Neil W. Millard:
I have two Modern Mountain Dulcimers, probably not high end as far as price but I like their sound better than the two Blue Lions that friends have. One is cherry top and sides with a western red cedar bottom with a resonator board. The other is a poplar bottom and sides with a paulownia sound board no resonator it has a very well rounded sound and unbelievable sustain. Sill too new a player to do either justice. Just my two cents.
Neil, I also have a MMD and a Blue Lion as well. The MMD is made entirely of lacewood and has a false or galax back. It is my favorite dulcimer for flatpicking. The action is so low that my fingers barely have to touch the strings, so it's really conducive to playing fast. But I don't like it for fingerpicking. The action is too low for my picking fingers to get ahold of the strings unless I pick right in the strum hollow. The strings are also close together, which facilitates fast play with a flatpick, but my fat picking fingers have trouble. The Blue Lion, however, sings when it is played with fingers (no surprise, since Janita Baker mainly fingerpicks). I realized a long time ago that that instrument sounded good with a flatpick but great with bare fingers. And the strings are further apart, which caused me trouble when I was trying to flatpick on it but works well with my chubby little digits.
Both of those dulcimers produce big, round, bassy sounds. Most of the time that's wonderful for the style of music I play. But I do have a couple of songs that require more balance. That's what my Rick Probst dulcimer is for! It is also loud and round but the middle and melody strings hold their own better against the bass string.
I used to think that someday I would find the single instrument that would be my favorite for everything I do. But to the detriment of my checking account, I now see that different styles of music lead me to different instrument designs.
Dusty T., Northern California
"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger