restringing a mountaim dulcimer

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restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby buffalogal472 » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:11 pm

I have a teardrop shape 28" nut to bridge mountain dulcimer. I have not played it in years. I went to tune it the Mixolydian Mode per the Mel Bay's Dulcimer Handbook I broke a sting. I thought I better get a set ofnew strings so I checked in the book. He uses 2-.10 guage, 1-.14 or .15 and 1-.22 or .24 guage. The music stores I go to have GHS sets that have 3-L12 and 1-LW20. I always played in Ionian Mode and tuned the strings to DDAA. I would like to try the Mixolydian mode. Are these strings going to be OK or should I try to mix and match with some guitar sets? Will the guitar strings be long enough?
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby starter » Sat Apr 02, 2011 7:30 pm

You should be able to buy individual guitar strings at the music stores. Then you can make up any set you might want. be careful not get the shorter mandolin strings.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby folkfan » Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:21 pm

I'm not certain what gauge strings you're using for your 28 VSL now for DAA. I use a 24 and 14s for my shorter VSL for DAA, but to go to DAd, I change the melody string to a 12 to raise the note several step. It's a matter of how you like the feel of the tension and if the string will hold the note you want to tune to.

I'd suggest that whatever you are using on the bass and middle string for D and A would be fine since you aren't changing those notes. You might want to go a gauge or two lighter for the melody strings. And you can usually get guitar strings or banjo strings individually at a music shop, just know whether you need BALL or LOOP ends.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby rendesvous1840 » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:01 pm

I'm using .012/.012/.014/.024W for DAD/DAA/DAC, and a couple other tunings not too far from those. If you want to go higher than E on the melody strings, drop the gauge from .012 to .010. That is a long scale length, which means you need higher tension to reach the same notes. If the strings seem to be tighter than you like to play on, you could go slightly smaller gauges. Don't change by more than .002 at a time until you see what you like. Too small and they may not sound good, too tight and they break easily. Try not to leave your dulcimer unplayed for so long, it will get lonely. My strings are a standard D`Addario J64 set.I don't make up custom gauges for that dulcimer, but my bass dulcy is another matter, and the string gauges are still evolving.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby buffalogal472 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:14 am

Thanks for the information. I have moved my mom into an assisted living center. I met a lady who works there that plays several string instruments and would like to try a dulcimer. She even wants to go to Evart.

I also have a lady who works in the schools Young Fives program who would like me to show her how to play or come to the school myself to teach the kids to play the dulcimer.

I enjoy playing my dulcimers. The more dulcimer players the better!!!
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby 5kwkdw3 » Thu Apr 28, 2011 5:10 am

I now just have two remaining dulcimers from a previous higher numbered collection. The two I have are a Probst Baritone with a 29 1/2 VSL (six string) and a Ron Ewing double neck with a 23 1/2 VSL (twelve string). Since both instruments are customs I have never been able to purchase a string "set" for either instrument. The first thing I did when receiving each instrument was to mic the strings and note the measurement. I then went to the music shop and bought a spare set of strings for each instrument from the "individual" string bin. That way I'm ready at any time a string should break to swap it out or swap the whole set out at which time I would again buy a complete replacement set again to be ready once again. I found that the string choices that Ron Ewing made for the double were perfect, the ones for the Probst however were originally for a standard dulcimer. The body of the instrument was built so large that it seemed a natural for a baritone if only I would change the strings, so that is what I did. That took some doing but I finally came upon the strings that produced the tone I was looking for in the key (G) that I wanted to play in. So now both instruments are in G and sound absolutely beautiful. Whatever you do, make sure to have the shop measure your strings so you can buy a spare set, that way you'll always know what gauge strings you use and you'll always have a spare set at the ready. Kevin.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby jakstall » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:54 am

Kevin is right that it is a good idea to know what string sizes you have. Most builders will readily tell you what they use and that is always a good starting point. In lieu of that, it is fairly easy for someone with a micrometer to measure the strings. For each of my instruments I have a list that shows the builder's recommendation and what I'm currently using.

Personally, I never buy string sets, opting for individual strings. Many local music stores carry individual strings. If you need ball end, "guitar" strings should work. If you need loop end ask for "banjo" strings.

If you can't find strings locally there are a number of on-line vendors who will happily supply your needs. Do whatever you think best, but I would suggest that you patronize either one of the vendors who frequent this board (like Gary Sager of Prussia Valley Dulcimers) or a dulcimer builder like McSpadden or Folkcraft. Someone who knows dulcimers can answer questions you might have. I always buy strings from Gary. His prices are as good as any and the service is great.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Thu Apr 28, 2011 3:08 pm

buffalogal472 wrote:I have a teardrop shape 28" nut to bridge mountain dulcimer. I have not played it in years. I went to tune it the Mixolydian Mode per the Mel Bay's Dulcimer Handbook I broke a sting. I thought I better get a set ofnew strings so I checked in the book. He uses 2-.10 guage, 1-.14 or .15 and 1-.22 or .24 guage. The music stores I go to have GHS sets that have 3-L12 and 1-LW20. I always played in Ionian Mode and tuned the strings to DDAA. I would like to try the Mixolydian mode. Are these strings going to be OK or should I try to mix and match with some guitar sets? Will the guitar strings be long enough?


Using a string set of .020/.012/.012/.012 (from bass to high strings) to tune to DAd on a 28" VSL dulcimer 'may' break your melody pair of strings. You would do much better to use a set more like the one you describe: 2-.10 guage, 1-.14 or .15 and 1-.22 or .24 guage. In other words, I suggest a .010 rather than a .012 for the high dd melody string at 28" VSL. But then again, some folks do use 12's for that and they do fine. I find it too tight and too much risk of breaking.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby sensi3d » Sun May 01, 2011 6:47 pm

go to folk craft instruments. you can order individual strings and complete sets.They have tenor and baratone sets and they tell you what the sizes are.Once you figgure out what you want, order in bulk groups of 6. much cheeper.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby Ken-Nutt » Tue May 17, 2011 10:55 am

What do you "experts" recommend for a Mc Spadden M.D. 12? I replaced the strings that came on it(It is a used, 1985, model.) with .012,.012, .014 and .022 strings and now the tuning pegs slip and it won't stay in tune! Is there a cure or fix for that? Yes, I tightened the screws.
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Re: restringing a mountaim dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Tue May 17, 2011 11:50 am

Again, as I said in my previous post:
Using a string set of .020/.012/.012/.012 (from bass to high strings) to tune to DAd on a 28" VSL dulcimer 'may' break your melody pair of strings. You would do much better to use a set more like the one you describe: 2-.10 guage, 1-.14 or .15 and 1-.22 or .24 guage. In other words, I suggest a .010 rather than a .012 for the high dd melody string at 28" VSL. But then again, some folks do use 12's for that and they do fine. I find it too tight and too much risk of breaking.


Those .012 strings tuned to high d's on your 28.5 VSL McSpadden will be at very high tension (hence the risk of breaking as well). This is probably pulling very hard on your tuning pegs and they just can't hold the note that high. As I said, you would have better luck putting .010 strings for the melody high d strings- the tension will be less and your pegs might be able to hold the strings to the note better. If you had expensive planetary pegs they would probably hold the note in this situation, but standard pegs are mid-level quality and are at their limit for this situation.
If you tune to DAA instead, try it and see if the notes hold ok- they should. .012 strings on 28.5" scale are probably best for tuning to the lower A note, not the higher d. You need thinner strings for that on that particular scale dulcimer.

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