Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

My Personal Dulcimer Setup

My standard dulcimer setup features what I have found to be the most popular configuration with most players; 4 strings with the 6 1/2 and 13 1/2 frets. The action is set up for a balance of playability and clean sound (minimal buzzes if you play it hard).

I recommend this setup to most people unless they have something else in mind (I offer the option of additional frets and stringing configurations on the dulcimers I make). You can always play a 4 string as a 3 string, change the nut and bridge to accommodate different string spacing, etc.

four string dulcimer peghead

I personally play with 3 strings. I bend strings and play with left hand vibrato and have found that 3 single strings work better for me.

Doug Berch playing dulcimer

My personal dulcimers have a fret between the nut and first fret (I call this a “half fret”) and a 1 1/2 fret . This adds a few chromatic notes that occasionally come in very handy. The 1 1/2 fret seems to have become relatively popular but not many people seem to use a fret between the nut and the first fret.

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4 Comments

  1. Doug Berch

    Hi Art,

    There is a free program that calculates fret placement – it even has a setting specifically for dulcimers. You can find it here:
    http://www.dougsparling.com/software/fretcalc/index.php
    Most people I know use the 17.817 calculation option.

    There are also two fret patterns in “Constructing The Mountain Dulcimer” by Dean Kimball. It’s a good book with a lot of general information about dulcimer construction.

    All the best,

    Doug

  2. Art Stroh

    I am in search of a pattern or the measurements for placement of the fret wire on a mountain dulcimer. I have plans with no mastern pattern or measurements to ensure proper fret placement. Can you tell me where to look?
    Thanks much. Nice Dulcimers!
    Art

  3. Doug Berch

    I use it for playing some things in a minor scale. It also allows a couple of chords that used to require some heavy string bending – much more graceful now with the 1/2 fret. It’s also out of the way since it is below where one usually plays too!

  4. Deborah Robson

    Nifty, Doug. I could see uses for that 1/2 fret in particular.

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Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers