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Whether you've fallen in love with the sound and want to start playing the dulcimer, or you've decided it's time for a new instrument, this chart can be a starting place for narrowing things down. Click on any of the words to find out more about what they signify. Clicking on the model names will bring up a photo and a short description, plus a link to more detailed information about that particular instrument. While this is a good way to begin sorting out the differences between all the models, we are always happy to give you a more personalized "guided tour" over the phone, based on the particular things you are looking for in a hammered dulcimer. You can also check out our detailed dulcimer comparison chart or our PDF guide to choosing a hammered dulcimer.
Note: The numbers next to the model names refer to the courses of strings on each bridge. For example, 12/11 means the instrument has 12 courses of strings on the treble bridge and 11 on the bass bridge. 3/16/15 indicates that in addition to the usual treble and bass bridges, there is an additional "superbass" bridge on the left-hand side with 3 courses of strings.
Also known as fifth-interval tuning, the traditional hammered dulcimer tuning scheme allows you to play in a number of common major keys and their relative minors, but does not have every possible sharp or flat note. The major scales most commonly available on dulcimers with the traditional fifth-interval tuning are D, G, C, F, A and sometimes E.
Chromatic dulcimers allow you to play all the sharps and flats in a certain range, which gives the player more flexibility for different styles of music like classical, ragtime, bluegrass, jazz and rock. We achieve this full chromaticism in two different ways with our Chromatic Series dulcimers and our Piano Dulcimer. All of our chromatic instruments are made of solid wood, which provides more resonance, depth, brilliance and volume than laminated wood.
Laminated wood is another word for plywood, which is made of multiple thin layers of wood glued together to form a panel. In middle and lower priced instruments, plywood is often used because it saves time over working with solid wood. It is a strong and durable material and tends to be less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. When made well, plywood instruments sound quite nice, although a comparable instrument made of solid wood would typically have more resonance, clarity, depth and richness of tone. We use the highest grade of plywood available.
We mill the soundboards and backs for our solid-wood instruments out of large planks of quarter-sawn solid sapele wood. We chose this wood for its visual beauty, dimensional stability, and most importantly for the sound. The acoustic properties of sapele combined with our instrument and bracing designs give a rich, deep brilliance, controlled sustain, and clarity of fundamental tone that results in a smooth, professional sound. While the use of a plywood soundboard and back provides an economical, good-sounding instrument, solid wood on the same instrument will produce more resonance, depth, brilliance and volume, and will continue to develop over the life of the instrument.
The tuning scheme for our Chromatic Series is a variation of the traditional fifth-interval tuning; the chromatic notes either replace duplicated notes or are added via extra bridges. The availability of all the sharps and flats allows for more flexibility in the musical styles you can play, and the similarity to the traditional tuning style makes it easy to adapt. These are our top-of-the-line dulcimers, made of all solid wood with elegant details like contrasting edge binding and a hand-carved maple leaf in the sound hole. They also have a more sophisticated internal bracing system, which produces a more refined, clean and articulate sound with a rich, full and warm bass.
The piano dulcimer features a unique tuning scheme with half-step intervals across the bridge and two bridge markers on each course of strings. White bridge markers correspond with the white keys on a piano, or C major scale, and black markers show the sharps and flats. This arrangement provides a completely chromatic instrument in a compact frame. It is an immediately familiar pattern to people with a piano background, and is great for any experienced musician, composer or pianist who wants the dulcimer sound and can do his or her own arranging.
This is a standard hammered dulcimer range which corresponds to all the well-known instructional materials and allows you to easily play in the keys of G, D, C and F and their relative minor keys. It is the most portable body size.
The Prelude and Apprentice are the same instrument, just with a different finish. Our smallest dulcimers, they are built with laminated Finland birch soundboards and backs and are exceptionally sturdy, stable instruments that offer a sweet and balanced sound. The Prelude has clear lacquer and is available on its own or as a package with a case and playing legs. The Apprentice has black lacquer and is available only as a package.
