I went back to one of my dulcimer history websites this morning. Every time I revisit I find something I didn't see before and it takes me down another avenue of thought. This morning, I found this picture of a box or rectangular instrument made by Levi Pittman on the Magazine Antiques link below. I'm sure there has been some previous discussion somewhere about instruments on the link and that's probably where I obtained the link in the past.
Anyway, I looked at the fingerboard closely on Levi's instrument. I've recounted the frets several times and it appears the instrument is fretted for the Dorian scale starting at the 1st fret because the 6th fret is in the location of what we call the 6.5 fret. I'm not able to find any other scale starting from any of the other frets (although others might exist). First, I'm intrigued with finding the fret spacing but second I was considering my own fret spacing arrangement for a just intonation dulcimer and Levi's fret arrangement was the arrangement I was considering (although I would like to have one or two more frets below the beginning fret of the scale). I'm beginning to think fret spacing is arbitrary when attempting to achieve a certain sound.
I have that copy of The Magazine Antiquities. I will have to go back and look at that article. One thing I've found in examining these "Hummel-like" instruments is that there are many fret scales. Every builder seemed to choose his own.
After reviewing your Praetorius picture, I can see an Ionian scale starting from the nut on Levi's instrument too. It kinda' makes me cross-eyed trying to find the scales, but if I'm counting right it looks like the Phrygian scale starts on the 2nd fret, Lydian on the 3rd fret, Mixolydian on the 4th fret, and Aeolian on the 5th fret. I wonder if anybody makes tab for Levi's instrument?
This reminds me of a time way back in the 1980's. A well-known dulcimer player was examining my McSpadden kit dulcimer and commented "all the frets are in the right places". I'm guessing she may have either seen some of the instruments from Levi's time or possibly instruments from other modern builders of the time who didn't know how to get proper fret spacing (most likely for equal temperament).
A while back I posted a method for obtaining a given just intonation scale by changing the tuner A=? to something relative to the scale for each string and/or fret. I recently obtained a Peterson strobe tuner which has many tunings besides equal temperament. It really drives home that fret or staple spacing will be arbitrary if I decide on a given temperament for a future dulcimer I hope to build. If I make a dulcimer with my own custom temperament and scale, I'll try to leave instructions somewhere so people will know how it should be tuned and the modal songs that can be played on it (in case I'm not around).
"If I make a dulcimer with my own custom temperament and scale, I'll try to leave instructions somewhere so people will know how it should be tuned and the modal songs that can be played on it (in case I'm not around)."
You can easily type that up, change the type to something tiny like 6pt or 8pt and 2"-3" wide, print it out and glue it inside the soundhole on he opposite side from your maker's label...
I haven't seen a lot of information on the sheet music we obtain that states anything about the tuning or intonation details of the sheet music. It's enough that some people can learn to play something off of just the sheet music or tablature. And maybe that version played from the sheet music or tablature will sound ok, but it won't sound the same as intended on a special intonation instrument.
Last Edit: Apr 4, 2019 15:17:58 GMT -5 by daveh: changed last sentence from question to statement