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Everything posted by Admin

  1. That's great! I've been taking some online dulcimer lessons over the past few weeks and they've worked out really well. I still prefer meeting in person, but online classes have been fun too. Barely 2 weeks until Quarantune, I'm looking forward to it!
  2. Your dulcimer's come out looking great! The string setup you're describing is one of the more common ones. The two closest to the player being a doubled melody string, and then a middle and bass string that are single strings. For the single strings they're usually about 1/2" apart from each other and from the doubled string. The doubled strings are separated by somewhere between 3/32" to 1/8" on the instruments I have. You'll also want to leave an 1/8" to 1/4" of fretboard outside the strings so the strings don't slip off the fretboard when they're pressed. It's also common to use 3 equidistant strings and not double the melody string. Some find this easier to play. If you go that way, 1/2" between the strings is still good. I made a quick illustration that's hopefully helpful:
  3. For ball end strings on brads, you'd slide the hole in the ball over the brad. Obviously that wouldn't work for ball ends that are solid, though I've only ever seen a few strings with solid ball ends. Worse case, you could pop the ball out and you'd have a loop end string.
  4. Welcome, glad to have you with us!
  5. Is the other side (tops of the sides/ribs) bowed too? Does the top sit flat on the sides if you lay where it will eventually go? Putting it in a closet with a dehumidifer would be a way to get moisture out.
  6. That's looking great! Good job on the sound holes, that tool works really well. How thick are your top/bottom plates? You'll have it together before you know it! I measured the thickness of one of my dulcimers that has a flat head with calipers. It shows 35/64" - so just over half an inch. Do your tuners have any bushings or washers/nuts? Make sure it's the right thickness to support those if your tuners have them. If they're just through hole tuners without any additional hardware, it may make sense to stay a little on the thicker side so they don't stick out a lot.
  7. Welcome! It sounds like you have some fun times ahead building a new dulcimer. I'll try to answer a couple of your questions. As @Skip mentioned, the 'New building looking for advice' thread may be helpful to you. I think there's a few reasons for the flat head style becoming more popular. On one hand it can be easier / more natural to use the tuners as it puts the knob of standard tuning machines on the side where pegs would normally be. Using them on a traditional scroll head they end up on top and are can be a little harder to work with (though by no means difficult). Planetary geared tuners can put the knobs on the side of a scroll, but they tend to be more expensive than standard tuning machines. So I think that's part of it. Another part is that a scroll can be more work to make. The two ways they're typically built are drilling and chiseling out a solid block of wood, which can be a decent amount of work. Alternatively they can be made by sandwiching layers of wood together, which is a bit easier. Another reason a flat head may be preferred is ease of access when changing the strings. If they're down in a scroll it can add some minor difficulty when trying to put the string in the tuner and wind it. It's a little easier to work with on top a flat head. They're all minor things, but flat heads have definitely become more common in recent years. There's a couple options out there. Construction the Mountain Dulcimer by Kimball has full plans for a dulcimer build. From the other thread, Making Musical Instruments by Irving Sloan has dulcimer plans that @Dylan Holderman might be able to give you more info about. I bought another book last year called Potpourri - Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer by James Hall Jr. that includes dulcimer plans as well. Sounds like a good choice of woods. Walnut with a soft wood top (spruce, cedar, butternut) seems to be pretty common. For the fretboard I think you'd want to stick with some type of hardwood like walnut.
  8. You're numbers look good for a 27" scale according to StewMac's calculator. One thing that may make laying the fret spacing out easier for you: If you have a yardstick / meter stick with millimeters on it, using a milimeter scale may be a little easier to work with than thousandths of inches.
  9. I've read a few accounts of trying nylon strings on a dulcimer. None really worked out well because of the way dulcimers are generally constructed. The strings are usually attached to tail block and the scroll/peg head. On instruments like a classical guitar or ukulele they're connected to the soundboard and the soundboard vibrates freely. Or on a violin they cross the bridge that vibrates the top plate directly. Nylon strings are much lower tension than steel strings and will have lower energy when you strum them. On a dulcimer you'd get a very weak sound. Aaron O'Rourke has some videos of a nylon string dulcimer, but it's a prototype specifically constructed for that purpose. To your other question: Higher gauge strings will increase tension and tend to be louder. They may also produce a warmer / darker sound than lighter gauge strings. Due to higher tension they'll require some more pressure to press down. Changing string tension can also affect intonation. With higher tension, it requires more pressure to fret a note. When a note is fretted that pressure also slightly changes the string tension. On an instrument like an electric guitar, the saddles on the bridge are adjustable to account for this. Most dulcimers don't have an adjustable bridge, and if they do it's usually a single piece. Unless you change it significantly it's not likely to be a problem, but it's something to be aware of if you change the strings and the intonation is off.
