This is by far the most common tuning scheme used for the hammered dulcimer. It is called "fifth-interval" because the treble bridge is positioned such that the note on the left side of the bridge is a perfect fifth above the note on the right. Similarly, each note on the right side of the treble bridge is a fifth interval higher than the adjacent note below it on the bass bridge.
The instrument is tuned in major scale sequences, so you can easily play in different major keys by moving to different scale groupings on the instrument. The scales available on most dulcimers with the traditional tuning are D, G, C, F, A, and their relative minors.
This fifth-interval style of tuning works very well with traditional fiddle tunes, old-time, bluegrass and dance music. People also enjoy playing original and improvisational music and arrangements of hymns, popular and classical music.
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.
These numbers refer to the courses of strings on each bridge, and are an indication of the size and range of the instrument. For example, 12/11 means the dulcimer has 12 courses of strings on the treble bridge and 11 on the bass bridge. 3/16/15 indicates that in addition to 16 courses on the treble bridge and 15 on the bass bridge, there is an additional "superbass" bridge on the left-hand side with 3 courses of strings. The superbass bridge has notes that go lower than the bass bridge.
The Apprentice package is the perfect setup for a beginning hammered dulcimer player. Built with a laminated Finland birch soundboard and back and finished in a striking black, the instrument is exceptionally sturdy and stable and offers a sweet, balanced sound. The 2½ octave, 12 treble and 11 bass course string arrangement corresponds to all the well-known instructional materials.
The Apprentice comes with a variety of accessories at an attractive package price: single-sided wooden hammers, a T-handle tuning wrench, note indicator strips, the Hammered Dulcimer Owner's Guidebook, a 28-inch sit-down playing leg, a 5-inch table-top playing leg and a plush-lined black chipboard C10A case with a separate compartment for legs, hammers and wrench. The Apprentice also fits in the more deluxe C10 case, and packages can be upgraded to include the C10.
If the full package is a little out of your budget and you want just the necessities to get started playing, consider looking at the Prelude model. It is the same instrument as the Apprentice, but with a clear finish instead of black, and unlike the Apprentice, it is available as an instrument only. A pair of hammers, a tuning wrench and note guide strips are included, which is really everything a beginner needs to get started. Other accessories like a case and a playing leg or stand can always be ordered later.
Apprentice Package: $595 (Includes C10A case, 28-inch and 5-inch playing legs, T-handle tuning wrench, regular single-sided wood hammers, note guide strips, owner's guidebook)
The D10, Prelude and Apprentice have 2½ octaves of range; the lowest note is the G below middle C. There are 12 courses of strings on the treble bridge and 11 courses on the bass bridge. This configuration is often referred to as "12/11". Easily available keys are G, D, C and F, along with their relative minors. There are a variety of chromatic notes available in each key.
Superscript numbers indicate octaves (C4 is middle C).
Dots indicate marked courses.
All strings are plain steel with loop ends.
Wire gauges are shown in inches.
"I'm enjoying every minute of exploring this great instrument!"
-Mitzi Barker (Chugiak, Alaska)
An early impression of a new instrument: "I love my hammered dulcimer. My 12-year-old twins are having a blast, the first day too! I got to play it at 3 am. Thank you!"
-Ellen M. Howse (Millersville, Maryland)
And a later comment from the same customer: "I teach music at a nursery school, children ages 2-5. Once I became more proficient, I brought the dulcimer in to play for the children. They enjoyed hearing me play but REALLY enjoyed actually playing themselves... My son Christopher grabbed the hammers this morning and played his favorite song before running to the bus stop."
-Ellen M. Howse (Millersville, Maryland)
"Wonderful! So much to learn, but I played it all day and night when I unpacked it. A mountain brook in my living room. Thank you."
-Lynn Patten (Commack, NY)