Eight strings and counting

Previously on “What’s He Building In There?”………

“This one will be a mountain dulcimer based on some crazy ideas that I have been kicking around for some time. Fearing future failure and the resulting embarrassment, I’m not going to say much about where I’m going with this dulcimer except that it may have more than thirty strings! I don’t even have a name for this instrument yet and I might need some suggestions after the big “Reveal” so I apologise in advance for being a bit vague.”


It sure won’t be quite like this!

I’m still planning to attach multiple necks with more than thirty strings to this mountain dulcimer and I have to say that I have lost not a small amount of sleep worrying about how I’m going to do it. It has been said that “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that that  sounds a lot like it could become my personal motto. Potential failure has never prevented me from at least trying different things so I’ll bumble along.

The first two of the multiple fretboards are nearly complete and will account for eight strings. They could be called brother and sister because of their family likeness. Both are made of mahogany with stained bubinga fretboard overlays. The pegheads are cut to the same shape but are “mirror opposites” and have been overlaid with differently figured and colored veneers. Both are drilled for four machine tuners with one getting chrome tuners and the other gold.

We wonder, how can family members who came from the same place and live in the same house (in this case on the same instrument) be so different? The difference here is in scale and and intended use.

The first two fingerboards side by side before attaching to the body.

The first neck has a diatonic scale that is 30″ long from the nut (zero fret) to the bridge. To me, this is a very long scale and is my first venture into the “baritone zone”. The longer strings on this fretboard will be tuned much lower than the usual DAD, maybe to AEE. The longer scale and slightly heavier strings should carry this lower tuning without the strings flopping like noodles. I’m hoping to play rich, low, droning harmonies on this neck using a noter. Slower rather than livelier tunes will probably be best given the extra long scale.


The second sibling is quite different. Its 25-1/2″ scale is WAY shorter and is chromatic with all of the frets. I plan to tune it to the standard DAD to play rhythm chords and maybe include some fingerpicking. You might notice how the frets are all squeezed closer together. This will be a benefit when playing some of the more difficult chords that require stretching across three or four frets.