jost
@jost
3 weeks ago
60 posts

wally-venable makes a good point with using a tuner to check the freet placing/set up. 

So: If you can check in the store or order online with return policy this should be enough to check the basic playability of the instrument. This is btw a good idea to do in any case, even if the instrument is more expensive or from a renowed builder. You never know how it was stored before ;)

I remembered that this site had a warning against some cheap brands thus I used the search function. 
So for another point of view concerning Apple Creek and two other low level brands:

https://fotmd.com/strumelia/group_discuss/2332/beware-of-internet-ad-sites-of-the-best-dulcimers-to-buy

Of course wally-venables argument for trying Apple Creek with a tuning app/device holds true for these too.

Regards, Jost.

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
324 posts

That's what I use, cell app. I made the recommendation as a starting point. At this time in his journey, if it's screwed up, send it back. I also suspect the op doesn't have a good ear' right now. happyspoke

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
3 weeks ago
21 posts

>>> get an electronic tuner.

I agree, although many now like to use a cell phone APP.

>>> Use the tuner to verify that the frets are properly placed.

Yes, if the tuner shows every not is "in the green" you don't have problems with fret placement. Using your method, if the strings are high, a tuner will "tell you" that the frets are misplaced.

If you have a good ear, simply playing the octave fret will tell you a whole lot about intonation. The error may be either bad fretting or string height.

And we have not touched on "buzzing" which may also require correction.

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
324 posts

@Tull66, Different strokes for different folks.

My first experience in my dulcimer world was to build a kit. No musical or wood working background or mentoring at all. It turned out good, I still have it. I went on to build some from scratch and to buy some, although none were [are] foreign made. Be aware there are poorly made MD's floating around in the US that are wallhangers also, but they are mostly homemade I think. I have a friend who bought a foreign made MD, It sounded ok to me, but he is very experienced and has made some stringed instruments. Actually, I've really never heard a bad sounding MD in 20+ years, cardboard or home built, lucky I suppose. If you decide to get an inexpensive or questionable sourced MD, be sure of the return policy and get an electronic tuner. Use the tuner to verify that the frets are properly placed. Folks here will help with that. A used name brand is an option also.

Bottom line, you started at the right place, here. You're getting getting input from several different viewpoints, from folks with different backgrounds and experience, all of which have merit. 

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
3 weeks ago
21 posts

I would absolutely tell anyone with no dulcimer experience or first hand technical advisor NOT to buy a dulcimer kit from anyone.

If you don't really know what you are doing, shop in a face-to-face setting where you can try out the instrument and discuss it with the seller. Preferably the seller should demonstrate the instrument.

I suspect that the "unplayable" Applecreek dulcimers primarily need a proper setup. It is common in the music world for factory made instruments to be shipped with the expectation that the selling dealer will do a setup to meet the customer's needs. This is primarily adjusting string height, but also may involve other details. In the ukulele world, string heights are typically too high because lowering them is easy, but raising them isn't. This is probably true for most low priced fretted instruments. If you buy such an instrument, the retail dealer, not the manufacturer or wholesale distributor, is responsible for assuring that the instrument is ready for use.

Wooden instruments can, or will, change between the time they are built and the time the first owner begins to play them. Woods bend, and exposure to string tension can also alter them. No builder can predict the changes.

Generally speaking, if you are ordering an instrument costing $500 or so directly from a well established builder, it will probably be checked and setup before shipping. This is partly because the builder's reputation is at stake and partly because the builder is doing retail business.

For those with a good musical ear, I suspect that if the heights are just a bit high a dulcimer set up with (common) 0.012 strings and which plays "OK" in DAA tuning might be irritating if tuned to DAD, but OK in DAD if restrung with 0.010 melody strings. Correcting that sort of thing is "setup." My opinion on that is based on 70+ years of playing string instruments, training in physics, and amateur building of a variety of fretted instruments. It's not "Rocket Science," but it is precision technology.

I have seen dulcimers from semi-pro builders which were NOT properly set up. Knowing wood working isn't the same are knowing lutherie.

With regard to natural wood versus cardboard versus laminated construction, you should not generalize. All need setup, whether by the builder, retailer, or buyer.

Our local dulcimer group instructor bought a batch of cardboard dulcimers for loan to students. They have served us well for a decade or so, but this is because her guitar player husband spent hours doing the setup, as well as some assembly. She also purchased a group of Applecreek instruments, but again they got an adequate checkout.

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
3 weeks ago
21 posts

... Or to be lent to a complete stranger with no experience who wants to explore playing music.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
2,087 posts

There is a lot of good to be said for an instrument that is playable but cheap enough to not be afraid to haul it around to camping or travel situations where one would be extremely nervous to take one's more expensive instrument.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
3 weeks ago
194 posts

@jost  said Well according to fotmd and the Facebook groups AppleCreek is something of a lottery. You can end up with a cheap and great sounding instrument but you have also a high chance of getting expensive firewood. I wouldn't risk my bucks for it.

Possibly a beginner might not know the difference, but @wally-venable shouldn't feel too put down.  We both won that lottery.  Found one in an antique store that was small enough for me to use as a "travel dulcimer" that both takes less space & isn't something I'd get upset if anything happened to it.  It's definitely not something I use in a program or even play at home since I have other dulcimers I like for other reasons, but I bought it & right afterwards started seeing all the bad press a while back.  If you buy it, either try it first in the store or make sure you know the return policy.

