Hammered Dulcimer Strings
If you have a non-Dusty Strings dulcimer...
If you are looking for strings for a hammered dulcimer made by someone else, there's a chance we might have what you need, but there are a couple of things you'll need to know. There is quite a lot of variation in how hammered dulcimers are designed, built, and tuned, which means that, unlike guitars, there isn't a generic string set that will work on any dulcimer. For this reason, it's not usually possible for us to tell you what materials and gauges of strings your dulcimer was designed for.
If you can't obtain a string chart from the dulcimer maker, your best bet is to find a micrometer and measure the diameters of the strings that are currently on the instrument. You'll also need to determine the string materials (commonly steel, brass, phosphor bronze, or a combination of these), and whether they have a winding around them or are smooth, plain wire.
If you're unable to measure the existing strings, another option is to try looking at some of our string charts (available on this page) and guessing which one is the most similar to your dulcimer. There's no guarantee any of our string sets will be the right thing for your instrument, but it can be easier to experiment if you have a place to start. When guessing, if you have any doubts about the structural integrity of your dulcimer, err on the side of thinner strings, as these will put less tension on the instrument.
Most modern dulcimers, ours included, are designed with two or more individual strings per course, where each string has a loop that hooks over a hitch pin, and a free end that wraps around a tuning pin. Some dulcimers instead use one continuous piece of wire for each course, meaning that the wire needs to be long enough to go from one tuning pin across the dulcimer and back to another tuning pin. Our 45" loop end strings will not work for this continuous stringing style, but you might be able to use two loop-end strings in place of one continuous string.
To order a particular string for your Dusty dulcimer, you'll need a string chart for your dulcimer model (available on this page under the String Charts tab), which you'll use to determine the diameter and material of the string you need. If you're not sure which model you have, you can find it written on a sticker inside one of the sound holes.
Dulcimer strings can be ordered online (below), over the phone, or via fax or mail by printing and filling out our string order form. Shipping and handling rates can be found on our Shipping Costs page.
Aside from individual strings, we also sell two types of string sets. Full sets contain one of each string used on the dulcimer, allowing you to restring the whole instrument. Spare string packs contain one to three strings of each gauge used on that model, and are useful for having backup strings in case of breakage, but will not provide enough strings to restring the whole instrument.
Loop end strings, 45" - 50" long
We no longer sell .020" phosphor bronze wire. We ran into too much inconsistency in the wire's strength, and have switched to using .022" PB in its place.
As of August 2016, we have improved the string design a little bit for some of our Chromatic Series dulcimers. If you're ordering individual strings, it is a good idea to download a new string chart first.
We no longer sell .020" steel wound strings and recommend replacing those with .022" steel wound instead.
Full String Sets
Enough strings to re-string the entire instrument
Note: The D25 full set contains two strings per course. If you have an older D25 with some three-string courses, you will need to buy an extra individual string for each of those courses.
Spare String Packs
An assortment of strings to cover incidental breakage, but not enough to re-string the entire instrument.
Maintaining & Replacing Strings
Unlike guitar strings, which must be replaced often due to the corrosive effects of salt and perspiration from the player's fingers, hammered dulcimer strings can last many years with little care. When tuning, use a guitar pick instread of your fingers to pluck the strings. If you notice the strings becoming tarnished, you can usually clean them with a string wiping or polishing cloth. If they are heavily tarnished, a very fine steel wool will clean them, but make that choice with care because it may also take off some of the protective coating that keeps them from rusting.
In general (unless they are actually rusty), you don't need to change your plain steel strings at all. It's a lot of work, and in most situations, there won't be much of a noticeable improvement to the tone. Think of it like a piano, where you might go 50 years or more with the same set of strings. However, if you have one of our larger models with wound strings or phosphor bronze strings in the lower register, you might consider changing just those strings every few years, as they can lose their tone and start to sound dull over time.
Hammered dulcimer strings do break, and this is something you should be prepared for as a player. It's a normal part of owning any stringed instrument and doesn't mean that anything is wrong with the instrument. Replacing your first broken string can seem daunting, but with a little patience, a tuning wrench, and a pair of wire snips, you'll be a pro in no time. There are step by step instructions in our Hammered Dulcimer Owner's Guidebook, and you can download a PDF copy here if you no longer have the one that came with your dulcimer. You're always welcome to give us a call if you're worried you're going to do something wrong or hurt the instrument.
If you do decide to restring the whole instrument, we recommend changing the strings course by course. If you take all the strings off at once, you will have the benefit of being able to thoroughly clean the dulcimer, but your bridges will also move around and it will be more work to re-position them so that you can get the dulcimer back in tune.
String Charts for Current Models
- D10, Apprentice & Prelude
- D300 (after #13377)
- D500 (after #13168)
- D550 (after #13168)
String Charts for Discontinued Models