Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer


Big mistake:  I let my heart rule my head when I saw a beautiful photo of a short Cripple Creek dulcimer and bought it without playing it myself.  I was assured it played beautifully.  I bought it over the phone and had it shipped post haste since I planed to use it for travel on planes.

Silly me did not check their return policy – they don’t take returns, they only exchange. 

This little dulcimer could not stay in tune past a few measures, as pretty as it was.  According to my local luthier who examined it and my knowledgeable dulcimer teacher, the problems were many and nothing that an experienced dulcimer maker should have allowed to happen. I'm told that the action was the wrong way round or reversed. At the nut (by the tuning pegs), the action was way too high, and at the bridge, it was way too low. I have been told that it was also not intoned properly, so many of the notes sounded sour, especially when I tried to play in chord melody style. This is why no matter how carefully I tuned it, I simply couldn't stand to listen to it. Also, the tuning machines were placed "higgledy piggeldy" (some very close together, others far apart for no apparent reason and some of them shaved to fit), making it awkward to tune or restring. Also, the finish looked like something a first term high school wood shop student would be embarrassed to turn out. Altogether, not an instrument that anyone should consider charging $450 for.

Guess I've got a $450. "wall hanger" dulcimer."

I happened to be going to Colorado a couple weeks later and stopped in at the Dulcimer Shop in Manitou Springs where they make and sell Cripple Creek dulcimers.  I asked them to tune it for me and even the original maker of the instrument could not make it hold a tune.

So, I had to go with an exchange – no refunds.  They set out ten or twelve dulcimers and I tried each one and took the least bad.  Even more concerning, all of their recently made instruments that I tried at their shop shared many of these same slap dash technical flaws making them all pretty unplayable.

I am full of regret.  The least bad one I brought home doesn’t stay tuned either.

I actually bought a good dulcimer there seven years back and with the exception of a buzz that was easily fixed it has played just fine which is why I trusted that the new one would also be good.

Up until my very disappointing experience with Cripple Creek, I had met nothing but really interesting, inspiring and helpful people in the dulcimer community.

Has anyone else had this problem with Cripple Creek dulcimers?

Tags: Creek, Cripple, construction, poor

Views: 2481

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Replies to This Discussion

My goodness, no!  Bud & Donna, and Bud junior and his Lady have always been very easy to work with and have built really good instruments.   Was the instrument you bought a "true" Cripple Creek or a Cripple Creek kit that someone slapped together?

Ken, sad to say both were actually purchased there at the shop. the little one had Cripple Creek painted on the side and the newer one had it stamped in turquoise blue on the top of the fret board. My original "professional" model from 7 years ago had Cripple Creek Dulcimers burned into the long side of the fret board. It is a gorgeous walnut instrument.

I got my Cripple Creek dulcimer kit 6 yrs. ago this coming December. It plays like a dream. Like your older one mine has Cripple Creek Dulcimers burned into the side of the fret board and my named burned into the other side. They even exchanged the fret board that had a flaw in it. I called and they exchanged it. Sight unseen. They didn't want the old one back. I haven't been in the area since, but I am sorry of the way things have turned out for you. I guess time changes everything. For better or worse. Like Ken, they were great people to deal with.

You should consider posting this over at Everything Dulcimer, too. You could also comment on the store's Facebook page, although it is mostly inactive, and maybe review on Yelp or Angie's List. Publicity might cause them to make it right, or at least keep somebody else from getting ripped off this way.

That's a real bummer.  Way too much money for a problematic poorly built dulcimer, and no returns... I feel for you. 

Siggie, Sounds like someone may have reversed the nut and bridge. I wonder when it was strung up if they put the nut where the bridge was supposed to be and vise versa.  You might want to loosen the strings and if the nut and bridge are the same width , reverse them and retune . See if that changes things. Just a thought, I had someone bring me one that was done that way, it was an easy fix.

Sad story.  There are many reasons why an instrument might not be exactly what we want, but it sounds like this one has many serious structural problems.


I would contact them again and insist on a refund.  If all the instruments they offered you have structural problems, then exchange should not be the only an option. They need to know how unhappy you are and how vociferously you are voicing your concerns to the dulcimer community.

If the dulcimers were good in the past but not now, it makes me wonder if they are contracting someone else to assemble or manufacture them. It's definitely a concern and I'm surprised they don't stand behind their product and offer a refund.

I've seen and tried both the first small Cripple Creek dulcimer that Siggie received sight unseen by mail, as well as the one she came home with after going back to the store and settling for the least bad of another 10 or 12 that she was shown. 

The first one was TRULY THE MOST UNPLAYABLE DULCIMER I have ever seen in 39 years of playing and 36 years of teaching. I have never even seen a 1st time amateur built dulcimer so poorly designed or executed. It was atrocious and simply not a playable instrument. Compared to it, the Apple Creek dulcimers I've seen look extremely well designed and playable.  

BTW, I don't believe the bridge and nut were accidentally swapped; I recall checking that out for Siggie and seeing that they were of different widths and placed into slots cut into the fret board, so one could not accidentally swap the one for the other. 

The second short Cripple Creek that Siggie has now--the least bad of another dozen problematic instruments--again looks like it was designed by a first time wood worker. It seems to have a solid maple fret bar (not hollowed out), and still is problematic in terms of playing and tuning. One of its better qualities is that it's quiet enough that its poor design and execution aren't quite as apparent as they would be if it was louder. 

The most amazing thing is that Cripple Creek seems completely oblivious to the exceedingly poor quality instruments that they seem to be pouring out at this point in time. Based on what I've seen, they make some shoddy and cheap Pakistani instruments look well made in comparison. Actually, calling them instruments is a misnomer since it implies that they can be played. The two I've seen are really just very expensive wall hangers! 

Good advice at this point in time is to steer clear of Cripple Creek dulcimers--unless you're up for an exercise in being ripped off and frustrated. 

All the best,


Turns out the Cripple Creek dulcimer website is no longer there although I was able to find the address and phone number of the store through the Manitou Springs page. I would post my experience on Everything Dulcimer but am not sure what category to place it in. I did Yelp them.

I really appreciate all of you taking the time to write. You guys are the best. Thanks. Siggie

As Yogi Berra (whose book is entitled I Didn't Really Say All Those Things That I Said) did or didn't say, "it's déjà vu all over again."


Check out this discussion from two years ago.

Whoa Dusty!  Goes around, comes around.  So sad.  I think I might just put my foot down and ask (politely of course) for a refund.  Thanks for the info!

And yes, the dulcimer folks here are the best.


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