Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Is there a standard for position markers on the dulcimer fingerboard.

I read somewhere it is usually on:

7 - octave
14 - octave

that you find your dots.

Chime in!

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There is no standard for position dots on dulcimers. But there are good reasons to put dots in certain places:

Frets 3 and 10 - mark the start and end of the DAA octave
Fret 4 marks where you fret the bass string to tune the As for DAA
Fret 7 marks end and start of the DAd octave.

Since most builders these days only install 14 frets, you don't really need to mark the end of the second DAd octave.

I don't know why you would mark the 5th fret. It's not the start/end of a Mode scale or a tuning mark that I can think of.
I play a Folkcraft. It came with only the third fret marked. I have gotten used to having only the one dot. It does make a great reference point. I would like to get to the point where I don't have to look at the strings to play. I know that takes lots of practice.
I think that with chromatically fretted instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo, chromatic dulcimer, etc) position dots are very useful.
But they become less needed on dulcimers that have diatonic (or semi-diatonic) long/short fret spacing patterns. The diatonic fret spaces become 'markers' themselves. One easily gets accustomed to getting their visual bearings from the fret spacings.
Which is not to say that people can't enjoy having fret markers anyway, for whatever reasons both practical and/or aesthetic.
I made a chromatic dulcimer without fret markers because I didn't want to mar my beautiful rosewood fretboard overlay. However I wish I had marked the regular diatonic frets. But in reality once I start playing I don't really look at the fretboard. It's when learning a song that I might have to look.

Diane I just looked at pictures of other dulcimers and put the fret dots where they did, so that beginners and others would have a reference point that is similar to other dulcimers (3, 5, 7, 10, and maybe 12), but I'm beginning to think either no dots, or the single dot at the 3rd would suffice.

For the dulcimers with 1-1/2, 6-1/2, 8-1/2, 13-1/2 frets they have a nice spacing without dots.

I don't know why the 5 is marked either, but maybe it is a 3rd from 3 so marked for easily playing 3, 5, 7 arpeggio.
I like markers at frets 3, 7 and 10. 3 gives starting point for the scale when tuned DAA with 10 being an octave above that starting point. DAD starts with the open first string and 7 marks the octave for that tuning.
Having played other string instruments for a lot of years, my brain is conditioned to find the seventh fret two frets above the fifth fret. Always. 5 6 7, simple until I ran into the 6½ fret. That's really the 7th fret you know, count 'em. I like that 7th fret marker to find what my mind has been telling me is the 8th fret.
I'm at the point where I can play without the markers but I prefer them if I have a choice and have added them with a template on my McSpaddens using a black Sharpie marking pen.

It's the 6+ fret because it falls between the 6th and 7th frets of a true Diatonic scale. If you're counting frets on a chromatic scale (all half intervals), then:
1/2, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6+ ....the 6+ fret is the 12th fret of a chromatic fretboard.
I know why it's called what it's called, I'm just saying that in reality it's the seventh fret. When guitar, banjo or mandolin tab calls for a note to be played at the seventh fret you actually play the note at the actual seventh fret whereas most modern dulcimers call the actual eighth fret the seventh because of that pesky 6½ fret.
I'm liking my Warren May more and more everyday.


Ken Hulme said:
It's the 6+ fret because it falls between the 6th and 7th frets of a true Diatonic scale. If you're counting frets on a chromatic scale (all half intervals), then:
1/2, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6+ ....the 6+ fret is the 12th fret of a chromatic fretboard.

I had a 1 1/2 fret installed recently and I'm getting thrown seeing it when I play and it makes me hesitate when finding frets 2 & 3. I know I'll get used to it eventually but, for now, it's really throwing me off. Until I can wrap my eyes/mind around this new addition, I'd like to put a few fret markers in place. Can anyone suggest something temporary that I can use to do that without damaging my fretboard? Thanks for any suggestions.

my hondo had no I put a mark in   the 3rd and 12 position a guitar player first it put me  off about dulcimers .....there is a site I can't remember where  that has  fret markers ....birds ....skulls assorted shapes

I add markers at the 3,7,10 position. And I place a marker at the 6fret on 6.5 instruments. I find markers look nice some can be quite artyfarty but having too many becomes a distraction. If you play a traditional diatonic dulcimer you develop a mental image of the fretboard and don't need markers.... To each his own... Bob.

Thanks Robert. I agree as to developing a mental image of the fretboard. I'm just temporarily thrown off with the addition of that 1 1/2 fret and I hoped a marker on the 2nd fret would help me get accustomed to that new fret until my mind automatically 'saw' it. That's why I only wanted something temporary. As it is now, I had no markers put on my Blue Lion because I didn't want to be dependent on them as you wrote. I just need something temporary that won't damage my beautiful fret board.  Thanks again Robert .......... Barb

Beginning violinists are often given fret markings, in the form of bright colored 1/8" wide tape. Check with a music store that rents student level instruments for the tape. A lot of household tapes may be hard to remove, or leave glue behind. Masking tape is designed to be removed easily, as long as it doesn't stay on too long. Over time, it becomes very hard to remove cleanly, and leaves glue behind. If you use masking tape, remove it every few days and put a fresh piece next time you play. Stay away from duct tape, cellophane tape, electrical tape friction tape, etc. You might try the plastic static clings people use to decorate windows. I never tried it, but it might stick well enough. There's no glue on it to cause trouble.



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