Anatomy of a Pickin' Stick Dulcimer (in G, aka Strumstick)

If you're interested in learning how to play the stick dulcimer, it's important to have a good understanding of its various components. This knowledge will enable you to follow along in written materials or have meaningful conversations with other musicians. In this blog post, we will explore the anatomy of a pickin' stick dulcimer, focusing on a G tuned baby Strumstick.

Strap button: The stick dulcimer has a strap button, which allows for the attachment of a strap, making it easier to play the instrument for extended periods.

End pins: These are the points where the strings loop over. Stick dulcimers typically use mandolin strings with loops at the end. Felt or pipe cleaner is often placed on the end pins to protect the instrument.

Top and sound hole: The top of the instrument is where the sound hole is located. This is the area that produces the acoustic sound of the dulcimer.

Bridge: The bridge of the stick dulcimer is movable, unlike some other types of dulcimers. It is important to keep the bridge in place for proper intonation and tuning. Moving the bridge can result in the instrument sounding out of tune.

Body: The body refers to the entire structure of the stick dulcimer. In the case of a pick and stick model, the neck and body are constructed as one piece, without a visible seam. This design choice enhances the instrument's construction and sound.

Frets: Frets are the metal wires embedded on the neck of the dulcimer. By pressing a string against a fret, the player can change the pitch. Each fret represents a specific note or sound.

Zero fret: The stick dulcimer may have a zero fret instead of a traditional nut. The zero fret and nut serve the same purpose of determining string height and spacing.

Tuning keys and headstock: The tuning keys, sometimes referred to as string winders, are located on the headstock or peg head. They allow for precise tuning of the strings. The gears connected to the tuning keys facilitate the tuning process.

Six and a half fret: A unique feature of stick dulcimers is the inclusion of a six and a half fret. This fret provides additional notes and chord possibilities, adding versatility to the instrument. It is specific to mountain dulcimers and stick dulcimers and is not commonly found on guitars.

Understanding the anatomy of a pickin' stick dulcimer is essential for both beginners and experienced players. By familiarizing yourself with the different parts and their functions, you can better appreciate the instrument's construction and make informed decisions about playing techniques and tuning. Whether you're an aspiring strumstick player or simply curious about the dulcimer, this knowledge will enhance your appreciation of this unique and charming instrument.

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