Designing the Fretboard

The fretboard is crucial to the success of the instrument.

There are several distinct qualities I require of the fretboard for a Bear Meadow Dulcimer:

  • It must be of the very best instrument quality wood
    • Accurately quartersawn to minimize changes
    • Straight-grained, or a slow steady sweep in the grain
    • The fretboard must be a dense-grained lively piece of wood
  • The design must be capable of transmitting the strings' vibration to the soundboard, and driving the soundboard in ways that define and shape the soundboard's response
    • The fretboard's fingerboard profile must be exact, in order to keep action as low as possible
    • The fingerboard's surface and finish must be fine enough to allow easy travel, yet easily renewable by ordinary means, so the musician can restore it to original finish
    • The fret spacing error must be within five cents throughout the first, second and third octaves. Without this, the instrument will not sound sweet.

The fretboard is a dynamic element of the design. Many builders make the mistake of using the fretboard like a building's girder, or the keel of a ship, demanding rigidity. Such a fretboard will make for a very quiet dulcimer.

Click for larger view