Having built a few standard CBG's and Strummersticks (almost all 3-strings tuned GDg),, I'm intrigued by the idea of a mountain dulcimer.    I'm guessing the lap-style would be to reverse the high-to-low strings and tuning dd-A-D (the twin dd melody strings being at the 'top' of the fretboard, in typical CBG layout).   OR, if I take the Seagull design idea, played more like a typical guitar, go D-A-dd.   Am I on the right track here?

Also, why are the twin strings tuned to the same note (like on dulcimers or mandolins)?  THanks for your insights!

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Yes you are on the right track.

The high string is doubled for more volume and a nice tone and usually much much closer together, (look at an 8 string mandolin or 12 string guitar in the music store)

Dulcimers are usually played by droning the D and A strings while fretting the higher d d strings. Also the d d strings are usually a octave apart, but not always.

Diatonic scale is the scale used on a Dulcimer. This scale has only whole notes, no half notes(sharps or flats). However some Dulcimers are fretted to add a half note in one or more spaces on the fretboard.

Many builders have used the Diatonic scale on Uke's, Banjo's and CBG's for a long time. I made a Baritone scale(28") conversion neck for a Strat guitar that I have. It's a 6 string C-G-C-G-c-c Diatonic scale. I call it the Dulcitar. I can play the lowest 3 strings as a Bass, the highest 4 strings as a guitar or dulcimer or put some distortion to it to play rock or blues slide. It's a very versatile instrument. 

Cool, Paul! Nice Dulcitar!  Thanks for the info - I didn't realize that some tuned the highest d-d strings an octave apart.

Thanks. Mountain Dulcimers did tune the highest strings an octave apart for the most part, but it's okay to have them the same too.

Use Google to search on some info on Dulcimers to get some ideas for your build, choose a scale length, use Stewmac's fret calculator and have have fun building. We'll help along the way any way we can.

Thank Paul!   Will keep you posted!

Not to intrude but I have to insert a correction here:

Diatonic fretting is setting the frets to DO RAY ME FA SO LA TI DO and skipping the accidentals, the notes not in the major scale, and it DOES include sharps and flats depending on what note you start on.

G A B C D E F# G

D E F# G A B C# D

F G A Bb C D E F

For 1-5-8 (or 8-5-1 lap style) tuning this is how it is fretted:

Aha!  That explains why when singing (in my head, at least) "do-rey-me-fah..." and playing on my G string, it sounds right to play F# instead of F before the final G!!   That one had me stumped!   Thanks JL!

BTW, please feel free to comment!  Always learning here!

also note the split fret for the middle string, that's because the outside strings start on DO but the middle one starts on SO,


Different tuning will have different results because of where the notes will fall. I was referring to the Mountain Dulcimer tuning with is almost always tuned to C and putting E and B in the short spaces. I should of stated that.

JL's diagram shows that extra fret I was referring to.

Yup Gary, you're on the right path. The mountain dulcimers I've made and worked on are often tuned dd,A,D 

with the high d closest to your belly. There are other tunings that get used too but dd,A,D is what I usually use. That doubled high string is used for melody notes and the old style of playing lets the other two strings drone away. Many modern players have taken things to another level with chords and melodies on all of the strings. I've made several of these with a single high d string and they sound pretty good too. The doubled melody string adds a bit more volume and also a sort of chorusy type sound since the two don't sound exactly in tune as you play up and down the neck. 

The fret placement is often simply diatonic or the do,re,mi major scale notes but I often add an extra fret or two in order to play certain notes.

Good luck with your build.

Here's one of my favorite dulcimer players.


Thanks much, Jim!   I actually was thinking of some of your dulcimer builds as I contemplated trying my own!  Your checkerboard dual-purpose one was epic!  ;-)  I also think I'll use a diatonic-plus to be able to play some of the things I can already play.

One other question - do you typically have a one-piece top, or split it to butt up to the neck?  I'll keep you posted on my progress!   


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