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I want to build a dulci. But have been using wfret for my layout. It has a nice printable template. Anyways can I use the same template and just skip certain frets? If so what frets are skipped? And if not what frets aline differently?

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Hi Brian,

I only play 1-5-8 tunings, so I haven't done spreadsheets for DAC and DF#A. It would not be difficult to do, just copy the file I posted and instead of starting with D'-A-D, start with C-A-D (or A-F#-D), and then for each column to the right, increment the note shown in the table by one semi-tone. Those notes that don't fall on frets you won't have. You can double check using a digital tuner on a dulcimer that you have tuned up to the tuning you are working on. If you do this, and want me to double check it for you, I will.

The mountain dulcimer you show in your photos sure has a nice hour glass shape. The two that I built have either a rectangular box or an elliptical box. I have not had much success with steaming or soaking wood to shape an instrument, so I have put off exploring that direction. Instead, I have been building what I call "paddle box" instruments (shaped like a McNally Strumstick, but a bit bigger) and what I call box guitars (since cigar boxes are rare finds here in China).

Lately I have been building the box guitars (strum sticks and banjos) using resonators made of circular cookie tin lids. They sound nice and loud. You might try to experiment with them. The soundboard should be made pretty stiff so it does not steal as much vibrational energy from the metal resonator as a typical thin acoustic instrument's sound board will. I'll upload a photo...

As I have problems playing chromatic, I used color coded frets. The natural diatonic notes are gold frets while the accidental notes are silver frets. As long as I'm in a well lit place, I can navigate this chromatic fretboard and play my old dulcimer tunes. Eventually, I hope playing chromatic fretboards will come more naturally as I work more with them.

If you are into the Blues at all, you might consider building a "bluescimer"... which has a subset of frets limited to what notes notes blues players usually use. Here's a link to a thread on Cigarbox Nation... What about a blues-cimer?  By the way, I'm more active on Cigarbox Nation.

If Jazz concentrates on some subset of the chromatic scale, you could design a jazzimer... I don't know Jazz, the idea just popped into my mind. Probably Jazz uses all the Chromatic notes...

Well, that's all for now...


Yes, I did something of an apprenticeship on the cbNation, then i sort of moved over here with TC but then got into ukes and Carbon fiber instruments as well as 3 ply timber.  The result is that I have not been too active on either site but keep reading from both of them.  I am here because i was really not understanding diatonic and the "+" frets that were new to me and i knew i needed for jazzy sounds.  I saw your "skip frets" post and a little bit of light began to shine! (Thanks)

I liked the blues dulci thread.. thanks. I see Susan Howel and partner do some swing... i like that and I have bought her book.  Tull is another guy that has a fairly extensive set of lessons on the subject using fairly standard diatonic scales.  I have a lot to learn.  My problem is that i come as a proficient uke player to a being s "crummy" dulcimer player..... but wee all know about practice!  Just feeling a bit frustrated as I thought I would jump right in.... no way!

I am very much a chords person and hope to develop a set for my use for dulcimer.  I do have Hellman as a starter.

I like the idea of color coded frets.  With the uke i do not look at the fret board, but with dulci i do and I think that would help.

Just one tip about bending.  Soak your pre cut timber, say over night.  Wrap them in kitchen foil and with the foil still on them bend them to shape on whatever you have as a bending iron.  Place in your mold after taking the foil off and let them dry. (Suitably supported)

I realize this does not suit your current style of building, but it is a tip to put into the back oif your mind if you decide to to go "bendy".


Hi Brian,

Seems we are pretty much in the same time zone. Usually I don't get to trade posts in near real time.

If you are a chordal player, then you likely will find a dulcimer somewhat difficult to play on. You could of course make/buy a chromatic dulcimer, but, I think if you get used to the idea of using partial chords (instead of the textbook definition of chords), then there just might be enough chord to get by on. Having the 1.5 and 8.5 frets will help, of course. But, I play primarily the melody, though I have worked out chordal versions of a couple simpler songs. Usually, I tell folks that if they are really into chordal players to buy a uke, and if melody (what you hum or whistle to yourself) is what you want to play, then a dulcimer is great. I feel melody and melody with drone styles of playing are a lot simpler than chordal play. But, then chordal playing also opens up lots of options for experimentation.

I've been meaning to get back into bending wood. I'm planning to make a teardrop form this Summer while I'm in the States (have access to a real woodworking shop there). My jury rigged forms didn't work to well, and since that time I've been looking at other folks forms on the Internet. Seems like a good form will provide a solid shape to form the wood to on both sides of the curve. That, and trying other kinds of wood, should get me over my current hangups of not doing bending. I think bending makes a lot sexier instrument than a squarish box.


You are right.  The uke really does some great chords even with only 4 strings.  The problem is that the dulcimer lives up to its "sweetness" and I am sure that romantic songs of the 30s and 40s will l sound good (then I will need to learn to sing!

Off to be now.. time zone or not!


I have done the xl spreadsheets for DAC and DF#A as these are the two i have a need for at this time.  Like you say (EandOE) it was quite easy to use your work as a template (thanks).

Please share them with any other needy soul like me if you wish.

I did look at choosing a dual tuned 3/4 strings;  many seem to have done this, but i found few clashes and at my learning level i decided i would not go in that direction.  Certainly for the mean time.  I tend to think if a person wants to go this way then the 4 equidistant strings may be the way to go? [who am I to be so forward!!!]




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