No matter how much we all love our guitars…
There comes a time for every guitar player…
Where the initial romance of EADGBE wears off…
And the eye begins to wander, fantasizing on each and every one of those other stringed instruments he has yet to conquer.
And then sometimes…it’s the dulcimer.
While it’s really not considered by most musicians as a “serious” instrument…
It’s great for so many things…
- It’s great for travelling because it’s small, portable.
- It’s great for recording because of its unique folky sound.
- It’s a great secondary instrument because it’s easy to learn and fun to play.
And if you’re reading this post, I’m willing to bet you’re researching dulcimers now for one or more of these exact reasons.
So up next I’ll show you 7 of the top dulcimers on the market today, and along the way, give you some key beginner tips about the instrument itself.
Sound good? Then let’s begin…
1. Seagull Merlin SG
If you’ve done any research on the instrument itself, you know that while dulcimers can have many different string counts/arrangements…
The two most common strings counts are 3 and 4.
As you can see in the picture, the Seagull Merlin SG has a double treble string, making it twice as loud as the drone strings.
Another noteworthy detail is that you actually play it just like a guitar…
As opposed to lying on your laps for a traditional dulcimer.
So if you’re already used to playing the guitar, that might be a decisive factor for you.
It is available in mahogany and spruce models. Check it out:
2. 3-String Simplicity Dulcimer
Probably the best “starter” dulcimer…
This dulcimer is made out of cardboard, hence its very low price.
But, surprisingly enough, even though it’s super cheap, users have been reporting a very nice sound.
On top of that it comes with a bunch of extra accessories as well as a book to get you started with very simple songs…
So you can start playing right away.
3 string vs 4 string dulcimers
Another detail about this dulcimer is that it has 3 strings.
And if you’re looking to know which of 3 or 4 strings dulcimers are better…
Well keep looking, because there is no single answer to that question.
The only thing people generally agree on is that 3 strings dulcimers are easier to play on, and therefore are recommended for beginners.
Anyway if this dulcimer is what you’re looking for, check it out:
- Click to see current price – (Amazon)
3. Apple Creek ACD100
Another very cheap model…
The Apple Creek ACD100 is also a great beginner, or “student” dulcimer…
Which, in other words, simply means its made of cheaper materials, such as the laminated wood for example…
Which is still more resistant than the cardboard used in the previous model.
So if you want a good sounding, decently made, cheap dulcimer, the Apple Creek ACD100 is probably the best choice around.
Check it out:
4. Roosebeck Grace Mountain
A significant upgrade compared to all the models we’ve seen so far…
The Roosebeck Grace Mountain has various added features, such as:
- Solid wood on all parts
- Vaulted fretboard for increased body resonnance
- available in 4 or 5 strings
So while the 4 string model offers the regular “string layout”: 1 bass drone string, one mid string and a doubled melody/treble string…
The 5 strings model also offers a doubled mid string for increased volume.
But the real added feature of the 5 string version lies somewhere else:
It has an extended fretboard with 2 additional frets, the 6½ and the 13½, no longer making it a diatonic instrument, which is a pretty big deal…
And opens a lot of new possibilities, including:
- Being able to play one octave higher
- Being able to play most accidental notes of the C major scale
So since this dulcimer technically offers MORE notes than the previous models, it might not be the best choice for complete beginners…
But if you play the guitar or just know your way around it, this option might be more suited for you, since it is sonically not as limited as the previous ones.
Check it out:
5. Roosebeck Wildwood Series
Just like the first pick of this list…
This series of models uses a different design than the traditional laptop one, making these dulcimers more similar to guitars/mandolin.
The difference between each model is the shape of the soundhole. There are 3 models:
And this is a purely aesthetical diifference, you won’t note any difference in sound between these 3 models.
Now, just like for the previous model, this series also offers an additional 6½ fret, but NO 13½ additional fret, so keep that in mind when considering it.
All models of this series are 4 string models with doubled melody string.
Check it out:
6. Roosebeck Trail
Again from Roosebeck, here is the Trail model.
And this is basically the same instrument as the series we just covered previously, but in a more compact format.
It is played in a guitar position and is ideal if you’re planning on traveling with your dulcimer…
While still prefering this type of design.
Check it out:
- Click to see current prices – (Amazon)
7. Johnson FI-220
If you’re looking for a “true” Appalachian mountain dulcimer…
Then you might want to take a look at the Johnson FI-220.
With a traditional design featuring:
- Mahogany Body
- Decorative Heart-Shaped Sound Holes
- Scalloped Strumming Area
- 15 Fret Fingerboard
On top of that, the Johnson FI-220 also comes with a custom carying case.
So if you’re looking for the real deal at a low price, this is undoubtedly your best bet.
Check it out:
Oddly enough, very few of the mainstream string manufacturers make dulcimer strings…
Which is a shame since some dulcimer manufacturers themselves recommend you change the instrument’s string right off the bat.
But luckily, 3 of the best ones still do. And these are:
So if you already play the guitar you’re almost certainly familiar with these names, and are aware they are authorities in the field.
Which is a good thing since it means you can buy these sets fully rested, knowing that quality-wise, they’ll deliver.
Check them out:
- D’Addario EJ64 Nickel Wound – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Martin M640 Nickel Alloy – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF)
- GHS D20 Stainless Steel – (Amazon)
Now, something Dulcimers manufacturers won’t always tell you, is that you can actually buy ANY steel guitar string for your dulcimer…
As long as you use the correct gauges, which are:
- For both melody strings: .010 to .012
- For the middle string(s): .012 to .014
- For the bass string: .022 to .024
As for how to restring your dulcimer, the easiest thing to do is to watch a video tutorial, such as this one:
And That’s it
So there you go guys, the best dulcimers currently available.
Hopefully I’ve helped you find the right one for you.
‘Til next time.