Base Price (Prelude, instrument only): $495
Base Price (Apprentice package): $595
The 3-octave dulcimers are still very portable, but the larger body size produces a bigger, deeper sound with more bass range than the 12/11 instruments.
The larger version of the Prelude model, the Overture is built with the same laminated birch soundboard and back. Exceptionally sturdy and stable, it offers a sweet, balanced sound over its three octave range. Extending the standard 2 ½ octave range downward, this instrument opens up a wider choice of playing keys and affords greater versatility in arranging melodies and harmonies. The base price includes hammers and a tuning wrench. The Overture is also available as a package with a case and a folding stand, and black lacquer (like the Apprentice) is an option.
Base Price (instrument only): $625
The solid-wood version of the Overture, the D45 is the same size and has the same basic range. The addition of three upper chromatic notes extends the chromatic range to more than two octaves, and the solid sapele soundboard and back lend extra depth and resonance to the tone. The D45 is also designed to be fitted with optional dampers, which allow you to control the sustain or play with a muted marimba-like sound. Dampers can be easily added by the player later on, or installed when the instrument is built.
Base Price: $1145
The D300 has the same overall range as the D500, but the bottom half-octave is on the left side of the instrument, allowing for a smaller and more portable body size. It is the smallest and lightest of our Chromatic Series and has all the same detailing and sophisticated sound, emphasizing a clear, crisp treble, a warm midrange, and less of the bass response produced by the larger models.
Base price: $2295
The unique tuning arrangement of the PD40 allows for 3 ½ octaves of fully chromatic range in a compact body size (the same size as the D45). You get the depth of solid-wood tone, a portable size, and a great range, but be prepared to do your own composing and arranging! Piano tuning is relatively new to the dulcimer world, and there aren't many instructional materials yet. The PD40 is designed to be fitted with optional dampers, which allow you to control the sustain or play with a muted marimba-like sound. Dampers can be easily added by the player later on, or installed when the instrument is built.
Base Price: $1245
This D500 and D550 provide a popular balance between portability, bass range and fullness of sound. They are fully chromatic over almost their entire range, and have the larger soundbox and more sophisticated internal bracing that produce the big, warm, rich sound that is the hallmark of the Chromatic Series.
The D500 has the same body as the D550, but without the extended bass range. Our mid-size chromatic dulcimer, it has all the detailing and sophisticated internal bracing of the solid-wood Chromatic Series, and offers a popular balance of rich bass and portability.
Base price: $2545
The D550 has the same body as the D500, but with an extended bass range. Our most popular mid-size chromatic dulcimer, it has all the detailing and sophisticated internal bracing of the solid-wood Chromatic Series, and offers a popular balance of rich bass and portability. The D570 is just like the D550, but with the super bass bridge mirrored on the right side, allowing the low notes to be played on either the right or left side of the instrument.
Base price (D550): $2745
Base price (D570) $3045
The D600 and D650 are our largest hammered dulcimers and have the lowest bass range. Due to the size of the soundbox and the Chromatic Series' sophisticated internal bracing, they produce an incredibly deep and resonant, piano-like tone. While still portable, these models do take more effort to move around, although D600 or D650 owners believe the sound is well worth it!
The D600 has the same body as the D650, but without the extended bass range. It has all the detailing and sophisticated internal bracing of the solid-wood Chromatic Series and, along with the D650, is the largest dulcimer we make. It has a lush, piano-like tone with a rich bass, powerful mid-range and clear, sparkly treble.
Base price: $3395
The D650 has the same body as the D600, but with an extended bass range. Our most popular full-size chromatic dulcimer, it has all the detailing and sophisticated internal bracing of the solid-wood Chromatic Series and, along with the D600, is the largest dulcimer we make. It has a lush, piano-like sound with a huge, rich low bass, powerful mid-range and clear, sparkly treble. The D670 is just like the D650, but with the super bass bridge mirrored on the right side, allowing the low notes to be played on either the right or left side of the instrument.
Base price (D650): $3595
Base price (D670): $3895