Newbie goes shopping

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

I think the Alabama one was listed in August. I don't know how long the Olympia one has been in the store.

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Oh, the store is Music 6000 in Olympia, WA . They are asking $280 I think. There's also one for sale on craigslist in Alabama for $400. That seller isjas34929 <jas34929@aol.com>

The Alabama seller says : Good evening from Alabama,

Thank you for your interest in my dulcimer. Yes, I still have it and it's for sale. I am not an authority on distinguishing what type of wood, but I do remember the salesman saying that it's made from various types of wood and one was from Hawaii. The sides have a close grain and that maybe walnut. I can take more close-up pictures if you want and that may would give you a better idea of of the grain. Also here is the information from the inside of the dulcimer which I was able to read. This is on a paper label glued to the inside by the company:
Walnut Valley Dulcimer Co.
102 E. Broadway
Burns, KS 66840
316-726-5272
Model # WM
Serial # 088-57
I believe they are still in business. I would assume if you gave them the model & serial numbers they would be able to tell you who made it and type of wood used.
I bought this in the late 70's or early 80's at the Epocot Center in Orlando FL.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you want close-up pictures. I can send them as an attachment to email.
CD
CD
@cd
11 years ago
61 posts

Ellen can you get me contact info on the Walnut Valley dulcimer? I have a tie with them and would love to find out more about the one they have.

CD

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Good morning! -- Y'all will laugh at this one: This week is packed with family responsibilities -- no special burdens, but just a lot going on. The dulcimer is laid out on the sideboard, waiting for me to have time to get started -- it's like its 11:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving and I'm starving to get started, but the last car of family is pulling up in the driveway, and I can't launch into what I want to do just yet.

Who knew dulcimers were that alluring? This forum clan, I know. I make a strum on the instrument as I go past - a sad carrot stick to hold me over

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,252 posts

Ellen, that's wonderful news! Sounds like you found a good support system in your friend. Walnut is a wonderful choice of wood- a very warm and resonant sound. We look forward to seeing pix. You are on your way down your musical journey!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
11 years ago
399 posts

If you want to gamble on an ebay instrument, there a Folkcraft up for auction that's still below $100.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hand-Crafted-Dulcimer-by-Folkcraft-Heart-sh...

That could be a very nice instrument, but you have no way to be sure....however, it does come with 14-day after delivery return if you decide you don't want to keep it. It has geared pegs and a 6.5 fret, a case, and a beginning instruction book, so that could be a very good deal. I think it's cherry, which has a nice "voice" and it doesn't look all banged up from the photos. I have purchased some VERY nice instruments on eBay, so if I needed another one Smile.gif , then I would definitely consider this for purchase. I already own several Folkcraft dulcimers, however....

Another thing to consider is Dave Lynch's Sweetwoods Student dulcimer, considered by many to be a top-of-the-line student dulcimer. FOTMD Ken Hulme says "I happen to own a Student Model by Dave "Harpmaker" Lynch. Cost is $125 plus shipping. Sound is incredible - as good or better than instruments costing twice as much. Others will tell you their preferences."

Folkfan then added to Ken's comments:

One point about Sweetwoods Instruments is that Dave does have a $100 credit towards a future upgrade that goes with his student dulcimer. He will give a buyer the $100 towards a more expensive instrument if the student instrument is returned in reasonable condition when the next dulcimer is ordered. Basically then you'd be paying $25.00 for the student as a type of rental fee.

Dave has had this policy for years but has had very few returns of the student but he's had many repeat buyers. His repeat customers say things like, "My daughter, son, cousin or friend is going to be using my student instrument", "It's perfect for taking to a festival, camping, traveling, etc." and "But I love the way it sounds".

I also own 2 of Dave Lynch's dulcimer's! I've heard many people echo the comments made by Ken and Folkfan, and my cherry Dave Lynch teardrop dulcimer is one of my top favorites--I took it to the last workshop I went to, earlier this month.

Many of us also started on cardboard dulcimers...in this case it's definitely the precision of the fretboard construction that makes these great, under $100 instruments to learn on. The cardboard box makes an adequate soundbox, and they come in different colors, as an added bonus! Mine was ordered from Backyard Music Co., I believe (It's been a long time!)

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU FINALLY DECIDE ON! We're all hoping you find something that meets your newbie needs!




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
11 years ago
242 posts

You're on your way now! Does he play as well as build? He may be able to get you started learning to play.

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Success!

I called a friend, Burt, who I know as a local musician, fluent with guitar and banjo. My thought was to ask him to evaluate the pricey dulcimer at the local music store. But when I stopped by to show him some of the details, he said, "Ah, Ellen, did you know I make these? He had five dulcimers out on the table to show me and we spent an hour discussing them. I came home with a very affordable and lovely choice. It has a bright, clear sound and is made of walnut. No yucky strings either!

