reasons: the method of attachment and vibrating string length (VSL). Unlike guitars, banjos, and mandolins, dulcimers have VSLs anywhere from 22 inches to 30 inches (more or less). The thickness (gauge) of string depends on the VSL and the note to which the string is tuned. On the other instruments mentioned VSL is pretty much standardized as is the method of attaching the strings to the instrument. Dulcimer players usually have a choice of either loop or ball ends depending upon how the instrument is constructed. It is confusing, but it is the world in which we live.

Ken
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:29 pm
by KenH
DO NOT TAKE OFF ALL THE STRINGS AT ONCE!! This may cause you to shift the bridge, towards the head or tail, and even a couple of millimeters can make the dulcimer sound really bad. Remove one string; replace it. Then remove another...

Re: Help with my first string change

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:04 pm
by kwl
Good point, Ken! All my dulcimers have fixed bridges, so I tend not to think about that.

Ken
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."