Dulcimers by JR

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:24 am

Hi everyone,

back in Feb. I had thought about buying a dulcimer but somewhere in there I lost my job, went on disability, etc. etc.

Now with Christmas around the corner I am finally ready to start thinking seriously again about purchasing.

Can someone give me some feedback about the Dulcimers by JR? I was looking at the student model but might also be able to afford the Jobe Coffin design. I like the simplicity of the style of these dulcimers.

Any thoughts?

thanks in advance,

Andy
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:09 pm

.... or if you could recommend a dulcimer for under $150 that would be cool also.
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby KenH » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:15 pm

All of the JRs that I've seen and played have been very nice instruments. Not much for under $150 if memory serves, except Harpmaker's Student, which plays very nicely; and of course, the cardboard dulcimers which play nicely but are cardboard bodies. The First Act and similar offshore crap are generally not worth the money. Likewise the Darcyhorse dulcimers you also see on Ebay tend to be hit or miss in playablity, and mostly miss; although they look nice, it's true. If you know what you're looking at and looking for, you can often get some very good deals on Ebay, but as always, caveat emptor!
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:55 pm

Thank you sir. I really want the box shape. So it is between the JR and the Jenny Wiley given my price range. Just got to flip the coin and take the plunge.
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby Judy » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:05 pm

JR has higher string action than I like and JW sounds like a box w strings to me. If you dont know what to look for you need an experienced player to help you choose one. Low String Action and good tuners are a must. I have purchased several on e-bay that were dandies and a couple that werent. Dont buy one on e-bay without help asking the right questions. I have friends who purchased almost new name brand dulcimcers at yard sales for $50-$100. You need to keep shopping and get some help with this. LOOKS ARE DECEIVING! Any experienced player will verify this and DO NOT BUY APPLECREEK or DULCIMER FACTORY Brands. The tuners are junk! FYI-McSpaddens are obtainable used for $200-$300 and hold their value when you resell. If you buy a cheap dulcimer, sell it for a fraction of what you paid for it and buy another you have spent much more. Keep in mind because a dulcimer is expensive doesnt mean its good either. You might check pawn shops and tell them to call if they get one in. Then take your dulcimer player friend and check it out. Hope this helped.
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:19 pm

Judy,

thank you for your reply. it is helpful. I am not as worried about high action because that is how I play my banjo (clawhammer, old-time style) and also before that I played electric bass. So that is not a major concern.... although, obviously lower action is preferable.

I have seen people playing the factory instruments successfully, however, I want something more authentic. I am probably going to start playing noter style and I want something that is a little rough and has that "whiskey/mountain" kinda feel.

Based on this I think I will take your advice and stay away from the Jenny but will probably opt for the JR.

Money is also a concern and I need to be under $200. I am also hoping to have something new as used instruments and me don't always get along.

That applecreek dulcimer does look like junk. I saw someone on youtube playing it but they were chording along with vocals and playing in a more "open" type position. I can only imagine what it would sound like as my noter moved down the neck.... actually, it is something I would rather not imagine.

thanks again for the input!
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby Celtic granny » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:43 am

EEEK!! I just traded a $200 Johnson mandolin (yeah, I know) at my local music store for a similarly priced Applecreek dulcimer (included case). I am an experienced musician but totally new to the dulcimer and had no idea what to look for. However, as with the mando, I didn't want to invest too much until I was sure I would like it and be able to play it. As mentioned before, my nails were the problem with the mandolin (need them for the wire-strung harp) and the dulcimer seems playable with nails, even if I will eventually need to use a noter.

Having said this, the little hour-glass shaped Applecreek doesn't sound all that bad and is holding its tune very well. And it has given me the chance to know that I am going to love playing the mountain dulcimer. It has served its purpose as, along with "Everything Dulcimer" and other research I have done, I now know what I want in my dulcimer and have been talking with a luthier and have my "dream" Celtic dulcimer in the design process. The Applecreek will probably go to one of my grandchildren to see if they take to it. Or it may become a wall hanging. However it turns out, I don't regret buying it and understand why others do. I also prefer new instruments to used for a number of reasons.

If, however, someone is limited by budget, it is important to be discerning and get the best you can for the money. I am partial to independent luthiers because they are usually willing to work with you and create the best they can to fit your needs, both aesthetic, musical and budgetary.

That's my two cents and we all know what that's worth these days.

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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:27 am

Celtic Granny-

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Is the intonation decent on the applecreek?

I actually don't believe in expensive instruments for myself (I realize others want them and the reasons behind it). I just see appalachian music as something not played on expensive instruments. I mean it can be... but given my financial circumstances and the spirit of the music, I like to keep the cost down.

That is why I want to go with an independent builder. It is kinda the old time music spirit. I also don't want the instrument to be "too perfect".

The noter will be the way I start out too. I was actually hoping to get a 3 string dulcimer but they seem to be being made in short supply these days. Perhaps when I get a kit someday and build one.
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby carebear » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:27 pm

Don't worry about getting a three stringer. Get a four stringer and just take off one of the melody strings. I have done this on all of my dulcimers, except the one that I have set up as a four string equal distant dulcimer.
There are very nice dulcimers that are used. Do your research and you can find some amazing instruments for under $200. Just this week there was a Tom Fellenbaum listed for less than $180. This included the shipping cost. Mastertone is another brand that comes up often that you can get for less than $200. Also, as many have already mentioned, Dave Lynch of Sweet Woods instruments makes a student dulcimer. He even has a policy for upgrading.
Get the best instrument that you can afford. You really do get what you pay for.

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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby Celtic granny » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:56 pm

You're welcome Andy. Actually the intonation isn't bad at all. Not quite the full sound I'm looking for, but I think that depends on one's level of ability and that takes time. This intrument was made in Romania. There is a raging controversy among harpers about "Mid-east" or "Pakistani" harps, and they are truly, except for the very rare one, junk. They have actually been known to explode from the tension of the strings. I don't really know the circumstances under which the Romanian dulcimers are made, but apparently someone is employed in the building and hopefully being fairly paid.

I was fortunate to get my Applecreek from a small music store where they could tune and tweak it for me and I could hear it. And, it's sweet looking. You might be able to find a luthier that can build you one for $200 or less; it may be simple with little adornment, but that's okay. Just make sure it's of a good tonewood, not laminate, with good tuners. I happen to prefer wooden pegs. They may require more frequent tuning, but it's only 3 or 4 strings and could keep your cost down.

Just for fun: My piano was made by a small company in Czechoslovakia, my 26-string nylon harp was made in Australia (by an independent luthier; great little instrument by the way) my levered floor harp was made in Japan by one of the most respected companies in the harp world-- Aoyama, and my new wire-strung Trinity College replica harp(the national symbol of Ireland and the harp on the Guiness beer bottle) was ordered through the Historical Harp Society of Ireland but made by a wonderful luthier in Minnesota. I also have a spinning wheel made in Poland. My new dulcimer will be made in Kentucky. It's a small world, even smaller with the Internet and the choices we have are infinite. You are getting some good advice here, but follow your heart, and your budget.

Best wishes to you,
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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby Celtic granny » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:14 pm

Oh, and Andy, I forgot to mention: Check out The Guitar Sherpa website under "Dulcimers". There is a great list of builders' and dealers' links.

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Re: Dulcimers by JR

Postby proffitt » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:49 pm

Thank you everyone. I finally settled on Harpmaker's student model. It came with great recommendations and he was also willing and kind enough to put together a three string model for me.

My order is in and let the waiting game begin!

I couldn't be happier. Now I need to buy up some books.
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