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Finding a beginner's dulcimer


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Hi I am brand new to the instrument. I very much want to start learning but am overwhelmed with how to buy a reasonably priced beginner's dulcimer. What do I look for in a good model? I see the Apple Creek Standard recommended on a lot of websites. Thanks for any help!

 

 

 

 

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Many of us will not recommend Apple Creek Instruments -- they are not made in America, often have poorly placed frets and high actions, making them unplayable!!

What to look for is tough, because as a beginner you don't really have the background to understand what you're seeing or reading about.  Coming to a Forum like this one, or Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer -- www.FOTMD.com -- and asking.  is one of the best ways to get a good instrument.

Truth be told, one of the best ways to get started is with a cardboard dulcimer from Folkcraft or Backyard Instruments.  Cardboard???  Yep -- the material of the body isn't as important as having a good (wooden) fretboard with correctly spaced frets and a low action.  All of the carboard dulcimer have these characteristics.  And.... they are as inexpensive as can be -- under $100.  Plus, you, or a friend with some simple woodworking skills, can later build an inexpensive solid wood body and transfer the cardboard dulcimer's wooden fretboard to the new body.   This is what I've been recommending to my students for many years.   Once you have some experience as a dulcimer player you will know what features you like or don't like, and can more easily make an informed decision on where to spend your dulcimer dollar.  

You can also look here or on FOTMD for used (but well loved) instruments which people are selling.  

Dave Lynch of sweetwoodsinstruments.com makes one of the finest Student Model dulcimers available today.  I believe they are still $145.   There are several other makers of Student or Beginner models, but I have personally worked with Dave for a number of years.  I own and have played his Student model and other models and highly recommend them.  

 

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I second NoterMan's advice. I have a Backyard cardboard dulcimer I play occasionally. I built as a model for a summer camp program where we were constructing them. I've had a few of Dave Lynch's student dulcimer, but kept selling them to students. I have played probably a dozen or so Apple Creek dulcimers and only one played well right out of the box. I did some set up work on of their standards and buy the time I set up the action (lowered the strings) and then worked on filing and recrowning the fret, the owner had as much in it as a Folkcraft or McSpadden.

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On 11/7/2021 at 3:10 PM, KWL said:

I second NoterMan's advice. I have a Backyard cardboard dulcimer I play occasionally. I built as a model for a summer camp program where we were constructing them. I've had a few of Dave Lynch's student dulcimer, but kept selling them to students. I have played probably a dozen or so Apple Creek dulcimers and only one played well right out of the box. I did some set up work on of their standards and buy the time I set up the action (lowered the strings) and then worked on filing and recrowning the fret, the owner had as much in it as a Folkcraft or McSpadden.

Thanks for the input. Are there prebuilt cardboard models available anywhere? I'd be nervous building one. Thanks

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Building a cardboard dulcimer is virtually fool proof.  

Here's what Folkcraft has to say:
Detailed instructions are provided, and this cardboard dulcimer kit should take you about two hours to build. You'll need the following tools: a small hammer (for tapping in the frets and anchor pins); a drill
with #49 bit (for drilling the holes for the anchor pins and machine head screws); a small Phillips head screwdriver (for installing the machine head screws); a piece of sandpaper, either 120 grit or 220 grit (for fitting the nut and bridge pieces); a pair of wire cutters (for trimming the frets and cutting the strings to length); and a flat file (for finishing the ends of the frets). You'll also need to provide some white or yellow glue (for assembling the cardboard parts).

Folkcraft® Cardboard Dulcimer Kit-Folkcraft Instruments  $85 Kit.
Here's what Backyard Music has to say:

 Our dulcimer kits can easily be assembled with Elmer’s glue, a Phillips head screwdriver, and a hammer. 

Our goal is a full-sized, long-lasting, easily-tuned, and easily-played instrument with a dulcimer sound. Both kits and instruments have solid wood fretboards, reliable geared tuning pegs, and pre-installed metal frets. Orders include Meet the Friendly Dulcimer, a 28 page booklet instructional book for nonmusicians, and a leaflet of 25 familiar tunes by number.

Simplicity Dulcimer
Simplicity Dulcimer  -- Assembled

The Simplicity Dulcimer provides an excellent introduction to this friendly instrument.  Comes ready to play with a dulcimer pick,  noter stick,  4-mil plastic carrying bag, and the 28 page playing manual Meet the Friendly Dulcimer.

$73.00

String-It-Yourself Simplicity Dulcimer -- Assembled except for strings

Save yourself some money and us some time. This Simplicity Dulcimer will be ready to play as soon as you put the included set of strings on it. The dulcimer pick, noter stick, 4-mil plastic carrying bag, and 28 page playing manual Meet the Friendly Dulcimer are all still included.

$69.00

The "no mess" version of the Simplicity dulcimer kit, pre-finished and pre-painted.  No mess, no drying time.  

From $59.00

Simplicity Dulcimer Kit

Build your own dulcimer in 90-120 minutes.  All parts are precut and standard metal frets are pre-installed in the fretboard.   No sharp or unusual tools are needed.  Building dulcimers is a great family project, parent-child project, child-grandparent project, elderhostel project...

$59.00


 

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13 hours ago, Gypsygirl said:

Thanks for the input. Are there prebuilt cardboard models available anywhere? I'd be nervous building one. Thanks

Backyard instruments will ship them completely built and painted, ready to play:

https://www.backyardmusic.com/dulcimers/simplicity-dulcimer.html

Stock they come without the 6.5 fret, but you can add that fret here:

https://www.backyardmusic.com/dulcimers/extra-fret.html

The 6.5 isn't traditional, but most modern dulcimers have it and most of the videos and workshops made these days will use it.

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10 hours ago, Admin said:

Backyard instruments will ship them completely built and painted, ready to play:

https://www.backyardmusic.com/dulcimers/simplicity-dulcimer.html

Stock they come without the 6.5 fret, but you can add that fret here:

https://www.backyardmusic.com/dulcimers/extra-fret.html

The 6.5 isn't traditional, but most modern dulcimers have it and most of the videos and workshops made these days will use it.

Thanks!!!!

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On 11/7/2021 at 1:03 AM, NoterMan said:

Dave Lynch of sweetwoodsinstruments.com makes one of the finest Student Model dulcimers available today.  I believe they are still $145.   There are several other makers of Student or Beginner models, but I have personally worked with Dave for a number of years.  I own and have played his Student model and other models and highly recommend them.  

 

Is David Lynch still in business?  His website appears to be gone.  I'm getting a 404 error (Page Not Found).

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Yep.  Weird.  it works for me.  I had a nice long chat with Dave around noon time today.  Sometime next year he's going to be moving to Bowling Green, KY to live and set up a small woodshop at his daughter & son-in-law's acreage.  He's 'winding down' his building primarily due to physical issues which are beginning to impact his safety in working around power tools.   He'll still be building "some" and his SIL is interested in taking up the business.  Dave said tht since his first Student model he has made over 3000 of them; as many as 250 a year!
 

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