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Posts posted by Admin

  1. I second what NoterMan suggested.  Do you have a particular genre of music you're interested in learning now?  The next step might be to identify some songs you like and look at skills associated with playing them, like flatpicking or fingerpicking, to go beyond a basic strum.

  2. I recommend DAd tuning to start as it's become the most common and you'll find more resources (tab/workshop/videos) for learning it.  Having the middle and melody strings tuned differently also gives access to more notes without moving your hand by playing across strings and allows for playing wider chord voicing.  On DAA the middle and melody string gauges are often the same.  For DAd, the melody is usually a lighter gauge.  

    You can use a string gauge calculator to dial in the exact gauges for your instrument based on VSL, but some common sets of gauges for DAd are .024, .013, .011 or .025, .014, .012.  I'd lean to slightly lighter gauges on the double melody string as it requires twice as much pressure to fret as a single string of the same gauge.

  3. Welcome!

    You can go just about anywhere for wood.  Dulcimers are often built out of some type of Walnut or Cherry.  Various types of mahogany are also fairly popular in modern instruments.  Really though, most common hardwoods should work fairly well.  Sometimes tops will be done in some type of spruce/pine/cedar or butternut.

    The slots in the fretboard are fairly straightforward to cut, especially on a flat fretboard.  I used a Dozuki Saw (brand of japanese pull saw) to cut the frets on the instruments I've built.  With that type of saw just a lay out the fret spacing on the fretboard and then gently pull it the saw across the marks.  Check the depth as you go and go a little deeper if needed.  Once it starts to form a slot it will generally stay straight in the groove.  They do make fretsaws specifically for fretting, but any saw that will give a clean cut the right width for the tang on the fret to fit in will work.  I've had good luck with the pull saw so I can recommend that.

    Since you've built yourself a side bender, you're well on your way to building an hourglass without much trouble.

    I know Cedar Creek Dulcimers and McSpadden Dulcimers both offer hourglass kits for under $200.  That might the way to go for a first build as you'll have all the wood pre-cut and fretboard slots cut.  You'd just have to glue it together and do the finishing work on it.  They also come with the option of pre-cut sound holes - which can be the most delicate work depending on the shape.

    Hopefully that helps.  Feel free to ask more questions and we'd love to see your build once you get it together!

  4. I've mostly used Terry McCafferty's capos for the reasons you mention. They're well built and easy to take on and off. I've never had to fuss with them to get them to hold, they just work.

    I've also heard a lot of good things about Ron Ewing's capos, but I haven't had the chance to try one yet.

  5. Joe Collins makes what he calls the "working class" capo.  It's just a bolt, a wing nut,  some vinyl tubing and cork for the sides.  If you're looking to save money it might be cheaper to get one from him than buying larger quantities of the stuff to make it. 

    Here's a link with a photo of his:


    I would think it would be fairly straightforward with wood/cork sandwich for the sides being the only part that might require some tools.  If I had to guess, I'd say he used a hole saw drill bit to punch them out.

  6. There's a lot available now due to the pandemic.

    Stephen Seifert and Dulcimer Crossing both have online / on demand videos. 

    Bing Futch gives full access to his vault of videos and books if you subscribe to his Patreon for $5 a month.  There's a lot of video lessons from festival workshops in there.

    Then there are individual workshops that instructors do live.  To name a few:

    And for a festival, the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association festival is coming up in a couple weeks.  Registration was extended, but ends tomorrow for that one.  Hope that helps!


  7. Thanks for the extra photos, it's a interesting instrument 🙂

    Sometimes they will have the maker's info written inside the instrument if you can see anything in there.  It might give a clue to the age.

    For strings, I would take it to music shop and ask them to measure the ones that are still on there.  They can measure them with calipers or a micrometer and tell you the exact size and probably sell you single strings.  Many of them will be the same thickness, though you may want a thicker string for strings tuned lower.

    If you're able to measure the distance between the saddle and the metal fret closest to the tuning pegs we can use a calculator based on the intended tuning to recommend some gauges.


  8. 2 hours ago, sensi3d said:

    my middle string (.013) (A) has a ring/buzz   when plucked strongly.  it does this when i pluck it it over the last fret or hollow. the fret board is dead flat. the frets are level. i am using gold evo frets.  i tried back filing the nut, changing wire gauge , i have built hundreds of dulcimers but this is driving me nuts.

    What does the crown on the frets look like?  Do they have a well rounded top with a single point of contact for the string or are they possibly a little flat? 

  9. Greetings! 

    It looks like a type of hummel / hommel.  They can be tuned similarly to a dulcimer with the drone strings being the root and 5th of the scale and then the melody strings being tuned to the mode you want to play (5th for Ionian, 4th for Aoelian, 8th for Mixolydian, etc.).

    So for example CGG or DAA tuning could just be extended to match the number of strings. 

    A tuning like CGGG-GGGGGG would work for playing major scale/ionian mode songs.

  10. Welcome!  Feel free to ask any questions you have and we'll try to help you out.

    Regarding the strings - most of the time a DAA set will make it up into DAd, though depending on the exact gauge they may not.  Also if the strings are older you may want to go ahead and change them anyways.

    Looking at the fretboard, your dulcimer doesn't have a 6 1/2 fret on it so a 1-5-5 tuning like DAA or CGG may be better for playing most tunes.  These are tuning for playing the major scale from the 3rd fret up to the 10th fret, also known as Ionian mode.

    Without the 6 1/2 fret if it's tuned DAd, it will play the Mixolydian mode from the open string.  This is close to the Major scale/Ionian mode, but the 7th note (6th fret) is flat.  A 6 1/2 fret allows it to play the major scale from the open string up to the 7th fret.  

