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Hello all in the CBNation!
Okay, admittedly I am a noob, with all that the term entails. I tried to learn guitar as a kid and never got much beyond remembering how to do a G chord or picking a song or two by ear. This past year I stumbled upon the strumstick/mountain walk-about dulcimer/whatever you wanna call it and I like the diatonic scale-ease-of-play type thing. My wife & kids mess with it far more than I get a chance to...
Anyhoo, I came across a kid-sized guitar at a yard sale for a buck, probably one of the cheapy First Act kind. It has no strings on it. What I would like to do with it is the following:
1. string it like a strumstick BUT I want to use the larger, lower-note strings if i can so i can get a LESS of the twangy-tinny banjo sound. Which strings/combination/tuning would work best for this?
2. mark which frets on it will be diatonic: based on the size of the smaller guitar, where do i make measurements to plug into a fret calculator, and
3. Is there a fret calculator for the strumstick/diatonic scale?
I am guessing there may actually be a post on here somewhere with all these answers, but so far my google search has turned up a little bit of everything and I'm honestly not smart enough to piece together the entire picture without buying all the wrong stuff.
Thanks and God bless you all for your time to answer my mumbly questions ;-)
Hi Mark Milam,
Yes, you can make a blues scale guitar. Where I mentioned the idea, it was in response to a link that Diane in Chicago gave us. The first part of that discussion thread is about diatonic / dulcimer fretting and the second part is about fretting the "bluescimer" or "blues scale guitar", an instrument, that like the dulcimer, uses a limited subset of the chromatic scale. In the case of the bluescimer, they restrict the notes / frets to the notes of the blues scale. I don't recall which notes or frets are included, but they are listed on the page that Diane in Chicago told us about. Here's that link again: http://www.cigarboxnation.com/group/dulciworld/forum/topics/fret-sp... Seems that thread had moved me to making a simple 3-string CBG with interchangeable fretboard that I would simply tie-wrap on. Each fretboard had a different fret scheme, including diatonic, blues scale, and pentatonic as I recall. I did a photo comparing the fret boards. Let me find that and embed it here...
The top fretboard is the Major Pentatonic scale which turns out to be very similar to the Diatonic scale used with stick dulcimers, which is shown in the middle. The bottom fretboard is a "Bluescimer" (Blues Scale) fretboard. To do the Blues justice, I think I need to use heavier strings and perhaps a longer fretboard. The fret 0 (nut) is shown on the right. The scale length used was 50cm (a little bit less than 20"). Here a picture of my "test-bed" instrument:
This is my Sosa 3-stringer. It features a box with "cut-corner sound holes" a laminated neck with three different cut-nail fret boards: Dulcimer Diatonic, "Bluescimer" (Blues Scale), and Major Pentatonic. You can see one of the two tie-wraps that hold the fretboard in place. The other tie-wrap is up around the nut (between fret 0 and the nut).
Here are the blues scale frets to use to create a "bluescimer" or "blues scale guitar":
0, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 24.
Note that this includes the optional 6th and 18th blues scale notes/frets.
So, to build a blues scale guitar from a regular guitar, simply remove the following guitar frets:
1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21 and 23.
I don't know the best tuning, number of strings, or playing techniques, but I suspect if you
follow the Blues as taught by Shane Speal, you should be able to produce some pretty nice
Delta Blues music in a short time and with ease as compared to a standard chromatically
Thanks again to all the wonderful folks who provided such great information!! I'm getting ready to get the thang strung...
I do have another question that has confuzzled me... When i search for notation and sheet music information, it is mentioned fretting "the first string" but i've read over some conflicting information. When you fret "the 1st string" and strum, is it the smallest, highest-tuned string, or the lowest-tuned, heavier string?
I play by ear mostly anyways, and I like playing around and enjoying the notes and sounds when i fiddle with both, but anytime i wanted to try music written and notated for the dulcimer this has gotten me a bit lost. Any clarity available here?
Thanks again, CBGurus ;-)
Well I guess I have to play devils advocate here, and be the one to (Very respectfully) disagree with many of the responses to this!
First let me say that I play and study Diatonic fretted instruments, (As well as Chromatic) so I have nothing against them.
But I have to ask, why remove any frets? Hey, if marking them off any way you please helps you learn, terrific. But heres a couple of reasons I would suggest leaving them.
