Need nice but not too expensive dulcimer for new friend

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one week ago
1,289 posts

I can add my name to the suggestions for a good student model dulcimer. 

I bought one of David "Harpmaker" Lynch's student model a few years ago to keep on the east coast, and it's really nice.  The intonation is spot on.  He keeps the costs down by using birch ply instead of fancy wood, minimizing the need to bend the wood, and using simple circle soundholes.  They sell new for under $150 and have a 25-3/4 VSL.  They don't have the deep, rich sound of dulcimers costing 10 times that amount and made of fancy tonewoods, but they have a nice punch.




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one week ago
1,809 posts

I have found that the more requirements one adds, the harder it will be to fulfill. Dulcimers overall are much cheaper than say guitars, banjos, violins, and mandolins. But when buyers set a very low $200 budget and want a quality dulcimer that's easy to play and sounds great , is also short scale , and also available within a couple weeks or so ... well if you eliminate just ONE of those six requirements it will open up a broader range of options. 
It's kind of like the old business saying- everyone wants something that's fast, cheap, and high quality... pick two out of three.  winky

Keep in mind that a 25" scale 'used to be' considered short scale. Standard McSpaddens are typically 28 1/2" scale length.  People used to custom order 25" or 26" scale dulcimer if they had short fingers or arthritis. So don't think you need to get a 'travel size' dulcimer that's even shorter than that.  Dulcimers that are shorter than 25" VSL (scale) have their own problems- the action may feel stiffer when pressing down the strings, and/or you may have to put on heavier strings in order to tune up to standard D tuning.
A 23.5" scale McSpadden Ginger model is typically tuned up to G (3 steps higher than normal D)..though you can tune to D if you put on heavier strings... but that will feel stiffer to fret. And it's rare to find a used Ginger for sale for $200.

There are pros and cons to all these factors. There can be disappointments in buying used instruments off Ebay if a low price is priority.
If you want a new dulcimer that's good quality and reliable for around $200, I suggest either the Bill Berg or David Lynch student models.  Don't worry so much about scale length- as long as it's shorter than 28" she'll likely be fine...most fretting is done on the melody string anyway and you really don't have to do fancy long reach chords.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,768 posts

Dave has made really great instruments for many years, and I personally vouch for their quality and his workmanship.  I've "known" him since the early days of the original Everything Dulcimer.  I still own one of his Student Models which he slightly customized for me when I thought I would be moving offshore for a couple years and needed an instrument to fit in a footlocker.  

Jill Geary
Jill Geary
@jill-geary
2 weeks ago
39 posts

Ken Hulme:


I haven't found and really short scale dulcimers second hand, Jill.  But will keep looking.  If I were to recommend a new instrument, I would suggest Dave Lynch's Travel dulcimer -- compact, it turns "inside out" for safe storage, It is $225 new.  Dave normally builds 25-1/4" but could, I believe, be persuaded to build a shorter VSL. 


http://www.sweetwoodsinstruments.com/specialties.php  



Thanks Ken - I've not seen these before. I'll pass along the info to her. She is completely relying upon me as she only recently saw/heard a dulcimer (mine lol). I'm a wee bit nervous to ask her to buy something that I've never seen nor played....

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,768 posts

Yeah... I was gonna mention Bobby's travel dulcimer too, but I suspect Jill's friend wouldn't be interested in a dulcimer with only half-width frets, and I'm not sure what he charges...

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
2 weeks ago
183 posts

Check out June Apple Dulcimers by Carl Gotzmer........they have a soprano with a 24 1/2 inch that is reasonably priced.  I have a couple of Carl's and the craftsmanship is outstanding (Carl is a PHD, engineer who is always spot on in measurement and construction)......they are worth a look to be sure.  Of course you can always check out Slate Creek Dulcimers by Bobby Ratliff who builds some spectacular old time dulcimers that are reasonably priced, come in a variety of sizes and lots of fun to play too.


updated by @salt-springs: 07/31/20 11:29:03PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,768 posts

I haven't found and really short scale dulcimers second hand, Jill.  But will keep looking.  If I were to recommend a new instrument, I would suggest Dave Lynch's Travel dulcimer -- compact, it turns "inside out" for safe storage, It is $225 new.  Dave normally builds 25-1/4" but could, I believe, be persuaded to build a shorter VSL. 

http://www.sweetwoodsinstruments.com/specialties.php  

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 weeks ago
33 posts

"The cheapest dulcimer that I'll usually recommend that is made of wood is by Bill Berg" -Stephen Seifert on a Q&A 

They have a few options under 200$ at https://mountainmademusic.com/dulcimer.asp

Worth considering!

Jill Geary
Jill Geary
@jill-geary
2 weeks ago
39 posts

Ken - yes, she has hand issues (and is seeing a hand specialist this week). Also, they travel on their trawler all summer (as do we) and she is very particular about size overall as well. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,768 posts

Jill -- if she has "hand issues" are you looking for a shorter VSL dulcimer for your friend?  

Jill Geary
Jill Geary
@jill-geary
2 weeks ago
39 posts

I'm looking for a dulcimer for a friend - she saw my McSpadden Ginger and loved it. She is a guitarist and knows nothing about dulcimers so I'm thrilled that she wants to learn. She lives 1200 miles away from me or I would loan her one of mine. She said her budget is closer to $200 - and if she really likes the dulcimer she'll save up for a better one later. Need an easy-to-play (low action - she has hand issues like I do), good intonation instrument. I will likely need to convince her to spend a little more, but let me know if you have a dulcimer to sell for my enthusiastic friend! (She lives in WA) Thanks!