Scale Lengths, etc.


Scale Lengths, etc.

This group is designed as a resource for all things related to scale lengths, string gauges, etc.

Members: 249
Latest Activity: Jun 21

Discussion Forum

Fret template

Started by Randy Drysdale. Last reply by Tim Pannabecker Jan 28, 2019. 6 Replies

I was reading where people on here would take the measurements off of stewmac and input them into their program and printout a template to tape or transfer their pattern to the fret board....anyway…Continue

String gauge for 20" - GDG

Started by jawbone. Last reply by Uncle Fred Sep 22, 2014. 7 Replies

Hey all!! Just found this area!!!I have built a 20" scale CBG for my grandson - I want to tune it GDG, that same as what I play. What gauge strings should I be using? I tried 36, 26 and 17 but it…Continue

Cura saz scale length

Started by Cin wel. Last reply by Cin wel May 25, 2013. 4 Replies

Im going to build a cura saz cbg and Im wondering if anyone has input? I'm thinking 18 in.scale length ,14 frets plus quarter tones..for fret spacing.. Any ideas?

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Comment by Rand Moore on July 21, 2011 at 3:13am

Darn, I posted those last two responses in the wrong place. I guess that's what I get by having two many tabs opened to CBN. Sorry about that.



Comment by Rand Moore on July 21, 2011 at 12:45am

P.S. Photos if the finished guitar I mentioned in my last post we on the second page of the thread. Here's a direct link.


Comment by Rand Moore on July 21, 2011 at 12:40am

After doing some more research using Google, a couple of observations:

1.) Those who talk about ergonomic and ease-of-use tend to have less extreme fanned  fret angles, and the difference in the treble and bass scale lengths is often a inch or less. One builder had just 1/2" difference between the two scale lengths, which seems to defeat the purpose.

2.) Some builders use fanned frets in conjunction with a bridge that allows the scale length of each string to be tuned (adjusted) individually. I assume this is done to improve intonation. Here is a photo showing the type of bridge I'm talking about:

Here's the link to the thread where this guitar is described. It looks like it will be a great guitar.




Comment by Rand Moore on July 20, 2011 at 10:25pm

Hi Brian.

I have a minimal musical background as well. This hobby of CBG building has certainly caused me to have to research a lot, and read a lot of postings to gain the knowledge that I do have. Just keep building, playing, and reading and it will come.


Comment by Brian Reagor on July 20, 2011 at 5:53am
Hello Rand, Well, that was the most helpful info as of yet, my music background was a very long time ago and I have probably forgotten most if not close to all that I may have learned but my renewed interest in cbg's and the such plus piano I think I can relearn much and get back on track soon, I will study and try to apply what you have gave me, thanks so much...Brian
Comment by Rand Moore on July 19, 2011 at 5:35pm

One more thing...


I may be wrong as to which guitar fret corresponds to frets 6.5 and 13.5. Diane in Chicago says they are 10 and 22. I wish the mountain dulcimer was designed more logically so we wouldn't have to deal with a "6.5" fret. I'm always stumbling over it.


Comment by Rand Moore on July 19, 2011 at 5:27pm

Hi Again, Brian Reagor...

Here's the summary discussion on the topic of Diatonic vs. Chromatic fretting written by Diane in Chicago, a very active CBG member and builder.


Comment by Rand Moore on July 19, 2011 at 5:20pm

Hi Brian Reagor


There is plent of information on diatonic fretboards here in CBN and at other websites on the Interent. You can use CBN's own search facility or Google (or other search engine) to search on them. Here are the basics:


The diatonic scale is a subset of chromatic (12TET) scale. The diatonic scale is based on 7 notes per octave, while the chromatic has twelve notes. If you are familiar with the major scales, you will know that the intervals used to select the notes are "W-W-H-W-W-W-H" (where "W" is a whole step and "H" is a half step). On a diatonic fretboard, the frets used correspond to this same pattern. So, if you are familiar with the piano keyboard in the Key of C, it's like your stringed instruments have frets for the white keys only (no black keys, no sharps, no flats) . Because there are no "accidentals" (sharps and flats), some makers claim that their instruments can play no wrong notes. In essence, you are limiting your instrument to a particular key, which makes playing songs in that key a lot easier. However, the mountain dulcimer (and stick dulcimers) were designed for "Mixalodian mode" (sp?) music where the 7th note of the scale is flattened. To make these instruments capable of playing Ionian mode (a major scale), they added the fret called "six and a half" (abbreviated "6.5" or "6*" or "6+"). This is the main stumbling block for folks trying to learn to play a diatonically fretted instrument.

So, if you plan to build one, you start with the chromatic fretboard layout with 12 frets per octave and you remove four of these frets per octave. If you have an old cheapy guitar, you can do this by ripping out the following frets: 1, 3, 6, and 8 for the first octave, and frets 13, 15, 18 and 20 for the second octave. The diatonic fret known as "6.5" corresponds to the guitar fret 11. On mountain dulcimers, you may also have a similar fret for the second octave called fret "13.5" which corresponds to fret 23 on a chromatic guitar.

If you are making a fret board (or fretting the neck directly), you can used any chromatic fret scale or fret calculator program (web site) and just skip those frets you won't be using on the diatonic fretboard.

Be sure to check the various discussions on this topic that appear in the CBN discussion group called Dulcimers and Strummers. This topic is a common question and it is discussed in there repeatedly.


Comment by Brian Reagor on July 16, 2011 at 7:34am
Mr Robert Sears, Are you then saying that i can take a "Chromatic Scale" that is layed out and skip some of the fret locations and make a Diatonic scale...fretboard?
Comment by Brian Reagor on July 16, 2011 at 7:28am
I was going to ask if there were any templates to print and cut out to help me mark fret positions for a dulcimer fretboard but after reading all these other comments I'm a little more confused, and also why does it seem, so far, impossible to find any info on the diatonic scale and how I can apply it to actually marking a fretboard, is there a method to this madness...or should I just chant "diatonic scale" at the Shaolin temple and hope it appears to me?

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Discussion Forum

Fret template

Started by Randy Drysdale. Last reply by Tim Pannabecker Jan 28, 2019. 6 Replies

String gauge for 20" - GDG

Started by jawbone. Last reply by Uncle Fred Sep 22, 2014. 7 Replies

Cura saz scale length

Started by Cin wel. Last reply by Cin wel May 25, 2013. 4 Replies


Started by Mike Sibinga. Last reply by wormil Jan 12, 2013. 3 Replies

Fret marking method

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