    It's possible to play major scale tunes in DAd without a 6 1/2 fret, but you'll either need to avoid tunes that call for the 6 1/2 fret, play that note on the middle string (9th fret on middle string is the same note as the 6 1/2 on the melody string), or possibly have a 6 1/2 fret added to the instrument.  DAA is a perfectly good option too, though less common now.

    Either way you'll have a lot of fun, but I would recommend changing the string if they're more than a year or two old. 


    • Like 1
  11. Unfortunately all the plans I've seen are full size.  I think this may be a case where you'll have to scale an existing plan down or design your own. 

    One thing that may be helpful to think about if you scale one down yourself - you probably want to keep the fretboard width (and string spacing) at or near regular width so it doesn't impact the playability.

  12. 14 hours ago, Brudd said:

    Ultimately, I'm going to be making the Dulcimer for one of my daughters and either the "Merlin" type or a Ukulele for her twin sister. I've made Ukulele's before but it would be my first Dulcimer.

    If you're familiar with building a Ukulele, you could make it as a 3 or 4 string with diatonic frets and you'd be all set.  I've seen a couple like that before:

    Druid Moon by Folkcraft Bobbi-Jo Dulcilele Hybrid Dulcimer / | Reverb

    • Like 1
  13. From what I can find on plum it should be similar to a very hard maple.  It'll probably make a bright sounding instrument.  And it looks like it glues and finishes well, so you should be fine.

    Dulcimers are commonly made out of walnut, cherry, mahogany and sometimes have a spruce, redwood, maple or butternut tops.  But really they're made out of all sorts of woods.  Even cardboard.

  14. I agree with @NoterMan, you're not likely to find a pattern for one as it's a commercial instrument they created on their own pattern.  I use to have one of these and they're definitely carved from a single piece of wood except for the top, which a separate piece laid on the body.

    Just want to mention one thing about the tuning / frets on these.  They come tuned DAd, which is fine, but they don't have what would be called a 6 fret on a dulcimer (only 6.5).   The fret pattern is Ionian instead of Mixolydian from the open string, which has a couple consequences: 1) You can't play Mixolydian tunes and 2) It's missing the G note on the middle string (only has G#) which makes forming some chords odd.  3) Modal tuning is problematic.  You can still do it, but the modes will not match the ones on a dulcimer because of the fret pattern differing. 

    If you're building one, I'd at least add the regular 6 fret on there.  Also the number of frets is a little low.  You can still play a lot with it, but there are also a lot of tunes will go to the 10th fret, some the 12th.  You may want something with a few more frets for more versatility.  If you do build one, would love to see some pics 🙂

  15. The link you posted is just one image.  Can you give a better picture of the label?  I can make out the words "Salterios" and "Atlizaya"(?) which I would guess are the brand, model or manufacturer.  And then it says "Reproducion de ..." which means "Reproduction of ...".  I was thinking "Salterios" is somehow related to Psaltery and Google translate confirms that's the spanish word for psalteries.

    I don't personally know much about hammered dulcimers, others will know more, but the label will likely be the most helpful thing to track down more info.

    edit: Is what I'm think of as the label, actually the business card you mentioned?



  16. Hi Elizabeth,

       Welcome to the site.  I'm not familiar with that maker and I haven't seen one by them before.  Doing a little searching, the only thing I came up with is probably the same listing you're looking at.  There was also a reference to someone with that name starting a dulcimer club ~25-ish years ago but that was about all I could find.  It could be a one off / personal instrument that they built for themselves. 

       I remember seeing a class last year for building this style of instrument, I think it was at the Black Mountain festival.  So it could be something like that as well.

  17. A luthier (instrument builder/repairer) would probably be the way to go to have one added.  Most dulcimer builders can do that for you, but local places that work with fretted instruments (guitars for example) would have the tools to do it.  They basically need to saw a new slot for it, hammer in the fret wire and then dress it so it's the right shape/height and doesn't have sharp edges. 

    DAD is the most common tuning you'll find in modern books and publications and also at jams / workshops.  It's still fairly common to retune the dulcimer to play in other modes (like DAC for the minor key), but most classes and instruction books will assume you're set up for and starting in DAD with a 6+ fret. 


  18. Feel free to post any questions as you come across them! 

    You might consider having a 6+ fret added if you want to explore more. With that and a string change you can set up to play in DAD with most modern material you'll find.

  19. Glad to help 🙂

    In regards to your book, the 6+ won't generally be a problem playing DAD tunes on DAA as it will be the 9th fret as I mentioned above.  The regular 6 fret is where you may run into a little difficulty.  You could bend the 8th fret to get that note if needed.

    Most DAD tunes in modern books are going to be D Major (Ionian mode) songs and will mostly use the 6+ fret and rarely the 6.  In that case, just add 3 to the fret numbers on the melody string and you're all set.

    If you come across a song in DAD with a lot of 6 frets and no 6+, it's a probably a song in Mixolydian mode and is intended be played on a dulcimer like yours without the 6+ fret, but tuned up to DAD.  An example of this would be Old Joe Clark.  You're not likely to run into too many of these, so not something to worry too much about, but worth being aware of.  Happy playing!

  20. If it's actually a DAA tab that's calling for a 6+ note on the melody string (G#) that would be odd, but without the extra fret you'd need to bend as KWL said.

    But do you mean playing a DAD tab on DAA?  If so the 6+ fret would be the 9th fret.

    An easy way to convert DAD to DAA is to just add 3 to the tab notes. (0 would be 3).


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