I feel confident that I have a suitable beginners instrument from a source that is welcoming of my questions. I'll post a picture eventually. Thank you, everyone for your encouragements and cautions. I am relieved that I didn't spend big bucks on an instrument that might have had issues.

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Y'all are treasures! I am learning every day. People have been very generous with their insights -- and somehow it makes me smile that "wormy chestnut" is supposed to be a good thing to find. Onward!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
11 years ago
2,120 posts

Ellen, you said "I'm concerned it may be from a kit and I don't know how to evaluate that."

Generally, there is nothing wrong with a kit dulcimer -- as long as the assembler did an adequate or better job of fitting the bits and pieces together. Look for good, clean, tight joints; no glue spots from sloppy work; lay a straight edge on top the frets to check flatness of the fretboard; and a nicely applied finish without blotches or dribble bumps.

I applaude your effort to purchase locally where you can get "touchy-feelie" with the instrument and find one that speaks to you. Remember that sound is the most important factor - not looks, not tuning machines, not kind of wood.

If you should decide against a local purchase, one builder than many of us here have had absolutely superior experiences with is Dave, "Harpmaker" Lynch of Sweet Woods Dulcimers. Although I've been playing for nearly 40 years and have built a couple hundred instruments, I own one of his Student models and am very impressed with the quality of sound, not to mention the workmanship. For $125 (with a trade-in policy if you later decide on an upgraded instrument) plus shipping it is one of the best deals on the dulcimer market. Check out Dave's website:

www.sweetwoodsinstruments.com

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

What did we do without the internet? I have learned tons today (hadn't thought of a cruise in a long time - no worries, Carrie, it made me smile!).

I am going to ask a friend to stop by the shop and evaluate the consignment instrument -- then hold off until we get to Seattle next week and will try a McSpadden, a Black Mountain and a student model. At that point I should . . . be really confused.Smile.gif

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Ah, THANK YOU. I spent a nervous hour this afternoon wondering if I should dash back to the shop and then decided that due diligence is due diligence and I hadn't done that yet.

A few years ago I went with my (then) teen son to look at a used car. It was a souped up sporty model. I insisted on a mechanic's check and it ended up being well worth the trouble of getting the mechanic's advice. It was funny to see my son's face as the mechanic began going down the list of the problems the glowing machine had (At that age he would not have heard this news from me).

It wasn't just my son who learned a great deal that day. Bargain hunting is best done by the super knowledgeable. Those of us who are less knowledgeable need both ears going to take in advice.

The hunt continues . . . Ellen

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,252 posts

Ellen, Walnut Valley is not a generally well known maker. Frankly, I feel that $400 one you link to is quite overpriced. I would not myself buy the one for $280 either, if the strings are shot and I couldn't hear somebody playing it well first. With tax, that's going to be around $300. There are many dulcimers available out there to buy that are in the $150-400 range that are made by highly regarded makers, which you can buy with more confidence.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Excellent points. The Walnut Valley Dulcimer company of Burns, KS seems to be out of business. I tried the 800-633-9477 number Carrie gave and it connects me to a "you have won a chance to go on a cruise" opportunity.

Here is a link to an ad from Birmingham (AL??) that shows a similar instrument:

http://birmingham.ebayclassifieds.com/musical-instruments/alexandria/handcrafted-high-quality-dulcimer/?ad=19468005

That seller says "of beautiful exotic woods" --

The instrument available locally says it is "Model SR" --- and, again, thank you for your help on this!

Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
11 years ago
297 posts

I echo Strumelia's words of wisdom. Buy the best your budget will allow right from the get go. If I had taken this advice my music room wouldn't be filled with so many not very playable dulcimers. But I did start with a $75.00 dulcimer that was not very playable and learned the basics on it and got jump started. I still have that old little dulcimer and its made a beautiful wall hanger.

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

Today I went to see a Walnut Valley dulcimer. It is beautiful to look at -- but the strings were in sad shape, so it was a bit hard to really understand what it would sound like (I suspect it will have a 'bright' sound). But it wasn't $150 -- it was $280. The sales lady said the wood was "walnut' -- Goodness, this is hard to evaluate.

Opinions and testing hints much appreciated -- And I do very much appreciate the many kind words of welcome here.

