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I am interested in purchasing my first dulcimer. I was told by a local lady that teaches dulcimer lessons, that I should start with a cardboard dulcimer. She pointed me in the direction of a reputable builder. I was wondering how everyone feels about learning on cardboard. Keep in mind I know nothing about dulcimers, so don't go over my head. She is a fabulous player and (by word of mouth from others) teacher, so I trust her. Just needing opinions and insight. Thank you.

 

God Bless,

Angela

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Many of us started on cardboard dulcimers.  I began with a Backyard cardboard dulcimer that was a kit I put together.  The fretboard was already fretted, but the dulcimer had to be assembled and the strings put on.  I think a lot of people were surprised by how good a sound it had.  I enjoyed learning on it and used it in jam sessions, too.  Mine didn't have the 6 1/2 fret, though, and after awhile that became necessary for me. 

The best thing, of course, would be to have some angel lend you their really good dulcimer and learn to play on one of the best.  Then, there are inexpensive "student dulcimers" that can sound pretty good...check out Sweetwood Dulcimers by Dave Lynch.  His student model sounds pretty good, and if you decide you love playing the dulcimer (what's not to love?!) then you can trade the student model in as partial payment on a more high end model once you've decided you're going to stay with it.

 Good luck!

 

The cardboard dulcimers I've seen have been decent starter instruments. The sound quality isn't as nice as a wooden dulcimer, but it isn't near as poor as we might expect. They are pretty cheap to start with, but I believe some assembly is required. Not much, essentially you glue the fret board to the box, and install the tuners & strings. As long as the frets, nut and bridge are accurately placed in the fret board, and the nut & bridge height is set correctly,they play in tune and play easily. If you decide you want a better instrument later, you will have some playing skills to help you choose your next dulcimer. If you decide dulcimers aren't for you, you won't be out much money, and can pass the cardboard model to someone else to try. If you decide to keep playing, you also have the option of building a dulcimer, using the fretboard from the cardboard one. The fretboard on cardboard dulcimers is not cardboard, it's always wood. Talk to the local builder, and have him explain some of the terms I used here, and how the height of the nut and bridge make a difference. 

There are also some builders making inexpensive wooden beginner models. Dave Lynch, of Sweet Woods Instruments builds a Student model from plywood for a very reasonable price. http://www.strothers.com/sweetwoodsinstruments.com/index.html   You may find the price difference between the cardboard and Dave's Student model isn't a very great expense. I believe some other makers also have beginner models. The cardboard ones are unlikely to have much resale value if you decide to sell it, where a wooden one will retain more of it's original price.

Paul

Thank you very much.



Jan Potts said:

Many of us started on cardboard dulcimers.  I began with a Backyard cardboard dulcimer that was a kit I put together.  The fretboard was already fretted, but the dulcimer had to be assembled and the strings put on.  I think a lot of people were surprised by how good a sound it had.  I enjoyed learning on it and used it in jam sessions, too.  Mine didn't have the 6 1/2 fret, though, and after awhile that became necessary for me. 

The best thing, of course, would be to have some angel lend you their really good dulcimer and learn to play on one of the best.  Then, there are inexpensive "student dulcimers" that can sound pretty good...check out Sweetwood Dulcimers by Dave Lynch.  His student model sounds pretty good, and if you decide you love playing the dulcimer (what's not to love?!) then you can trade the student model in as partial payment on a more high end model once you've decided you're going to stay with it.

 Good luck!

 

I'm knowledgeable on fretboards and bridges, ( I'm learning to play the mandolin) so I kinda know what to look for. I just hated to spend the money on cardboard when I can put that money towards a reasonable wooden beginner model. It looks like my best bet is to just go with the cardboard. If it's something I wind up not liking, I didnt sink a whole lot of money into it. Thank you for the helpful information.
 
Paul Certo said:

The cardboard dulcimers I've seen have been decent starter instruments. The sound quality isn't as nice as a wooden dulcimer, but it isn't near as poor as we might expect. They are pretty cheap to start with, but I believe some assembly is required. Not much, essentially you glue the fret board to the box, and install the tuners & strings. As long as the frets, nut and bridge are accurately placed in the fret board, and the nut & bridge height is set correctly,they play in tune and play easily. If you decide you want a better instrument later, you will have some playing skills to help you choose your next dulcimer. If you decide dulcimers aren't for you, you won't be out much money, and can pass the cardboard model to someone else to try. If you decide to keep playing, you also have the option of building a dulcimer, using the fretboard from the cardboard one. The fretboard on cardboard dulcimers is not cardboard, it's always wood. Talk to the local builder, and have him explain some of the terms I used here, and how the height of the nut and bridge make a difference. 

There are also some builders making inexpensive wooden beginner models. Dave Lynch, of Sweet Woods Instruments builds a Student model from plywood for a very reasonable price. http://www.strothers.com/sweetwoodsinstruments.com/index.html   You may find the price difference between the cardboard and Dave's Student model isn't a very great expense. I believe some other makers also have beginner models. The cardboard ones are unlikely to have much resale value if you decide to sell it, where a wooden one will retain more of it's original price.

Paul

I built my fist dulcimer, back in the '70s, from a wooden Dulcimer Shoppe (McSpadden) kit.  It is a good instument, not as good as my Blue Lion, but it was a good starter instrument.  I don't know if they still offer them or not.

Cardboard dulcimer = $50 or $60. 

Student/Beginner wooden instrument $100-$125

You can always make, or have someone make you, a wooden body and glue the fretboard from the cardboard instrument on it.  There have been decent sounding dulcimers made from Legos and sheet acrylic plastic.  The fretboard is the key to good sound.  Without the frets in the right places you've got nothing but noise.

From the Dulcimer Shoppewebsite:

http://www.thedulcimershop.com/mountain-dulcimers.html

Cardboard Dulcimer

This little 3 string cardboard dulcimer has an amazing sound and is very sturdy. Cardboard body with wooden fretboard. It provides an excellent introduction to the dulcimer. Comes ready to play with a dulcimer pick, noter stick, 4-mil plastic carrying bag, and the 28 page playing manual, Meet the Friendly Dulcimer.
$67.00.

Thank you. Lots of great information.

 

God Bless

Angela

I started playing Dulcimer in March.  I wasn't sure I was going to stick with it so I did not want to spend a lot of money.  I purchased a fully assembled Backyard Cardboard Dulcimer for about $65.00.  I still play it.  I keep it tuned DAA and keep my newly purchased wooden dulcimer tuned DAd.  Which Dulcimer I play depends on the song.  I eventually plan on replacing the cardboard soundbox with a wooden box but have not gotten around to it yet.  I  had a great experience with my cardboard dulcimer and would recommend the same to anyone starting out.  I hope this helps.

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