Thought it would be nice to have this all in one place.

Most dulcimers include the following frets from the chromatic (all of 'em) fingerboard:

0 2 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 - octave 1

12, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24- octave 2

24, 26, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36 - octave 3

I also use a simplified one:

0 2 4 5 7 9 11 12, etc.

For both of those, you can capo up to the 2 fret and also play in minor.

And here is the blues-cimer. I just made two and the are lots of fun to play, you can easily use Shane's videos over in "how to play" to get lots of ideas for improvising.

0 3 5 7 10 12 (optional 6) (edited 1/26/10 to include 5!)



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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Rand

Thanks for going to so much trouble for me, this may sound like a stupid questrion but my dad always said if you don't know ask so here go's.Do you need a special tool to measure the exact disatance between fret. eg 0.364" with thanks Mal (UK)

Rand Moore said:

Hi Mal,


I think an octave and a half would be plenty, and it would make it easier to construct an instrument around. To get a better picture, you could use a fret calculator to see how many frets you can go before the fret-to-fret distance gets too narrow. I've done this for you already, and here's my results:

Assuming you can find a 9" long cigar box, you can put frets 0 thru 17 on the neck. If you extend the fretboard over the sound box by maybe 1.5", you should be able to put frets 18 and 19 on your fretboard without too much trouble. The fret-to-fret distance at fret 19 is just a tad under 0.5", so I'd go for it.


So, in summary, try using guitar frets 0, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18 and 19 to implement your blues scale. You should be able to do it on a 9" long cigar box and 16.5" long fretboard that overlaps the sound box by roughly 1.5". Hope this helps.







Hi Mal.

Not a dumb question at all. The more accurately you can measure and cut your frets, the more accurate your resulting fretboard will be when it comes to proper intonation.

For starters, you should throw away all the data I did for you in inches and re-do it in metric because metric is easier to make accurate measurements with. So to begin, let's convert your 24.5" scale length into metric: 2.54 * 24.5 = 62.23 cm. So, go to the StewMac fret calculator - here's the link. When you get there, enter  "24" for the number of frets, "62.23" for the scale length, click on the "Millimeters" radio button, and select "Acoustic Guitar" from the Instrument list box. Finally, click the red "calculate" button. After a few moments it should come back with all the fret measurements you need.

Notice that I had you enter the scale length in centimeters (62.23 cm, not 622.3 mm). I did this because I prefer my measurements in cm, and although the table generated by the StewMac calculator says "mm", they are really "cm".

So, I usually cut and paste this table of data generated by the StewMac calculator into either Notepad or Excel and edit out the data I don't need, like the guitar frets I won't be using. You can also do a search an replace to convert all the "mm" to "cm". I also usually edit out the column that gives you fret-to fret measurements, because you want to make all your measurements from the nut to the fret being cut for maximum accuracy. Now, when you get down to marking and cutting your fret slots, you are going to be hard pressed to cut anything with the accuracy of 1/10 of a cm. Usually, you have to eyeball that last 1/10 of a cm the best you can and make a guess and go for it.

If you can find a precision scale (ruler) marked down 0.5 millimeters, that's great. Turn on your desk light and get out a large free standing magnifying glass to better see the markings and make your marks and cuts with that. I usually just use a regular metric scale where the finest interval is 0.1 cm and make a guess as to how far across that last tenth of a cm I should go. The result is usually accurate enough. I also use a fine toothed razor saw to mark my fret locations as I find it more accurate than using a pencil.

When getting ready to cut your fret slots, I first clamp my metric scale down to my work surface and then carefully position the fret board next to the scale, lining up where fret 0 (or my nut) with the 0 mark on the scale, then clamp down the fretboard. While doing this I am also lining up the near edge of my fretboard with the edge of my work surface to help keep things good and square. I then use my small carpenter's square, and with my edited list of fret locations and my razor saw, I carefully mark each fret location. Since I don't have a proper fret saw, I use my coping saw and carefully cut each of the marks, cutting down into the fretboard until my coping saw's blade is flush with the surface of the fretboard. Once I have made all my cuts, I get my fret wire out and insert a piece into the slot, place a small board-let (usually 6cm x 3cm x 0.5cm piece of trim wood scrap) over it and hammer on the board-let to force the fret wire into the fret slot. I then clip off the excess and repeat this process down the fretboard. Then I file the rough edges of the fret wires until pretty smooth. Then I glue my fretboard onto my neck...

Also, for softer woods, I usually put 2 or 3 coats of polyurethane on to help stiffen the wood, then afterwards apply 2 or 3 more coats to kind of glue the frets in for good measure. Because of the frets I have to paint these later coats on at right angles to the grain of the wood. Between coats of polyurethane, I sand with #000 steel wool.

Well, I hope I covered everything. If you need more help you can send me a plane ticket and I can come over and show you how to do it.


thank you my friend you have been a great help and I relly apreciate it.rtegards mal

Same fret spacing?
Wow. What a great discussion. I was worried about fret spacing for a CBD, and have learned more in the last 10 mins than I ever could have on my own. I'm really digging the blues scale. Might do that first. Thanks to all!

This is exactly the information I've been looking for to start building fretted canjos

Hello. I don't know any chords or anything like that. I've been just playing the high string, but now I lookin to expand my playing. I've got mine tuned DAd, but it was made minor so when I put a capo on the second fret it's major. Seems backward from most peoples lol. How do I find chords for this? I'm hoping you or anyone else can help. Like I said before I don't know what I'm doing, and this makes it so I'm not sure where to go from here.


Can you post a photo of your fingerboard?  It does sound unusual.

This is what it looks like


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