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Hi All,

I am trying to get a "handle" on the scale length of a stick dulcimer verses the range of different 1-5-8 tunings that an instrument can handle without popping (breaking) a string, or having to play with an overly mushy bass string.

In my view there are about 4 ranges of stick dulcimers based on scale length. These are:

  1. Long Scale (24" to 26"): Can play CGC', DAD', and EBE'.
  2. Medium Scale (22" to 24"): Can play EBE', FCF', and GDG', (but DAD' usually has a mushy bass string) 
  3. Short Scale (20" to 22"): Can play GDG', AEA', BFB' and C'G'C'',
  4. Very Short Scale (17" to 20"): Can play AEA', BFB', C'G'C'', and D'A'D"

Are these "findings/observations" similar to what you have been seeing? I generally use guitar strings #1, #2, and #3 from a 6-string electric guitar string set (which gives me a solid steel core string for the bass string rather than a wound string). I know if you use (say) strings #2,#3 and #4 or strings #3, #4 and #5 then your tuning results will no where match my results.

My idea is to be able to offer a few different designs with different scale lengths to meet popular tunings, and while I've always assumed I could tune anything DAD' that's just not so on short scaled instruments (w/o moving up a full octave).

-Rand.

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