I've never tried a cardboard dulcimer, but not everybody wants to put together their instrument first. 

Glad you have this problem sorted out, @tull66 , just felt the AppleCreek discussion deserved another view.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 weeks ago
309 posts

Cardboard dulcimers sound much better than one would expect.  I sometimes wonder why I build from wood when cardboard sounds so wonderful.

jost
@jost
3 weeks ago
60 posts

Well according to fotmd and the Facebook groups AppleCreek is something of a lottery. You can end up with a cheap and great sounding instrument but you have also a high chance of getting expensive firewood. I wouldn't risk my bucks for it.

So I would also suggest a kit by Folkcraft or some other renowed builder.

If I would be living in the USA a cardboard md would have been my first Instrument.

The shipping costs to Germany were to expensive so I ended up with an nice instrument by a local builder.

Just my two Cents, your mileage may vary

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
3 weeks ago
21 posts

That has not been my experience.

August
August
@august
3 weeks ago
1 posts

While I respect everyone's opinion, I hate to see a beginner led down the wrong path and possibly give up learning the dulcimer because of a low quality starter instrument. Apple Creek is probably the only brand that is nearly universally condemned as low quality and inconsistent. In fact, I've seen many that are flat out un-playable.
In my humble opinion, you are better off with a cardboard dulcimer or a lower cost dulcimer from a reputable builder.

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
4 weeks ago
21 posts

If the cardboard dulcimer kits were less than $50, I'd support the suggestion that they are a good first instrument. My wife started on a borrowed one.

Given price realities, I'd strongly recommend the small Applecreek dulcimer. Musician's Friend sells it for about $90 including shipping.It is also available elsewhere, including local music stores, for about $130.

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/folk-traditional-instruments/apple-creek-dulcimer/510985000000000?cntry=US&cur=USD&utm_content=510985000000000--Apple+Creek+Dulcimer&source=3WWRWXGS&gclid=Cj0KCQjw-daUBhCIARIsALbkjSYEltKaS7Fs8hL-W8oj-b52fwkpBeVI-o4TqblScoCbR7xYsnzMqiMaAlBiEALw_wcB

It has a nice sound. It's built in an ISO 9001 certified musical instrument factory in Romania from the same woods that the company uses to produce violins, guitars, etc.

Tull66
Tull66
@tull66
4 weeks ago
1 posts

Thank you both for your help!  I am in the process of ordering a dulcimer from a builder in Bradford, PA.  I just couldn’t pull the trigger on a cardboard one. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
2,087 posts

@tull66 , Ken H has answered your original question below.

I'd like to point out a place that will answer many of your questions as to how to post in a forum, how to add photos, etc:
https://fotmd.com/forums/forum/site-questions-how-do-i

Note- that forum i linked to is not a place to ask your dulcimer questions, but if you browse the threads there you'll see answers to many of your questions on how to navigate this site.

Welcome!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,939 posts

Welcome Tull66.    Elsewhere you wrote:
I’m new here, don’t see how to start a new topic. I don’t own a dulcimer yet and want to know how to choose. I want to dabble making music, not looking for an heirloom.  Where do I begin? Thanks. Also looking for a mentor in Jeannette PA.

To start a New Discussion you go to the Discussions Tab and scroll down until you see the category you want to start a discussion in  -- This is the General Category.  Then in that category you click the + sign at the top right of the page, and a new window like this one appears.


Choosing a first dulcimer can be difficult because everyone here is going to recommend their own personal favorite brand/style and all that!

Since you at this point aren't even sure if you'll like the dulcimer, I suggest you start as inexpensively as you can while still getting an instrument you can trust.  Believe me, there are lots of cheap, fly-by-night "deals" out there to be avoided.  

I've been building and playing dulcimers since the mid-1970s, and have owned and played many different styles, brands,etc.  My advice to you, as a complete newcomer, is to choose one of the Cardboard dulcimers you can find here:

www.backyardmusic.com  › page › subpage › dulcimers › simplicity-dulcimer.htm
or here:
 › products › cardboard-dulcimer-kit-2311071

It may sound almost silly.  But it isn't.  The material the body of a dulcimer is made from isn't particularly important.  Wood is the most common material, but there have also been perfectly good sounding dulcimers made out of Legos, thin plexiglass, gourds, and violin cases!  However, the accuracy of the spacing of the frets (to the nearest 1/100th of an inch or less) is critical.  Many of those "deal" dulcimers are made with inaccurate fretboards.  The cardboards instruments in the links above have VERY accurate fretboards, and are VERY suitable for a newcomer to learn to play. Those compoanies havebeen around for mny years and have thousands of satisfied customers. 

Once you've got some experience playing, and have hung around here reading and seeing what folks say about this and that -- for six months or so -- then you'll be better prepared to decide which next dulcimer you want.   BTW, finding a mentor would be a great thing, but many.many of us learned to play from one or another book, without any formal teacher.

IN the meantime, here is a link to a booklet I wrote a number of years ago called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What? .  It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all speak the same jargon) plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your instrument.  Enjoy your journey!!

Ken Hulme's "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com


updated by @ken-hulme: 05/29/22 10:52:12PM