  10. Looks like it's really coming along! In regards to the braces, they probably don't matter too much. Many of the dulcimers I have don't have any internal bracing at all. For the future: I've generally seen cross braces like that placed at the widest parts of the bouts and the narrowest parts of the waist. But that said, I don't think it matters enough to try to move them. You might consider a thin strip down the seam of the back to add some reinforcement there, but even that's probably not critical. My general thoughts on a first dulcimer build is to consider it a learning experience 🙂 Particularly if you're working from your own design or loosely following another one. The one I built is is based on a mix of Ed Thomas' and Homer Ledford's patterns, but isn't exactly either of them. There's a couple things I didn't account for and had to fix as I built. Now I know what to account for when I build the next one. It looks like you're on a good path though. Looking forward to seeing more photos as you go!
  11. I like the common "medium" size frets that are found on a lot of instruments. I'm not sure about the exact size of fret wire though. There are a few different kinds of "medium." I spent a lot of time looking into different finishes. I talked with Warren May just after I built my instrument and before I finished it. The luthery I went to provided Shellac and Tru Oil and suggested those (shellac undercoat / Tru Oil top coats) for finishing. A lot of websites and Youtube videos also recommended it as an easy finish to apply. However, Warren suggested not using an oil based finished as the oil carrier can soak into the wood and deaden the sound. As he's a well respected dulcimer builder and also a furniture maker I took his advice. He uses spray varnish, but that was beyond what I was equipped to do properly. I ended up going with wipe on gel polyurethane with an undercoat of de-waxed shellac as a sealer and that turned out well. Different sources suggest a variety of options though: Linseed Oil, Danish Oil, Shellac, Tru Oil, Spray Poly, Wipe on Poly, Spray Varnish, Paste Wax, etc. all with different trade offs.
  12. That does seem more complicated than necessary. You would be ok just gluing the fretboard to the top of the one-piece soundboard and leaving it at that. I did this for my dulcimer. The top is bookmatched/joined, but otherwise it's a solid piece the fretboard is glued to. Some builders will hollow out the underside of the fretboard and drill large holes through the soundboard into the cavity under the fretboard, but I don't think this adds too much other than making the instrument a bit lighter. The one I built has a solid fretboard and it's one of the louder dulcimers I have.
  13. Welcome! Feel free to discuss stick dulcimers / backpack dulcimers here. There are strong opinions on what is and is not a dulcimer. From a technical/taxonomic standpoint they don't fit the definition. From a practical standpoint they're closely related enough that I see no reason to exclude them (open tuning, diatonically fretted, usually tuned some variation of DAd). Certainly close enough anyone playing these would benefit from the tabs and many other techniques that are used on the mountain dulcimer: drone-melody, chord-melody, modal tunings, etc. My first diatonic instrument was a Merlin before I bought a dulcimer. The response I got when asking questions in the dulcimer community nearly put me off the instrument and dulcimers too. Which is a shame because they're one of the best/easiest instruments to learn on and the community is generally very friendly and supportive. I don't want that be someone else's first experience, so again welcome. Feel free to poke around and ask questions and we'll help out where we can 🙂
  14. I did a little searching to see if I could find anything more about jamming online. One suggestion I saw that was interesting is having everyone in Zoom conference mute their microphones except for one song leader. Then having everyone play along with the song leader. Each person would only hear the song leader and themselves, but would allow some level of interaction and get around the delay issue that would happen with everyone playing together.
  15. Since most (if not all) of the dulcimer festivals and workshops that were planned through June have had to cancel due to COVID-19, I wanted to point out a couple online/virtual festivals that will be happening. It's not quite the same as getting together in person, but it's still a chance to spend a couple days learning from some great instructors. Two I know of: Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering on May 15th-17th QuaranTUNE Dulcimer Festival on June 5th-6th Hopefully some folks will be able to attend these virtual events. If you know of other online festivals or workshops taking place in the next couple months, please share them below.
