I've got a moveable bridge on my traditional style dulcimer and I'm having problems in that the dulcimer sometimes sounds terrible. I moved the bridge some experimenting and found it sounded a lot better in one spot than another. My question is; what is the best way to immobilize the bridge once I've found the sweet spot?
Just wondering... do you know about setting your bridge for proper intonation?
You'll need to tune your dulcimer, then fret it at the 7th fret (on the diatonic scale) and see if it's in tune there also. Check the top and bottom strings this way.
You'll have to move the bridge back and forward in tiny amounts, and then check the tune after each movement. You will need it to be in the same tuning at the 7th fret, as it is open.
Once you have it set, put a couple small pencil marks for future reference. If you're having trouble with it moving, stand it on it's end, and put just one small drop of super glue along the edge and let it dry before playing. But usually the string tension will hold them in place without glue.
Remember........... most folks don't realize it, but even a change in string sizes will sometimes change the intonation. That's what makes a movable bridge handy. So if you change string sizes, always recheck your bridge.
Measure from the inside edge of the Nut to the top of the 7th fret. Multiply x2. That's how far from the Nut the inside face of the Bridge should nominally be.
Moving things until it "sounds good" is not always the best way to go. Your hearing may not be as accurate as you think. Use a tuner, which is infinitely more accurate than your ear.
Once you've got the Bridge located mathematically as described above, do as Bobby says - use a tuner to check the accuracy at the 7th fret of the tuning of the bass and melody string (outer string if you have a melody couplet). You may find that the bass string end of the Bridge needs to be as much as 1/8" farther away from the nut, depending on the thickness of the bass string. Use a sharp pencil and draw a line on the fretboard to mark the location and angle of the Bridge.
Thanks a bunch guys. I'd been moving it around and got it to sound better, but your suggestions will get her fine tuned. I had changed strings awhile back and went to a smaller unwound bass string to get a more traditional sound. After a bit it started sounding pretty bad. I think I would just like to get it dialed in and glue it down. Thank again!
Sound (pun intended) wisdom. Pencil mark it is! Thanks for everyone's advice.