D650 chromatic hammered dulcimer
closeup of a D650 hammered dulcimer
tuning pins on a D650 hammered dulcimer
corner of a D650 hammered dulcimer
handle hole in back of D650 hammered dulcimer

D650

binding and purfling on a Dusty Strings hammered dulcimer

diagram showing treble bridge fifth-interval tuning on a traditional hammered dulcimerThis 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.

The tuning scheme we use on our Chromatic Series instruments is a variation on the traditional fifth-interval tuning. The chromatic notes either replace duplicated notes or are added by means of new bridges. Players accustomed to the traditional fifth-interval scheme usually have little difficulty adapting to this style of chromatic tuning.

A chromatic instrument allows for a somewhat wider range of musical styles, including classical, ragtime, blues, jazz and certain styles of ethnic music.

Listen to the D650

  • 4½ octaves overall range
  • 3½ octaves chromatic range
  • traditional 5th-interval tuning
  • 19/18 configuration with a 9 course super bass bridge
  • solid sapele soundboard and back
  • carbon fiber reinforcement

The D650 is the middle child of the 600 series, our largest hammered dulcimers. The large body size produces the same incredibly full, deep and resonant tone as the D600, but the D650 extends the bass range downward to A1. In its standard tuning, the lowest seven courses of the super bass bridge mirror the lowest seven courses of the bass bridge, but an octave lower. If that arrangement doesn’t provide the particular bass notes you need, raising or lowering a note by a half step gives you great flexibility for tuning and arranging. You won’t believe the richness of those low bass notes!

Working closely with our design partner, Sam Rizzetta, we developed what we’re calling a “dual-density bridge system” to optimize the tonal balance across the range. In the upper ranges, we’re using jatoba, a very dense and articulate South American tonewood, which brings out the clear, ringing bell tones of the high notes. Slightly lighter density Eastern hard maple in the mid and lower ranges facilitates a full, warm, round tone. This combination surrounds the player with a balanced blend of clarity, responsiveness, sparkle and warmth.

The 600 series models have often been called “the grand pianos of the hammered dulcimer world” because of their large range and deep, powerful sound, and this is in part due to their relatively substantial size and mass. While these models are still portable, it takes reasonable strength to carry them. We’ve found it helps to distribute the weight between the shoulder strap and the low hand-grip on the case - and limit your walking distance!

Starting in 2011, we began incorporating carbon fiber into the internal bracing of our Chromatic Series dulcimers, improving upon their existing reputation for excellent tuning stability. With a stiffer frame, the tuning stability has gone from excellent to truly exceptional, a benefit that any dulcimer player will appreciate wholeheartedly.

C600 case available separately.

Price: $3595 Includes large double-sided hammers, gooseneck wrench, owner's guidebook.

Please call us to place an order!

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The Chromatic Series

Dusty Strings Chromatic Series dulcimers are professional-caliber instruments and are widely regarded as being among the finest hammered dulcimers available. However, this does not mean you have to be a professional to play one! As a beginner, you might be amazed at how quickly you make progress on an instrument that sounds fantastic and is well-made and satisfying to play. Regardless of your experience level, we think you’ll find the sophisticated tone and detailed craftsmanship of the Chromatic Series dulcimers to be well worth the investment.

The tuning scheme is a variation of traditional 5th-interval tuning, where the chromatic notes either replace duplicated notes or are added via extra bridges. We’ve found that it’s no different for a beginner to learn on one of our chromatic instruments than it is to learn on a more basic traditional instrument. More advanced players who are accustomed to traditional tuning will find it easy to adapt and will be delighted by the increased versatility of having access to all the sharps and flats. The chromatic capability opens the doors to musical styles such as classical, ragtime, bluegrass, jazz and rock.

Designed in collaboration with Sam Rizzetta, a highly respected inventor, builder and player of hammered dulcimers since the 1960s, these instruments have his signature asymmetrical design, which places the treble bridge perpendicular to the strings for ease of playing. The internal bracing system is more elaborate and sophisticated than our other models and, combined with the all solid wood construction, gives our chromatic dulcimers a resonance, clarity and depth of tone that is unrivaled.

For the ultimate expressive instrument, we highly recommend the optional damper system. Dampers allow the player to stop the strings from ringing by pressing on a foot pedal, and can be used very effectively to support even more nuanced playing, complex arrangements and interesting voicings. The Chromatic Series dulcimers are now being built with pre-drilled and capped damper installation holes, which will streamline the installation of a damper system whenever it is desired.

The single sound hole is decorated with a hand-carved maple leaf insert, a signature feature of our chromatic line. Contrasting solid-wood binding and delicate multi-layered veneers called purfling add a professional finish detail to the edges of the soundboard.

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Rich curly maple trim gives a warm and dramatic look.

Price: $250

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Dress up your soundhole with the sparkle of abalone inlay

Price: $250

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Add a lovely band of abalone inlay around the soundboard.

Price: $700

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A black soundboard adds an elegant touch.

Price: $100

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Control sustain and add tonal variety with a set of dampers.

Price: $545

Tuning, range and strings

The D650 has 4½ octaves of range; the lowest note is the A two octaves and a bit below middle C. It is set up in a 19/18 configuration, meaning there are 19 courses of strings on the treble bridge and 18 courses on the bass bridge. A super-bass bridge on the left provides the lower octave.

The overall range is A1 to E6; the chromatic range is B2 to E6.

string-chart-small-D650.jpgSuperscript numbers indicate octaves (C4 is middle C).

Dots indicate marked courses.

All strings have loop ends.

PB = phosphor bronze.

PBW = phosphor bronze wound.

SSW = stainless steel wound.

Unspecified strings are plain steel wire.

Wire gauges are shown in inches.

Downloadable string/tuning chart

String ordering information

Woods

  • Soundboard and back: solid sapele
  • Rails: wenge
  • Pinblocks: laminated piano-style pinblocks faced with wenge
  • Bridges: eastern maple and jatoba
  • Soundhole insert: eastern maple
diagram-hd-anatomy.jpg

Dimensions

  • Bottom rail: 50 inches
  • Top rail: 18 inches
  • Height: 23 inches
  • Thickness: 4¼ inches
  • Weight: approx. 25 pounds
diagram-hd-dimensions.jpg

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"The D650 is fantastic, and I'm pretty much in love with it... The low end is everything I've been pining for, in terms of hammered dulcimer tone... Also, impressively for a newly built dulcimer, the tuning stability has been commendable. One road trip home and a weather change aside, it's barely needed to be touched."

Matt Olsen (Yachats, Oregon)

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Listen to the D650