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I know that McSpadden rates very high on the list of best/preferred dulcimers.  Who else would be on this list, and why?



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Wayne, you are absolutely correct.  "Best" was not the right wording; perhaps "Preferred" would be better.  Living in Mt. I have no chance to try any out, for fit, sound, etc.  I have to purchase first; then find out when it arrives.  I know, like anything else, one is always tempted to get another dulcimer!

I am very impressed by Blue Lion. As I wrote in serveral threads it is an instrument which wants to be treated delicate and gentle. At the other hand, the first dulcimer I ever played was a Santos de Mares, a rather cheap one. The cheapest Blue Lion is over twelve Santosses... They all have a character. But Blue Lion has to be in the list, I think.



I owned and played a dulcimer awhile before I really had any understanding of what my preferences were in an instrument. A good basic dulcimer from any one of the many respected makers is a good place to begin.  

Thanks Wout & Robin!

Hi - I live in the UK so it is very diffcult indeed to try MDs out! My first one was a cheap Romanian factory made one (Hora) then my OH made a couple for me. Now I also own some US made ones and have tried out others on the rare occasions I get to meet up with other MD players.

I love my McSpadden ginger, it is responsive with a big voice for a small body. I also own a Tom Yocky, which is incredibly light for its size, and is hugely loud across the whole range. I would add those two names to this list, along with the late great Homer Ledford.


I have also tried some MDs made by UK luthier Stephan Sobell, and they are incredible.

As I am a newby, I have no expertise on dulcimers.  I do know one thing.  I absolutely love the dulcimer I bought from Cabin Creek Music.  Walter Messick does excellent work. My daughter's piano teacher was impressed.  Not only is it pretty and sounds great, it is hand made in the great state of Virginia, home to part of the Appalachian mountain chain .  I'm not near anyone as to try out dulcimers so I had to go shopping online.  When I called Walter he arranged for me to hear some of his dulcimers over the phone.  I know it isn't the same as being in person but I was able to hear the dulcimers I was interested in purchasing which is better than just looking at a picture on the screen.  I have posted some pictures of my dulcimer.  I need to post a picture of the back.  It is beautiful as Wayne and others who do ooVoo will attest.  I'm sure there are many other dulcimer makers who make fine instruments of which I have had the pleasure to hear on this web site through posted videos/pictures but I will say that I do love my dulcimer.

Carol, as a beginner, I will put my two cents worth in.  One of the things that folks asked me was what's your budget???  That pretty much narrow's it down considerably!!  I will say I had a VERY low budget to start with and not only that, only wanted to put out that amount not knowing if I was going to enjoy playing.  I had an inner voice telling me otherwise, and since I have started playing I LOVE IT!!!!  Since there was no opportunity to try one out anywhere near where I live I had to go into it blindly but also with help from a lot of these folks here at FOTMD.  After much searching and studying I went with Bill Berg out of Indiana.  I didn't get the bottom of the line, but I didn't get the top either and I have to say I am very, very satisfied.  He made me a beautiful dulcimer with some inlay and cute sound holes and it plays wonderfully - sounds great!!  Like so many others, I do want one now that has a little more aesthetic quality to it, all the pretty's, etc...but to start off with, I couldn't have gotten a better one!!  I encourage you to call up there and talk to Bill or Sue and they will answer any questions you have gladly and explain things to you.  Just some food for thought from one beginner to another!  Good luck on the start of your journey...YOU WON"T REGRET IT! 

Dear Carol;

  It is good that you are asking. Some very good names have been suggested already. I'll add that you should buy the 'best' you can afford ... unless price is no object. I haven't heard anything bad about McSpadden. They are a quality instrument and more affordable than some. Clemmer's are beautiful and usually have an equally beautiful voice. I've seen some excellent dulcimers, well kept, sold here on FOTMD. You might even have the option to hear the actual instrument before you buy it that way. Whatever you decide ... I wish your dulcimer good luck in finding you.


Bing Futch and I like Folkcraft  You can watch some of Bing's videos to hear how they sound.  I got a Folkcraft because I am fortunate to live pretty close to their facility, and was able to visit and listen for myself.  They have a nice website and a wide variety of dulcimers and prices.  Good luck to you and happy shopping!

As said above, Carol, there is no "best" or even "preferred" - at least until you've been playing for a year or so and have an idea of what kinds of music you want to play and the style you want to play them.  McSpadden and Folkcraft are like fast food retaurants (in the good sense) - they are always good and occasionally great.  But only time and your experience will tell you if there are things you like/don't like about your current dulcimer - price, type of sound, volume, woods, ease of tuning etc.  Everyone has their own list of builders who they prefer; and none of my preferences have been mentioned yet:  Dave Harpmaker Lynch and Nik Hambas for starters.

If you can tell us what you want out of anothere dulcimer, perhaps we can help you narrow down your search.  The question you posed here is only widening your search!    As you may know from reading things here, the kinds of woods, the shape and the number of strings have little if anything to do with what a dulcimer sounds like.  But since you can't buy by playing and listening, you'll have to buy by aesthetics or from someone who is playing an instrument that you like the looks of and/or sound of.  As someone else mentioned, there are some great dulcimers being offfered for sale here at good prices, but you've got to know at least a little bit of what you're looking for.  Buying a 4 string equidistant won't help much if you're a noter & drone player; buying double melody strings won't help if you haven't accustomed yourself to them, etc.


Here are some factors to consider:

Price.  What's the maximum you can afford; and what's the reasonable amount you're willing to pay?

Sound.  Deep and mellow or high and silvery?  Some builders specialize in one sound or the other.  Other builders make what you want.

Shape.  Hourglass, Teardrop, Elliptical, Box, Fiddle or other shape.  Not all builders make all shapes.

Numkber of strings.  Three, doubled melody, 4 equidistant, 5, or 6?


As I said.  If you narrow the field for us; we can better help you find what you want...

Hi Carol,

I live in an area where it is difficult to go check out dulcimers so I bought a McSpadden online.  Like many dulcimers, it had a VSL of 27" but I found that that was too long for me.  I have a bad shoulder and just don't have the reach necessary.  So I sold the McSpadden and had Paul Conrad (Timbre Hill Dulcimers) make one for me with a shorter VSL and also bought a Mastertone dulcimer with a shorter VSL.  If you are a smaller person, have small hands, etc. you might want to give some thought to the size of dulcimer that you buy.  McSpadden has the Ginger model which is smaller and I know that Clemmer and June Apple mentioned earlier have smaller size dulcimers.  One thing to keep in mind, though, is that some of the smaller dulcimers play an octave higher than larger dulcimers and some don't.   Good luck!

It will be quite a while before I can purchase another dulcimer; I was just wondering in the meantime, other's preferences.

I do prefer the deep & mellow sound as opposed to the high sound.


I have just gotten back into learning; after a very lengthy time away.


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