Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Postby AmberBella » Mon Mar 21, 2016 3:01 am

I've been playing dulcimer for several years now and have easily settled on a beautiful double back performance Simmerman dulcimer as my main instrument of choice. However, I'm a music teacher and would like to keep my valuable Simmerman at home for obvious reasons and need a decent at school dulcimer that I'm not afraid of students damaging. I'm looking to spend under $250 for the dulcimer. I've been trolling e-bay, but nothing has really fit the bill. I'm thinking that either the Black Mountain 56 or the Sweet Wood student dulcimer is the way to go. I'm leaning towards the Black Mountain for purely aesthetic reasons (I think the kids would be more excited to see a more finished looking instrument), but would love some advice as I've never played either instrument in person. I'm also considering a used Cripple Creek - but it doesn't have a 6 1/2, also, I'm worried about playing a longer VSL with my tiny hands.

My Simmerman instrument is LOUD, clean, and very warm and I love it! I need an instrument that has pretty good volume, and one that isn't so bright that you lose the bass of it. I find that if the sound is too bright the students have a hard time singing with it. I have a Ewing dulcimette that I have used from time to time, but it just doesn't work so well as an accompaniment instrument...it's just so bright.

Open to opinions and other suggestions that I might not have thought of.
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Re: Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Postby GrantOlson » Mon Mar 21, 2016 8:34 am

Just looking around at places I know, $250 isn't going to buy you a new dulcimer, though you could buy a kit. People sell used dulcimers here on ED. My local guitar shop happens to have a McSpadden dulcimer! Other places online also sell used dulcimers, like Ebay. Otherwise I don't know!
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Re: Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Postby halfpint » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:09 am

I can't speak for the Black Mountain instruments, but we had a group here that purchased several of the Sweet Woods student instruments, and they sound great (often better than more expensive instruments) and held up great under the student's use.
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Re: Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Postby KenH » Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:46 pm

I've owned and played a Sweetwoods Student, which Dave slightly customized for me, for about 5 years. I've been playing over 40 years and own several other high quality traditional 'high silvery' sounding dulcimers including a Knopf uncle Ed Thomas, and a Bobby Ratliff Virginia Hogfiddle. But when I need a general purpose dulcimer with great volume, the Student is my go-to instrument.

Personally, I don't think "the kids would be more excited to see a more finished looking instrument". In the first place the kids have nothing to compare to. AND, the finish which Dave uses, and the quality of his work, is every bit, if not more, professional looking that anything Black Mountain puts out. I've seen, handled and played both. And the sound of a Student Model is a least as good as a BM56.

Also, unlike any other builder, Dave offers trade-in value for your Student if you later decide to purchase any of his other designs, like the $295 Teardrop....
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Re: Black Mountain 56 vs Sweet Wood Student

Postby AmberBella » Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:59 pm

Thanks so much Ken. The kids do have some things to compare it to...I do a lesson with lots of other string instruments....and when I used to bring in the Simmerman it was the favorite (it is gorgeous!) but I've been using a cheapo dulcimer that I'm probably going to trash and they really haven't liked that one at all compared to the violin, harp, electric guitar, etc.... Also, I have 16 cardboard dulcimers, so they have all played dulcimer before. However, I will believe you that the sweet woods dulcimer is fine looking. It's hard to tell on internet photos sometimes. In the end, the sound really is more important than the look of the instrument.
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