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Banjo Scoop

April 7, 2023

Good Morning, Y'all!
We get a lot of requests for customizations on the dulcimers we build. I suppose that's one of the advantages of custom-ordering an instrument, rather than buying "off the shelf" at a giant music store.

Here's a new one for our list of requests. Look closely at the fretboard, just to the left of the strum hollow. You'll notice that a few of the frets are missing, and that the fretboard has been cut away an extra 1/8" (or so). This is pretty common for banjos, but I've never seen it done on a dulcimer. Common enough in the banjo world that they have a name for this - it is a "banjo scoop."

folkcraft dulcimer banjo scoop
Benefit? On a dulcimer, strumming/picking right above the last few frets is usually the sweet spot - the best combination of warmth and volume. Moving the pick closer to the bridge is a lot louder, but also more nasal in tone. Moving the pick closer to the middle of the fretboard (fret 7, thereabouts) gives lot more warmth, but at the cost of most of the volume. The usual "sweet spot" is above fret 16 or fret 17. With a banjo scoop, it is nearly impossible to hit the fretboard with a pick, since the fretboard is farther from the strings.
Disadvantage? You don't have as many frets (notes!) to work with. We've removed frets 15 - 17 on this fretboard to install the banjo scoop. So when you capo at fret 3 or at fret 4, you won't have two full octaves to work with, since some of the frets are gone.

folkcraft dulcimer banjo scoop close up with ruler

Would I have this on my personal dulcimer? Probably not. I have a really light touch in my right hand, and even on my oldest dulcimers, I have zero fretboard wear from my picks. And I really like playing the high notes sometimes, and would surely miss the frets above the high D.  For some people, this might be an AMAZING feature, though.

Does a banjo scoop affect the tone or hurt the instrument in any way? Not at all. If anything, the extra lightening (weight wise) of the fretboard might give a bit more volume or sustain, but probably nothing noticeable.

So, do you want one of these (banjo scoops) on your next dulcimer? All you have to do is ask...

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend! 

Richard Ash, luthier-who-gets-to-hang-out-with-Wendy-Songe-tomorrow!
PS: If you're singing the "two scoops of raisins" jingle right now, that's totally normal...