Thank you for your interest in my hammered dulcimers. I have developed dulcimers I believe are beautiful, well designed and constructed, delightful to listen to, and reasonably priced. I strive for an instrument that provides an excellent short-lived tone with a clear distinctive sound, and one that is even throughout its range. My ability to personalize your instrument separates your instrument from the crowd. There are over 1900 of my hammered dulcimers being played by both beginners and performing professionals. If you would like to order a Custom Hammered Dulcimer and after reading this page, go to my Custom Design page for help in making the necessary choices.
3/16/18/9 Custom Performance with a natural Redwood soundboard, Birdseye Maple frame and pin panels with Cocobolo binding and Cardinalwood bridges
Comments on my Dulcimers
As I am not a player I have come to rely on musicians for feedback. I am constantly striving to make improvements. Many players have made contributions but two individuals stand out. They have played my instruments for years and continue to astound me with their skill and sensitivity. I am grateful for the music they make and their willingness to contribute towards the growth of the instrument. Their comments are below. Click here to read more comments.
I'm a professional dulcimer player and I've been playing a James Jones dulcimer since I started. I've owned every model he makes, and have always been very happy with my instrument. Each dulcimer is a work of art, simple and elegant, with a clear, distinct tone, beautiful finish, and hand picked woods. My favorite thing about James's dulcimers is that I can go for a month on the road, three concerts a week, and scarcely have to tune my dulcimer. It's amazing! I truly believe that you cannot buy a better dulcimer for twice the price.
Jem is one of the best dulcimer players around. He performed for years with Ariane Lydon. Jem is currently playing solo and is also a commercial airline pilot. His recordings include a Celtic CD Women in Ireland, a classical CD Prelude to Evening and some original solo work on the CDs The Lost Tower and A Week In November. Jem also produced a nice music video. Click here if you'd like to watch it.
I record and perform on my James Jones dulcimer constantly - it's an instrument I can really rely on to achieve the tone, consistency, sustain, responsiveness, and playability I need to play music with real grace and sensitivity. I've recorded film sound tracks, commercials, and albums with my James Jones hammer dulcimer and I couldn't imagine a better, more consistently responsive and beautiful instrument to work with.
Steve is best known for being the first hammer dulcimer player to perform in a Broadway show, The Secret Garden. He also is an excellent teacher, solo and group performer. Steve's recording Momentum done with guitarist Paul Oorts is one of the finest dulcimer recordings out there. Steve plays a 3/16/18/8 Custom Performance with a Redwood soundboard and dampers. Steve performed the piece Woodworm with Paul at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Festival. Click here to watch the video
There is a growing list of quality musicians who perform, record, and teach with my instruments. The link on the heading will take you to my Featured Musicians section. This page has links to the musician's personal or professional web site where you can learn more about them and their music.
16/15 Custom with a natural Redwood soundboard, Walnut frame and Lacewood pin panels with Cocobolo Wenge binding and Walnut bridges
Hammered Dulcimer Models
My dulcimers fall into four categories. The numbers like 15/14 identify the number of courses in any particular model. A 15/14 would have 15 treble courses and 14 bass courses. A course is typically a pair of strings tuned in unison.
Traditional Hammered Dulcimers
I offer 10 different Custom Hammered Dulcimers available in the following ranges; 12/11, 15/14, 16/15 and the traditional Chromatic Custom Models 3/13/12 Travel, 3/17/17, 3/16/15/8, 3/16/18/10, 4/19/18/10, and 4/19/21/10.
Linear Chromatic Dulcimers
My fully chromatic dulcimer, the Linear Chromatic, has its own page with history, rationale, FAQ, and a more detailed discussion. I offer two models; the 4 1/2 octave 10/19/18/8 Linear Chromatic tm and the smaller 10/14/13 Linear Chromatic. I also offer this dulcimer in a flipped version and one fully electrified.
I build two Custom Model Tsimbls; the 13/12, and 18/17; another chromatic style instrument. The Tsimbls also have a dedicated page.
Student Model Hammer Dulcimers
These instruments are a less expensive well-constructed alternative to my Custom Dulcimers. They are available in the following ranges; 12/11,3/13/12,13/12,15/14,16/15, 3/17/17 and one size of Tsimbl.
Most people these days start out with 15/14s or 16/15s with the wider 1" string spacing which is better for beginners. You have a little less need for the more precise hits that 7/8" string spacing requires. Whether you chose a Custom or a Student Model is a function of how much money you are willing to spend and whether you are absolutely sure they want to pursue playing the hammered dulcimer. My Student models have a fine sound. They are a little brighter than a Custom model, don't have all the fancy extras but are laid out exactly the same. I also of course have a trade-in policy which means that you are always guaranteed 75% of whatever you paid for the instrument towards trade-up on a custom model later.
