Dot @ Fret 5
February 17, 2023
Good Morning, Y'all!
Dots at fret five? This is a boring treatise on fret-marking dots. Really. (You've been warned).
Position dots on a diatonic (not chromatic) mountain dulcimer. Where (at which frets) do you want them?
For years, we've done some variation of dots, either mother of pearl (clam shell) or abalone (also clam shell), and placed at frets 3, 7, 10, and 14. We've recently started putting a dot at fret 17.
We do single dots at frets 3, 10, and 17, and double dots at frets 7 and 14.
Let's talk a little about what the dots signify: When you're in, for example, DAD tuning, the dots tell you where the D's are over the entire fretboard. The single dot at fret 3 shows the D on the middle string. The double dots at fret 7 show the D's on the outside strings (thus the double dots, to show that there are two D's found at that fret). Single dot at fret 10 shows another D on the middle string, double dots at fret 14 show D's on each of the outside strings. The single dot at fret 17 shows the D on the middle string. Very logical.
It is ingenious, really. If Stradivarius played the dulcimer, he would definitely have put his dots at the 3, 7, 10, 14, and 17 frets.
But we regularly have people request a dot on fret 5. Why? There's not a D to be found anywhere near fret 5! I think it is because a couple of other builders do a dot a fret 5, and when the players switch to Folkcraft® dulcimers, they want the dot there for familiarity. So I'm happy to do it, but it does seem a bit weird, breaking the "pattern" and putting a dot at fret 5. And rarely, we'll do a dot at fret 6 (I'm thinking of a famous red-haired Oklahoma dulcimer player!), but that one I REALLY don't understand.
What's your favorite dot-marker pattern? When you create your next, perfect, dulcimer - where do you want the position dots? Do you want dots at frets 2, 4, 6, and 12 1/2 on your next dulcimer? What are your thoughts? Please let me know.
Thank you for reading - Have a great weekend!
Richard Ash, luthier and position-dot-installer