Inexpensive short dulcimer

Lucky Dave
Lucky Dave
@dulcimer-dave
2 weeks ago
10 posts

Hi Lisa,

 

i have a Naylor Dulcimer, pre buyout, and I just acquired it. The instrument has a very nice sound and I find it easy to play. I also have a early Folkroots that is a behemoth. I just completed restring on both, ( thank you Ken)And I very much like the sound and sustain of both of them.


updated by @dulcimer-dave: 01/08/19 10:33:34PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,031 posts

Lisa, the danger buying most of the cheap dulcimers out there is that they are not really instruments but "dulcimer-shaped objects" intended to be hung on a wall somewhere rather than played.  A lot of them have really high action, making them hard to play, and many don't even have correct intonation, so you will sound off even if you are playing correctly.  

Bill Berg and David Lynch are two reputable luthiers who make "student" dulcimers for less than $150.  They are real instruments and will encourage you to play.  However, they are not really small travel dulcimers.  The small dulcimers don't really cost less than the big ones since they involve basically the same amount of work.  One option for you might be a cardboard dulcimer.  Folkcraft sells some that you can either put together yourself or buy pre-assembled.  I played one at a festival a couple of years ago and was amazed how well it sounded, although obviously it did not have extraordinary volume.

But I should also say that I own several really nice small dulcimers, including octave dulcimers by Ron Ewing and David Beede.  They are small enough to fit in a decent-sized backpack or under the seat in front of you on a plane and yet they both have a really charming tone.  They don't have a lot of sustain, but they stand out in a group of dulcimers because of the higher pitch.  They are not really cheap, but they are delightful instruments that maintain their value pretty well.




--
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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Lisa
Lisa
@lisa
2 weeks ago
10 posts
I'll probably just make one, unless I find a great deal. In my world, three hundred is a lot of money. I only make a little above minimum wage. I've seen dulcimer fretboards for around 25 bucks. I just want something to play on my lunch hour in the summer, that does not take up a ton of space. I'll probably make or buy a cigar box version, though I'd prefer a traditional lap style. I've got other instruments I should just sell, and fund what I want.

Thanks for the help. I joined the little group, lots of nice looking instruments and advice there.
Lisa
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,542 posts

I recommended that Lisa might want to look at Feather dulcimers, which come in various smaller scale lengths and are sturdy enough to take camping etc.  Again, all this is good info that can be found in our Fotmd's Little Dulcimers Group.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
539 posts

Folkcraft also makes a travel dulcimer, but they are expensive; $495.00. First Act dulcimers, as KenH mentioned, as of spotty quality. If you can find one, a little work and they can be made playable, although i don't think they are very sturdy.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,484 posts

Lisa --  

Like many things dulcimer, it depends... on what you consider "short" and "inexpensive".  Personally I would not touch a First Act dulcimer.  We'd had far too many reports here and elsewhere about poor fret spacing and shoddy workmanship making them mostly unplayable.  Same thing with the Seagull Merlin stick instruments.  

We seldom even think of dulcimer in terms of their overall length. But a 30" overall dulcimer will probably have a VSL of under 24".  There are several that fit that size criteria including Dave Lynch's Travel Dulcimer at Sweetwoodsinstruments.com , David Beede's Eedy Beede model, and McSpadden's Ginger.  But they are not "inexpensive", with prices from $225 to over $500.

Inexpensive but not short are the cardboard dulcimers, from a couple different makers, with about 27" VSLs and corregated bodies.  Overall length perhaps 34".  Priced from $75 to $90.  They have superior fret spacing so you get good, clean notes, but are basically the same size as conventional dulcimers.

If you have relatively simple woodworking skills you can build a simple box dulcimer with any VSL you want for about $50 in materials  -- two sides, two ends, top & bottom, staple frets and autoharp tuning pins.  Although technically a zither, not a dulcimer, I am just about to start building one similar to the attached photo.  It's going to be 24" overall, 4" wide, and about 1" deep, with a 20-22" VSL.  I'm building it specifically to fit in a suitcase for upcoming trips to England and Scotland, where I've been asked to play and there are no available loner dulcimers.

 

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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
1,542 posts

Lisa, you wrote me privately for advice on this, so I gave you my personal opinions on it already.  However, I'd encourage anyone interested in shorter dulcimers to join our Little Dulcimers Group and read some of the threads on it... lots of good info and recommendations, also @dusty-turtle posted a great list there comparing sizes and makes of short scale dulcimers!

-remember folks you need to JOIN a group in order to read all the replies to threads in the group, and see the comments.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Lisa
Lisa
@lisa
2 weeks ago
10 posts

Okay, I'm going to toss this out there. 

I'm in an area where there's no dulcimers for sale.  I'm looking at good used ones for at home, but is there an inexpensive one out there to take camping, or on a bike ride?  I'm thinking around 30".

  I know you get what you pay for, etc.  I'm interested to hear about success stories for short, inexpensive models, something I won't get heartbroken over if it gets damaged, but is still playable.  I'm interested in accurate fretting, as opposed to wonderful tone.  I'll expect great tone from an expensive instrument.

An older Naylor Dulcimer factory? I've heard they had issues after the late 90's, but what of earlier models?   I've even read a few good reviews for the First Act ones as a cheap travel dulcimer, as they were made from real wood, not plywood.  Hondo?

Thanks, Lisa


updated by @lisa: 01/06/19 02:53:36PM