E

Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

I'll let you know what I find -- we have a trip to Seattle next week so I'll see if DH will humor me with a stop at the string shops. How do I find an innocent face when I'm plotting a major purchase? We'll see if my wily ways are up to snuff. His antennae is already quivering . . . dagnab it, he sure is smart!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,252 posts

Diane, I like your plan.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
11 years ago
242 posts

It's very tricky for a person new to stringed instruments to purchase one. There be SHARKS in them waters, and they own businesses that supply cheap junk dulcimer shaped objects to unsuspecting purchasers. (Also guitar, banjo, and mandolin shaped objects, the RATS!) The Apple Creeks mentioned above, for example. Some folks found a decent one, mostly by accident, and it was reasonably playable. Others opened the package to find it would not play in tune, perhaps the frets were incorrectly placed, perhaps the action was not properly set up. Don't buy by mail or over the net without the advice of others who know the reputation of the maker. It is possible to buy a very serviceable dulcimer for l$100 to $150 from several makers. They will not be fancy instruments, as more fine detail work costs money. But a lot of the fine detail work doesn't make the instrument play or sound better, much of it is cosmetic enhancements. (Of course, we see these works of art on our friends' laps, and want our own, that's human nature. Grin.gif ) McSpadden enjoys a very good reputation among their customers, as do owners of some of the others listed by Carrie, Wayne and Strumelia above. A quick search will turn up web sites for Flat Creek, Lark In The Morning. and McSpadden, I don't know about Walnut Creek.If you can locate a dulcimer club in your area, or a few players, you may be able to get some first hand advice and shopping assistance. Gila Mountain Dulcimers has a listing of clubs on their web site. http://www.gilamountaindulcimers.com/clubs.htm I don't know if Gila still builds dulcimers, but at least look for clubs or players in your area. Here in Ohio we have several builders who enjoy a good reputation, but that's a long way from your area. It would be best to see and hear the instrument before you buy. Better still if you can play it yourself, but that comes from having one to learn on. Your second purchase comes from a much stronger position, guided by your experiences. What you don't want is to be guided by hindsight, but too often that happens. Wait a few days and see who else pops up here with first hand knowledge of the makers you have located.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
11 years ago
2,252 posts

Everyone's different. here's my own journey-

Long ago I used to buy real inexpensive bargain instruments as a first instrument. I usually found I wanted a slightly better one only a couple months later, and I then I'd avoid the hassle of selling the cheapo one in order to buy the next level up. Repeating this pattern, I wound up with too many cheap instruments that were a pain in the butt to resell. And some of them had 'issues' that I didn't feel good about passing on to the next person. My personal epiphany came one day when I wanted a really awesome banjo (after playing for two years), but I felt overwhelmed and discouraged by the fact that I had EIGHT cheap Ebay impulse buys hanging on my wall- gathering dust and not very playable for one reason or another. I buckled down that year and sold ALL of those cheap problem banjos. I learned that for me at least, it made way more sense to buy 1 quality $350 instrument during the first two years than three $125 ones during that same first two years.

From that, I learned it was a better plan for me to first do a little homework online, and then to buy something that wasn't the cheapest level. Buying a mid-range instrument is not only easier and nicer to play, but it's also actually easier to re-sell without taking a loss, should you either give up playing or want a more custom instrument later on.

That's just my own experience.

I'd like to also mention that Lark in the Morning is I believe run by Larkin Bryant and her husband (is it still?) and they are good people. If you can possibly go try out what they have in person, it might be a smart way to comparison shop before you plunk any money down. I know it's hard to not go for instant gratification, but sometimes a couple weeks of shopping around can pay off bigtime, with benefits that last for a long while to come.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ellen Rice
Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
11 years ago
49 posts

I am an absolute neophyte beginning the process of selecting a first instrument. As I look around locally (Olympia, WA) I have found:

A "Walnut Valley" dulcimer listed at a local music store for $150. I will definitely go look at it but it sounds like it has old timey pegs for tuning. I'm concerned it may be from a kit and I don't know how to evaluate that.

A store that sells McSpadden instruments in Seattle ("Dusty Strings") which start at (for me) a breathtaking $375 to $450

A store in Seattle (Lark in the Morning) that has a variety of offerings from $180 up -- a $200 choice made of rosewood appeals.

I could also try a Flat Creek student dulcimer that is $110 and has an engraved fret board -- but is boxy.

Words of advice would be appreciated. I know that there are many different opinions out there and I am glad to hear from different mindsets.

Me? I am a middle aged being with a few years of high school band a gazillion years ago. I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. I adore instant gratification (and chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks). My "instant gratification" side says "go with the Flat Creek student model -- my "Ohh, I adore the classy" side thinks I should save up some shekels and get a more glorious instrument that I would cherish.

Hmm, The Dr. Jeckyll, Mr. Hyde of dulcimer shopping has arrived. Opinions, please!


updated by @ellen-rice: 02/21/19 10:20:59PM