First off, its work, with little in return. It will leave open slots to deal with, you will be at risk of chipping the fingerboard upon removal and if the neck strength is marginal you might increase the chance of deflection due to string tension, as the frets wedged into those slots gives some additional strength under tension. You will also very likely need to re-level and fix the fretboard after that modification as well.
Second is musical theory related, and I dont want to confuse an already difficult subject to communicate in the discussion format, but heres some thing to consider as an example, put in a simplified manner. If you play any modern music (As in the last century......) you will want to play basic I, IV, V progressions in the key of the instrument. (If you dont yet know what this is, take my word for it, even playing by ear you will hit this obstacle.) On a Chromatic fretted instrument thats going to involve the #3 and #5 frets any way you approuch it. On a Diatonic fretted instrument guess what...... Somethings missing!
Thats not to say it cant be done, there are work arounds and ways of arranging, but sometimes it becomes a crutch, and complicates learning some basic songs. In addition, what percentage of tablature and fakes are going to be available for learning your favorite songs on a diatonic instrument? Trust me, its a challenge.
Theres a bunch of people involved in a really cool movement to play modern and contemporary music on traditional instruments, and if thats your interest, cool! I happen to be a big fan and am trying to incorporate that into my music education and experience. One thing I am learning is that because of that, a lot of players are using instruments with a few frets added back into the Diatonic. Like a 1+ (Sometimes also called a 1 1/2 fret) which corresponds to...... The number 3 Chromatic fret that you will really want if you are going to play anything that resembles the blues, country, rock and roll.........
So based on those reasons and more, I suggest.... Leave the frets alone. Mark them as needed if it helps you on your path!
Now on to another suggestion. The neck is too wide in my opinion for a 3 string setup. If it were me, I would consider something with 4 strings. You hinted you didnt want it to sound too much like the strumstick or a banjo, Maybe consider a string and tuning arrangement for a baritone uke, or a four string guitar or something. Or an equal spaced 4 string baritone dulcimer setup if you want to go unusual. With a new/rebuilt nut and bridge, many variations are possible. Really its up to you to decide, what kind of sound do you seek, what kind of music do you want to play. What kind of style do you want to play, (fretted/unfretted, strummed/crosspicked/fingerstyle/clawhammer, chorded/noter, etc etc)
I really hope that helped some how and didnt just make matters even more confusing!
Well, I picked up a set of nylon strings last night at the local overpriced music store...
I wanted to start simply, with just three strings: A, D, & G.
Well, now I could buy the individual strings for 2.50 each or get the entire set for 10... [sarcasm] what a bargain... [/sarcasm]
So I picked up the set for 10 and got to thinking, I'll just use the EAD strings and see how it sounds... The strings were wound with wire around, it looked like, a cotton core... Is this how thicker nylon strings are supposed to be?
The D snapped early on, twice.I'm pretty sure i don't know how to tie the end of the strings properly. Much respect to you all who have done this for so long and know what you are doing. I never imagined the strings could snap so easily.
Even when I did get the strings in, I could get the E to sound pretty good, but the rest had a buzzing noise to them. I even went ahead and strung the remaining G, b, & e strings and they had the same noise. I'm betting this is why a cheapo "First Act" brand guitar was available for $1.
So, switching gears, I'll try something else...
Mark Bliss, you make some good points. To answer your question, the music I'd most like to play is much like the easy-going strumming of Jack Johnson and the Hawaiian-type stuff, but I don't think I'd like the Uke as they are usually so high-strung. my singing voice has deepened over the years, which is why i'd prefer to have some lower strings to play along with me so it doesn't sound so discordant.
I'd tried to learn guitar years ago as a teenager, but it never stuck and I could never get my fingers to bend the right way to make the chords. Since then I've broke both wrists twice and I highly doubt I could make my wrists and fingers handle chords now, either.
All this points to why the strumstick idea sounded so attractive: one finger on a string while you strum; however, they are strung so high and twangy, it's pretty far off from what i would like. I enjoy bluegrass and banjo stuff sometimes, but its not what I'd prefer to play. I'd also need to be able to play some simplified songs for the kids at church, so as long as i can strums some background noise that matches the tune fairly well...
So my next question is: with a CBG that has 3 strings (ADG?) how does the chording on those work?
I have no tools except a screwdriver & socket set and live in an apartment with no real good place to set up shop; which leaves me with buying one of Shane's CBGs or whoever has a great deal at the time.
Any recommendations, Gurus?