Hi all. 

Just joined this group having started playing mountain dulcimer this weekend. I'm using a piece of oak as a noter and I'm getting weird phaser type sounds as I slide up and down the fretboard. Anyone know why that would be? I will add that I think the strings are quite old and I'm using an old oak handle from a pin hammer having sanded it clean and cut the hammer head off. Could it be one of these tgings causing it? It's not a horrible sound but I'd rather sort it if possible so I don't HAVE to have it all the time. I tried to upload a sound sample but was unsuccessful. It's almost exactly like a phaser type effect. Any help or ideas? I'd definitely appreciate it. 

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Try using a steel or glass slide and the sound should go away.  Wood or copper slides tend to generate sound as they slide on the strings.

I can try that. I wanted to stay quite traditional with the wood for a noter but if it's the solution to the problem then I can give it a go. I might try a thin and light drill bit shank to see if the problem persists. It'd be metal but still allow me to gather skills from the start as though I were learning to play with a wood noter. I didn't think of the grain of the wood being a culprit so thanks for drawing that to my attention. I had thought either the size of the noter from using a small hammer handle or old and dirty strings. Never dawned on me it could be inherent characteristics of wood. I've seen several videos of people using wood so didn't think it could be the material. I live and learn! Could it also be too much pressure on the strings? Just watched another video where they said to use slight pressure but think I might have been using similar pressure as I would to fret a note on a cbg where the action is set for slide and fingering. I'll try changing that and also try the drill bit shank. Process of elimination haha. Thanks again.

We have a friend who plays Mountain Dulcimer and uses the back of an old pocket knife as his noter/slide.  Seems pretty traditional and sounds good too.

Sounds traditional enough to me. I'd say even more traditional in some sense with people probably using what they had to hand rather than sticking to a learned method. I actually really like the idea of using an old pocket knife as I have several that are pretty useless as knives nowadays. I remember seeing someone playing dobro with a hip flask and that was super cool. I'm not originally cool in any way so I'll try your friends method after the drill bit shank. Thanks again for helping.

There are numerous items used as "Traditional" noters. Reeds, hardwoods, fingers, etc. use what is comfortable and offers the best sound. I presume you built this Dulcimer? If so, is what you are hearing "String buzz"? Caused by the strings just barely touching frets down the fret board when you note the string? It is a pretty common problem is the string action is too low.

I set my Dulcimer strings as low as I can get them and avoid the buzz. But it's a fine line.

Not string buzz QGolden. I bought this dulcimer so I have a reference for building future ones. I was naughty and didn't build one yet. It's quite an old one and without the 6 1/2 fret, probably around mud 80s? Triangle in shape and under 36" total including headstock. The frets are really dirty, probably quite worn down though I don't know how to check for that. Dirty strings that are quite corroded and dark. The wood and the neck have a strong dark colour with lots of patina. Smells of a touch of mold too. Not sure what is causing the anomaly but it's definitely just like a phaser effect from an effects pedal. Going to try other materials as a noter and less pressure and see if it helps. I'll report back later this afternoon. Thanks for the help and suggestions. I really appreciate it when folk take time out of their day to reply.

bear   /   i   replyed   to  your chat post, but you may not be able to see it still . so  ill  repost   here   .


  • "" dani / bear . sounds like " ghost / trail harmonics" to me . understand that when you lay a slide down on the strings , you are basicly cutting the string in half . un-amped your ears will pick up the sound of both sides of the string ,

  • unlike an amped one that will read the pickup side .

    • so you are hearing a "down slide" and a trailing "up slide "sound at the same time .

    • try a heavier slide , smooth and harder... should be better  "

OK,  good information and follow up. I am familiar with that type.  I presume the body is wood?  I ask because there is a company in CT that has been marketing a cardboard model with a wood fretboard.  It actually sounds quite good, for 65 dollars it is a great tool to learn on or figure out how to build.

I have never run into the sound that you are describing.  Is it all the strings and all the frets or does it tend to be frequency (note) specific?

If you have a steel rule you can check the frets quite easy.  You need to change the strings anyway, when you pull them off, just lay a steel rule along the frets and look for light between the rule and the frets.  A piece of paper will help to see if there is extra room under the frets.  Post a photo of the instrument if you can, and a sound clip would help, maybe on youtube?  You could post a link here.   I would definitely not put too much into the investigation until you have a set of strings in hand.  Changing them and tuning up the new strings will give you a view of the instrument that you have not had yet.  When I get a new instrument it is not truly "mine" until I re-string it.  


Sounds like the problem you get when you use a slide on a conventional guitar.  I cure it by trailing my 1st finger behind the slide and thus eliminating that "other" note.  Maybe you could hold the noter between your thumb and 1st finger and tow your little finger up behind?  Just a thought.

Hope you're both well btw!!



Making a video now. Will post in about twenty minutes. Thanks all for the help.

Not sure if I can post the video in here but I just uploaded it. It's here:


Just want to thank you all for all the help so far. I tried to answer questions asked here in the video. Thanks again.

I'll be honest with you, I do not hear any unpleasant sounds. Traditional built mountain dulcimers have a unique harmonic ring to them. They are diatonic instruments and rely heavily on sympathetic notes often created by strings vibrating that we're not blocked. I think that is a fine sounding dulcimer, I would like to own it. If I were in the market and picked that instrument up at an event and strummed it I would purchase it as is. That being said the sound will probably clean up a little with some new strings, and as I've said before putting new strings on instrument gives you a certain amount of soul in that instrument.
As for the frets, it is not uncommon to not have a 6 1/2 fret, pure traditional instruments did not have them. The 6 1/2 or 1 1/2 or other extra frets are a modern addition to dulcimers to open up the number of songs that can be played without retuning, The Cloverleaf sound holes are purely an option from the builder. Many different shapes are used from F holes to hearts I very much like the trapezoid shape of your dulcimer it is similar to a dulcimer called a Tennessee Music Box which is an Appalachia derivative of mountain dulcimer here in the US. I was not able to really see the makers mark clearly in the video, you might post a photo of just the makers Mark.


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