Make a Dulcitar from a cheap guitar at no cost

Picture of Make a Dulcitar from a cheap guitar at no cost
A Dulcitar is a Guitar that has frets like a Dulcimer. This means that it is easy to play simple melodies with just a little practice, since only the whole notes can be played.
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Step 1: Get a cheap guitar

Picture of Get a cheap guitar
I bought this cheap kid's guitar at Wal-Mart. It would not intonate very well and was very quiet. I have also seen cheap guitars at the local Mexican market for under $20. I decided to make mine into a Dulcitar.

Step 2: Get ready to remove some frets

Picture of Get ready to remove some frets
You will need to pull off some frets to give the Dulcitar the diatonic scale. I used a pocket knife to score along the sides of the frets I was going to remove to make them easier to pull off. You will be removing the following frets, starting with the first fret closest to the nut being number 1.

1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18, 20

Step 3: Remove the unnecessary frets

Picture of Remove the unnecessary frets
Use a needle nose pliers to remove the frets from the last step. You might have to wiggle them a little, but they should pull straight out of the neck.

Step 4: Here's what the neck looks like

Picture of Here's what the neck looks like
Dulcitar 3.jpg
After you've removed the extra frets, you may need to use the knife to smooth out any glue or rough spots from where the frets had been. Don't worry about the grooves that are left, they won't affect the playability of the instrument.
dulciquilt3 years ago
many dulcimer players are switching to chromatic dulcimers, so you could leave all the frets, but remove 3 strings. You could also cut new grooves in the nut and bridge and move the first & second strings about 1/8" apart then same with, 3 & 4, and 5 & 6, but still play as 3 stringed. This would add a little extra volume.
GraphixS64 years ago
Sooo.... I have a question. I feel like a complete ignorant and idiotic fool when I ask this considering the fact that I have been playing the cello for 7-8 year, but does the tuning of a strumstick allow playing songs that are originally composed for something like... lets say a guitar Easily (easily in italics but I don't know how to do that) Because it seems that you can't get to notes if the fret "bars" (i don't know what they are actually called) don't allow you to get to certain notes (I tried to play "you are my sunshine" and there was one note (i don't know if I had it wrong) that I just couldn't get to). If any one can answer my questions, that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
randmor5 years ago
One of the problems I see for doing this with a soprano Uke is that its short 12 fret fretboard gets reduced down to about 8 frets (counting the one they call 6 1/2 on mountain dulcimers. This means you don't have the range of notes that you would have on a strumstick or guitar-based dulcitar. But it is still feasible. The other difference is that you want to keep fret 10. When I went to a dulcimer website to figure out (double check) the spacing of frets for a soprano Uke with a 13.625" scale length, it came back with all the values, including one that corresponds to fret 10 on the guitar. I think it has something to do with the odd 6 1/2 fret position of mountain dulcimers. Now, I have to decide if I want to sacrifice my Uke.
randmor5 years ago
If you can do this with a guitar, why not a Ukulele?

A "Dulci-Uke"? Or a "Diatonic-Uke"?

I have an unused cheapy Soprano Uke, so maybe I'll give it a go.

I am planning to tune the diatonic-Uke to C-G-C', since this
tuning is closer to the Uke's original tuning and will place less
stress on the strings and bridge (which has a habit of popping off).

The Soprano Uke has 12 frets, so the frets to remove should be
frets 1, 3, 6, 8, and 10. These happen to be the same as the first
5 frets needing removal from a guitar to make a dulcitar. Removing
these frets, and tuning to C-G-C' should give you the following
notes on your fretboard:

New Fret Numbers: 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Melody String (String 1): C' | D' | E' | F' | G' | A | B | C
Middle String (String 2): G | A | B | C | D | E | F# | G
Bass String (String 3): C | D | E | F | G | A' | B' | C'

So, to my line of thinking, this should work out okay. Do you see
any problems with my thinking?
mdlmusic (author)  randmor5 years ago
I'm sure this would work just fine with a ukelele. In fact, it should actually work with any fretted string instrument (banjo, balalaika, whatever). Of course, what you make up in ease of playability, you lose in versatility. Can't get any of the in-between notes. BTW, I think I'd call your new instrument a "Dulcilele".
girobusan5 years ago
Is it a good idea to scallop the space between frets?
mdlmusic (author)  girobusan5 years ago
I wouldn't. Because frets have been removed the spaces between frets is huge, especially near the head of the dulcitar. Most players usually put their fingers as close to the frets as they can, but even if you don't the sound should be the same.
girobusan5 years ago
All sharp notes, yes?
mdlmusic (author)  girobusan5 years ago
On the two outside strings the notes going up the neck are C D E F G A B C, just like the white keys on a piano. The middle string is tuned to G so going up the neck it plays G A B C D E F# G (a regular G scale). The dulcitar is extremely easy to play even if you have zero musical knowledge. Just strum all three strings while fretting the 3rd string (the one closest to the floor) at various points. You can't really hit a wrong note.
cariboubill5 years ago
Wow! This opens up some possibilities. That's a stck dulcimer. I have a $25 travel guitar that is a piece of junk. Bet it would make a great dulcimer. ...Bill
great stuff!! i've got lots of crappy kids guitars laying around, and even my 'good' ones are unstrung in different ways with reduced strings and altered tunings.. but i never though of actually REMOVING frets. i've wanted to make a ducli-type instrument for a while, and you've just given me the hints i needed. THANKS!!!!