My larger Custom Performance Models have extra bridges which give the player high accidentals and up to 9 additional bass rhythm courses on the right down to a low D2. The 4/19/21/10 Custom Performance for example has a full four and one half octaves . The 3/16/15/8 Travel is designed to provide a lot of range in a small package.
The finish is a water-based satin lacquer or oil/poly. Bass tuning pins are located on the right-hand side of the instrument with treble pins on the left for ease of tuning. Black and white 'Acetal' rod bridge saddles mellow the tone, facilitate tuning and provide visual reference for octaves. Stainless steel saddles are added to the treble end of bridges to increase the sustain on Custom Models.
Since it is difficult to use words to describe the quality of tone in my instruments, I'll let a few sound clips give you a taste of what my instruments sound like (at least in recording). The quality of sound and the amount of sustain you desire in a hammered dulcimer is influence by the range, size and material choices. The smaller instruments will have less bass response and sound brighter, while the larger instruments support more bass end and more volume. Sustain is influenced more by material choices. The first four sound clips below are of a 3/16/18/9 size instrument played by two excellent players. You can purchase their recordings through these links. Steve's is here and Jem's through this link. Cameron Kennedy is playing 16/15 with 1" string spacing on the fifth clip. Here is a link to Tom MacKenzie playing a 3/16/15/8 Travel.
Sound Hole Designs
A Curly Maple Soundhole motif is individually designed for each instrument at no extra charge. As a result each instrument I've built has a unique signature. If you'd like to use a design of your choosing, visit my sound hole page to see what I'm capable of doing and how to go about creating a more personal image.
Extras Included with the Instrument
Included with the instrument is a double-faced set of playing hammers; leather for more muted tones and hard for brightness laminated to match the instrument. Select the set you'd like. You also get a T-style tuning wrench and a comprehensive Owner's Manual which tells you everything you need to know about the mechanics of the instrument such as how to tune, change strings, and care for the instrument.
Buying a hammer dulcimer is just the tip of the iceberg. You will need something to support the instrument at a comfortable playing height and angle. I carry stands built by other makers to include the adjustable wooden stands and the ever popular Tri or Flat-Stander which I highly recommend for those of you with larger instruments particularly if you have ordered dampers and want the most stability you can buy. I highly recommend an adjustable stand for the most flexibility as you can use it in a sit-down or stand up position and you can adjust the angle of play.
I recommend you also get a case. It protects the instrument during shipment and will continue to protect the instrument as you travel to lessons, workshops, festivals and vacations. Wrapping your dulcimer in a quilt will not work. For some of my dulcimers, I offer a commercially made soft case that is designed to fit your instrument providing good protection and the ability to carry accessories. If you plan to fly with the instrument, I recommend your visit my page on the subject. Most people opt for a soft case because they are light. Coon Hollow Cases can build custom soft cases for those of you who need a top of the line soft case or for getting a case for dulcimers I don't carry cases for. The soft cases I carry are well built and are adequate for most people's needs but if you are carrying damper pedals, tri/flat-stander legs etc and would like more pockets than a custom case is the way to go.
In order to increase the volume of your instrument, I can install a internal piezo pickup or an internal microphone. These pickups can be installed inside the instrument when the instrument is constructed or as a retrofit. I also can install magnetic pickups that fundamentally turn the instrument into an electric hammered dulcimer.
Visit my hammered dulcimer accessories section for more info on all the various options.
Dampers provide a way to stop your sound abruptly as well as using them in the 'on position' throughout or in portions of a piece to give you a softer, more percussive sound. Excellent for back-up. They are not the solution to controling sustain in an instrument. I can install dampers on all models of my hammered dulcimers. For more info, visit my dampers page.
Trade in policy
All instruments purchased from me may be traded in on larger instruments. I allow 75% of what you paid for the instrument and your case towards a larger hammer dulcimer. Trading your dulcimer in towards other instruments is not guaranteed but sometimes possible.
Each instrument, whether Custom or Student, has a written Warranty against all defects of material or workmanship for 5 years. I also guarantee satisfaction. If for some reason you are not pleased with your instrument, I will refund your money or make you another instrument. You are just responsible for the cost of shipping. You have one week to make your decision.
Check out my current stock to see if there is a finished or nearly completed dulcimer that would suit you. If you would like to order a Custom Hammered Dulcimer go to my Design page for a help in making the necessary choices.