+Extra Frets+


The question about whether to add extra frets to a standard diatonic mountain dulcimer does not elicit as dramatic a response as it once did, because so many players and builders have already made the 6+ or 6 and 1/2 fret standard on their instruments.  (The 13+ fret is an octave higher of the same fret.)

These days, more and more people are requesting and delighting in the addition of the 1+ or 1 and 1/2 fret to their instrument.

What is the deal with these extra frets?  What do they give me and what do they take away?

I addressed this topic in the Wednesday Live Stream on Nov. 3, 2021 which is archived on the DulcimerCrossing FB Page and in the Past events archive in our Live Events link for the Workshop and Mentorship members of DulcimerCrossing.

But for quick reference, here are the talking points I used in this conversation:

Standard, traditional diatonic mountain dulcimers need no extra frets because they already offer the various patterns of whole and half steps by virtue of their placement on the instruments.

The first result of adding a "half fret", like the 6+ fret, is confusion!  I have several students who are frustrated when first encountering these frets because they introduce some uncertainty in playing the "right notes" or next-to the right notes that the rest of the instrument offers.

But, if we can weather the confusion, the 6+ gives us the bonus of getting two different modes for the price of ONE tuning.

For example, in DAd tuning, if I use the regular 6th fret of the scale, I can start at the zero fret and play the Mixolydian mode (for tunes like Old Joe Clark or Red-Haired Boy).  If I use the 6+ fret instead of the regular 6, I can start at the zero fret and play the Ionian mode (for most major songs that we play in folk music.)

This fret also gives the ability to play the E and A major chords in the location around the middle of the fret board.

By the same token, when adding the 1+ (and 8+ which is the octave) I get this additional bonus:

I am adding the F natural on the melody and bass strings and the C natural on the middle string.  This lets me play the Dorian mode starting at the zero fret when I use the 1+ and the 6+ frets.

In addition, I have the added bonus of a L-shaped F chord and a slant-shaped C chord, both in the first position on the fret board.

What other benefits have YOU discovered with your extra frets?



There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!