The uk's hammer Dulcimer Maker
tim manning

Intermediate Notes



Buying Second-hand

The chances are that you have playing a smaller or cheaper instrument and would like to upgrade.

If you look at second hand dulcimers please chose an established brand and be very critical of the sound. If an instrument cannot be fairly quickly tuned up, be suspicious. Its quite easy to get carried away about how much work you are willing to undertake on a speculative instrument. Take the time to play a potential instrument.

In the Dulcimer world one thing to watch out for is the 'home made' instrument. It takes some time to become proficient at making dulcimers and you need experience too, as well as a good design. The use of so called tone woods is not any proof of tonal quality by any stretch of the imagination. A well built instrument of laminated timber can be far better than an inexperienced maker's first or even fourth attempt! Instrument makers are not immune to either. Dulcimers are so different to other instruments that all sorts of things can go wrong even by established instrument makers.



English Hammered Dulcimers

Hammered Dulcimers should have 2 bridges. The more centrally placed left or treble bridge, and the right or bass bridge. The range and to some extent size of hammered dulcimers are often described by the number of courses of strings they contain, 12+11 for instance, would refer to 12 courses of strings passing over the treble bridge and 11 courses passing over the bass bridge. To recap the first number refers to the left bridge (treble) and the second to the right bridge (bass). In modern Hammered Dulcimers a course usually consists of 2 strings tuned to the same note, but occasionally 3. Older instruments could easily consist of courses of 4 or more strings tuned to the same note.

I make 3 basic sizes of English Hammered Dulcimer.

Table Top 9+9

The smallest of my current range and less likely to be the instrument of choice for and upgrade although I know there are instruments of a similar size that are deficient in sound quality for which this would represent a good choice. The Table Top instrument is similar in size to an Iranian Santur. Despite the size extremely complex or very simple music can be played on the instrument, though with limited range.

Harmony 12+12

The most regular size of instrument. Slightly greater range than their American cousins which are usually 12+11. These models are equipped with obviously greater range than the Table Top the larger size also allows lower frequencies to develop in the soundboard.

Maestro 15+15

The largest Dulcimer body size I currently make. Greater range again and even more lower frequency sound in the larger body allows guess what?, a more full bodied sound!

Virtuoso !5 +15 + 8

The Virtuoso models can be fairly challenging but rewarding also. There appears at first to be a lot of strings for the eyes to take in, which can be a bit overwhelming without some prior experience. The body size is similar to the Maestro instruments with an additional 8 courses of wound bass strings in between the courses of higher pitched strings giving these instruments much greater range and depth of sound.