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String intonation question (resolved)

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Mar 15, 2019 - 6:22:06 PM
18 posts since 2/22/2007

Okay, so this is a dulcimer question, rather than a banjo question, but the physics are the same ...

I got a new strumstick, and the low string it came with is changing its intonation when I fret it (and no, not in the way it's supposed to).

If I finger it right up on the fret, it's fine, but if I finger behind the fret, and push the string to the fretboard, it shifts about a quarter-tone sharp. The string seems to be stretching over the fret as I push it down. I've never had this happen before on other instruments (not so noticeably, anyhow), and it doesn't happen with the other strings. The bridge and nut seem fine, and the frets aren't particularly high. It's tuned to D, and the VSL is the same as my full-size lap dulcimer, so this should be about right.

Any ideas how to fix this? I'm guessing using a lighter/tighter string may help (I don't know the weight/gauge of this one, since it was on the instrument when it showed up, but the instructions recommend a .17-.22 range).

Since this is a dulcimer, with a diatonic fretboard, it's a major pain--the frets are really far apart, so fingering on the fret is sometimes impossible.

If this is a silly question, my apologies ...

Edited by - rth97601 on 03/15/2019 20:14:55

Mar 15, 2019 - 6:38:49 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13656 posts since 3/27/2004

Not a silly question.  What you are experiencing is a result of string gauge, tuning used, and fret height.

The easiest thing you can do is increase the string size so the string will have more tension at your selected tuning.

Mar 15, 2019 - 7:16:50 PM

18 posts since 2/22/2007

Really? Good to know.

I thought I'd go the other way, since the thinner strings don't have that issue as it is.

But then, I've never paid much attention to the physics of gauge or weight ... I just trust the packagers to get it right, and then buy for the sound. With banjos, I've had pretty standard setups, so it was never an issue.

Much to learn, much to learn ...

Mar 15, 2019 - 8:13:58 PM

18 posts since 2/22/2007

... and my thanks, Rudy.

I trimmed down and put on a .023 4th string out of a pile of banjo spares, and it worked. The tone is steadier and better all around.

The problem is resolved, and I learned something ...

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