  16. Hi Dawn, Welcome! I understand how you feel as most gatherings and festivals have been cancelled for the next couple months. Zoom itself is pretty easy to set up if you wanted to set something up to meet and chat. There would be some issues with folks trying to play instruments together live though. Delay (lag) in the video and audio stream would be an issue with any conferencing app. Imagine just two people trying to play together over an audio conference. One starts playing, and the audio is broadcast to the other person with a small delay. The second person hears the music and starts playing in time to what they're hearing, but they're really playing a little behind because of the delay even though it sounds to them as though they are playing in time. The second person's microphone picks up their playing and sends it back to the first with an additional delay. So the first person is hearing the second person lagging behind them by the delay it takes for what they play to get to the second person, and then a second delay for the audio from the second person to get to them. That's going to be really tough! Now imagine that with a group of people who all have different delays between them and you can imagine it would be a bit of a mess. One idea you might try is having everyone prepare a song to play individually so timing wouldn't be an issue. Or maybe just have a get together to chat and socialize on the video conference without playing. If you have someone who can edit a video together, everyone could record themselves individually playing along to a click track or the same recording of a song, and then someone could edit the individual performances together and play that back over zoom. I'd love to hear if you Ukulele group has come up with some ideas that work. Any ways to stay connected and keep playing during this time is great. Btw, there are a couple virtual dulcimer festivals coming up. The Berkeley Dulcimer Festival is going to be online this year. Also someone is putting together the QuaranTuned Dulcimer Festival in early June that has a lot of well known instructors teaching.
  17. Click here to visit the forum for tab submissions
  18. The ability for users to upload and manage tabs is being developed, but not ready to use. In the mean time, please upload new tabs here as an attachment to a new topic that's the title of the song. You can attach a midi or mp3 in addition to the tab itself. When the tab upload feature is ready, I'll move all of the tabs in this forum into the tab database. Looking forward to all the new music!
  19. Hi Carolina, Thanks for your interest in submitting tabs! The page for uploading new tabs is still in development, so it's currently not possible for someone to add a tab to the tab section. That feature is coming though. What I can do in the mean time is create a forum for tab uploads and let folks post new there. When the new upload page is ready, I'll move all the ones in the forum into the tab database and after that they'll be able to be added directly.
  20. Ken, good eye, it is a body cradle for routing for binding.
  21. We used a slightly different method for forming the sides in the class I took. We heat bent the sides by spraying them with water and using a hot iron to hand form the rough shape, and then clamped them to a form template for a couple days. I cut the template out of plywood and the other pieces acted as a mold. The side held their shape pretty well when they were unclamped from the template. Then we used spreaders in the mold that the template was cut from to hold the sides while gluing. I can't speak to the pluses/minuses of doing either way, just offering a method we used.
  22. I looked around a bit for copies available online and I see what you mean! The hardback version seems to sell over $100, which is pretty pricey. The paperback version was much more reasonable when I was looking. It usually sells for around $20-$30.
  23. Hi Dylan, welcome! A book that may be helpful to you is Constructing the Mountain Dulcimer by Dean Kimball. I bought a copy of it last year before I took a workshop on dulcimer building at the Appalachian School of Luthery. Looking around at different books, it seemed to be one of the better regarded on the subject. While I didn't end up using the plans from the book, it did give me a good idea of all the pieces and how they would fit together. The book does have plans for both an hourglass and teardrop style and suggestions for tools that can be used for different stages. As @NoterMan said, your mom's hand size will probably be biggest factor in the fretboard size (VSL). If she has smaller hands it might be helpful to build it with a shorter scale length that might be more comfortable for her to play.
  24. I haven't used his online classes, but I have taken a couple of his workshops and his in person 3-day intensive class. It looks like mountaindulcimeratoz.com is an online version of his current 4-day class. My understanding is his 4 day class is the 3-day intensive plus a day added for beginners to cover everyone. As you say he's a wonderful player and a great teacher. He has some instructional videos and sample lesson on his Youtube channel that might give you an idea of his teaching style. A nice thing about video is you can watch it as many times as you want to go over bits you're working on 🙂 He suggested we record the intensives and I made audio recordings of all three days. It's helpful to go back and listen when I'm working on a skill and video would be even better. This is the video he did for his 3-day intensive. It would probably give a good idea of what he'll cover in the online lessons. If you take the plunge let us know what you think!
  25. Per Dave's request, I've broken out the individual questions from this thread into their own topics. This thread was becoming a little unwieldy. Hopefully the individual topics will help people find what they're looking for a little easier. If you have any questions, feel free to post a new topic with your question!
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