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  • Bob Stephens

Aaron O'Rourke Fingerstyle Update

Updated: Aug 2, 2019



Beautiful (acoustically and visually) figured myrtle.

Sitka spruce top proves to be a perfect match for myrtle.

Latest bolt-on bridge a huge success.

Once again Aaron is serving as the guinea pig in chief to drive the latest double back design to perfection. I caught Aaron at Dulcimer U last week to deliver his new instrument and although we were very close to nailing the latest iteration on the first try, we found that a bit more work on the bridge could make it better. As a result I brought the instrument home to fit a revised bridge. We found that the previous design had the unfortunate coincidence of having the fundamental natural frequency of the saddle right a C#. On the day Aaron tried it, the wood had shrunk just enough to allow the saddle to vibrate in the bridge whenever you played at C#. Since Aaron wasn't willing to eliminate all C#'s from his repertoire, a fix was in order. The other issue that came to light was that the middle string was not intonating as well as we wanted. I had changed the string to a thicker gauge that morning and the saddle just wasn't wide enough to fully intonate the new string. Fortunately, both issues could be resolved with one minor update. The saddle was widened from an eighth of an inch to just under a quarter of an inch. This stiffened the saddle and drove its natural frequency well above the range of the dulcimer. It also gave enough width to allow even the new heavier gauge middle string to be fully intonated.


I now consider the Aaron O'Rourke Fingerstyle Dulcimer to be through the development process. The double back is working just as designed and the tone is amazing on either the Signature or the Pro Model. The bolt-on bridge facilitates intonation adjustments and makes fine tuning the action a snap. It also accommodates an under saddle pickup. Even under full string tension the string height can be adjusted with the turn of an allen wrench. The tone from Aaron's new instrument is hard to describe, but I know it is just what he was hoping for when he selected the sitka spruce and myrtle combination. The sitka spruce gives it a sharp attack and the myrtle keeps everything in check to round out the sound. I look forward to many incredible performances by Aaron in the future. That is not to say that other combinations might not be better for different musicians. It all depends on where you want to go with your dulcimer.


Now that the development is complete, I can focus on production. Thanks to my son's contribution last month, many of the parts and subassemblies for the first production run are complete and now it's on to assembly and finishing. It's time to spread the joy and get some Fingerstyle Dulcimers in the hands of patiently waiting musicians.


PS You may have noticed that Aaron's new instrument is set up for either three or four(equidistant) strings. If you have ordered the four string head you will be getting the four string bridge (and saddle and nut) that will work for either configuration with no need to purchase an additional bridge in the future. So it's now the three string, four string, nylon string, steel string dulcimer. It's like getting four instruments for the price of one. Sounds like a bargain to me.

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