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To Distinguish Whether Mountain Dulcimer Is D-A-A or D-A-D Built

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I have read somewhere in a forum that Mountain Dulcimers are made for certain strings whether for D-A-A or D-A-D. There was something about measurements of a particular part. If this is true, how can I determine what strings I should use?


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DAd and DAA are so very close that hardly anyone ever tries to build specifically for either of those tunings; and then they aren't using Mean Tone intonation and they are among a handful of those building traditional olde tyme replicas and similar instruments of the Pre-Revival era -- not modern dulcimers like McSpad, FolkCraft, etc..  

Generally speaking you need two pieces of information and a tool to figure out which strings to use for the tuning you want:  You need to know the VSL (Vibrating String Length) between the Nut and Bridge, and the Open tuning you want to use primarily -- DAA, DAd, CGG, CGc etc.  You also need to know the link to the Strothers String Gauge Calculator tool:  Tom & Missy Strothers | String Choice   You enter the VSL to the nearest .01", then you select a string  to determine the gauge you need.   Note that Mixolydian tunings are designated DAd or CGc  not DAD or CGC.  The Capital D designates the Bass string; the lower case d designated the one-octave-higher-pitch Melody string.   The capital A or G indicates that that note is in the same octave as the Bass string.

The calculator is notably "light".  You can easily choose strings which are somewhat heavier -- a suggested .010 string can easily be a .011 or even .012.  This variability allows for simple re-tuning from DAd to CGc or even down to BFb; and up from DAd to EBe and perhaps to FCf.  If you try to tune above F, there is a serious chance you'll break the bass string.  If you tune below B, the strings will be so floppy they won't sound properly.


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