A dulcimer is a fretted stringed instrument that produces sweet and melodious sounds. Mountain or lap dulcimers are usually placed on the lap when being played, though some people play it while standing. Although it is very popular in the US, its history can be traced to the Scott-Irish settler of Appalachia. The instrument may be related to the German lap zither. Over the years, a lot of music legends like Don Pedi, Robert Force, and Jean Ritchie have used the instrument to produce beautiful and inspiring music that won’t be forgotten in years and years to come.
Finding the best mountain dulcimer on the market that will suit your need is by no means an easy task. To help make your shopping easier, we considered features like weight, scale length, size and many more that affect the performance and the sound quality of the instrument.
Top 6 Mountain Dulcimer Review 2020
To ensure that this guide is comprehensive, we spent countless hours testing different dulcimers, evaluating their features and assessing their performance. After our deep and extensive research, we came up with a list of the six best dulcimers on the market. Our guide starts with a comparison table that shows the rating of each model. Next is a detailed review of each model. We conclude with a buying guide that contains everything you need to narrow down a dulcimer that will suit you.
Roosebeck Emma – Editor’s Choice
- Wood:spruce soundboard
- Size:34’’ x 3’’ x 7’’
- Weight:6 lb
- Scale length:5’’
- Strings:4 (2 melody, 1 middle, 1 bass)
More features:vaulted fretboard, F-shaped sound holes, 1.25’’ wide nut, 18 metal frets
The Roosebeck Emma is a top-notch, lightweight and rugged mountain dulcimer that was crafted from premium quality material. Its elegant design, superior performance, and brilliant finish make it a preferred choice for most mountain dulcimer enthusiast.
One intriguing thing about the Roosebeck Emma is that its vaulted fretboard and spruce soundboard is lightweight, which allows for more sound vibration and excellent sound quality.
The eye-catching shape of this excellent mountain dulcimer and superior finishing are going to leave you in awe.
As expected, the Roosebeck Emma has a solid fretboard, body, and neck. This means that you can use it for extended hours without fear of it falling apart.
The carved scroll peg head of the Roosebeck Emma features 2 melody strings, 2 gold mechanical geared straight tuners, 1 bass drone string and 1 middle string.
Unlike traditional mountain dulcimer that comes with three strings, the Roosebeck Emma comes with 4 strings. This enables it to produce richer sounds.
This excellent mountain dulcimer comes with a pick and owner’s guide.
Needless to say, the Roosebeck Emma is a work of art but it has one issue. Some customers complained that the string slot in the pegs are very small and may be difficult for greenhorn players to use.
So, if you are a professional mountain dulcimer player looking to taking your game to a new stratosphere, the Roosebeck Emma will be perfect for you.
- Excellent finish
- Slick design
- Made with premium quality materials
- Impressive sound quality
- Very small string slots
- Not a good fit for newbies
Applecreek ACD200K – Best Professional Mountain Dulcimer
- Wood:solid cherry
- Size:37’’ x 3.25’’ x 6.5’’
- Scale length:5’’
- Weight:not specified
More features:case included, 18 frets with 6 half-frets, ebony saddle and nut
The Applecreek ACD200K is a beautiful, dazzling and sturdy mountain dulcimer that is perfect for beginners and professionals alike.
This premium mountain dulcimer is handcrafted in Europe by reputable and experienced luthiers. It was made using the finest materials, and the most advanced and meticulous construction methods. Since the Applecreek ACD200K is made with durable materials and was put together by trained experts who have years of experience, you can be sure that it will last you for years and years to come.
The Applecreek ACD200K is perfect for professional presentation and for recording. Also, it is super easy to set up and use.
The fingerboard and maple neck of this rugged mountain dulcimer are solid and are made from durable wood. Unlike models from other brands with rigid strings, the strings of the Applecreek ACD200K glide over the maple easily and produce rich sounds.
While the Applecreek ACD200K is a top-notch mountain dulcimer, it has a few issues. First, it is pricy, especially when compared to models from other brands. Also, it has plastic knobs that may not last long.
The bottom line is that the Applecreek ACD200K is a brilliant instrument that is perfect for student learning how to play and professional players looking to taking their skill to a new level.
- It is easy to play
- Good fit for pros and beginners
- Brilliant sound quality
- Plastic knobs
- It is pricy
Seagull Merlin G – Best Diatonic Mountain Dulcimer
- Wood:solid mahogany top, rock maple back and sides
- Scale length:75’’
- Size:75’’ x 4.8’’ x 7’’
- Weight:4 lb
More features: 1.28’’ nut width, 3.94’’ waist size
The Seagull Merlin G is a stunning, lightweight, and high-performance mountain dulcimer that is super easy to use. Its sleek design, remarkable craftsmanship, and superior performance set it apart from models from other brands.
This remarkable dulcimer was made in La Petrie Quebec, Canada and is designed to produce rich and stimulating sounds.
Unlike other mountain dulcimers that are large and bulky, the Seagull Merlin G is small and lightweight. Since it is portable, you will be able to move it around with relative ease.
The Seagull Merlin G is an excellent instrument that was designed to produce beautiful and inspiring music that can stimulate people of all ages.
This eye-catching mountain dulcimer measures 14.75’’ x 4.8’’ x 7’’ and features a solid mahogany top, rock sides, maple sides, 4 strings, 20.75 scale length, 1. 28 “ nut width and 3.94” waist length.
Needless to say, the Seagull Merlin G is a wonderful instrument with a lot of amazing features. However, it has a few issues. Some customers complained that its low G string makes a grinding sound as you go up and down the neck. Also, it is not a good fit for professional players.
So if you are looking for a portable, lightweight and durable mountain dulcimer, the Seagull Merlin G will be a good fit for you.
- It is lightweight
- Impressive features
- Sleek design
- It is not a good fit for professional players
- The low G string makes a grinding sound
Roosebeck European Mountain Dulcimer – Best European Mountain Dulcimer
- Wood:rosewood frame, birch soundboard
- Size:5’’ x 5’’ x 2’’
- Scale length:5’’
- Strings:5 (2 melody, 2 middle, 1 bass)
- Weight:75 lb
More features:wooden slide and pick included, unadorned peg head, friction tuners
The Roosebeck is a gorgeous instrument made from high-quality materials. Its unique design and superb finishing and extraordinary sound quality make it stand out from others similar to it.
This brilliant mountain dulcimer has five strings- their strings are drones, while the other two strings run over the frets and are perfectly noted. Even more, it has a rosewood frame and a birch soundboard.
Unlike other mountain dulcimers on the market that produce low-quality sounds, the Roosebeck can produce inspiring and moving music with ease. This is possible because of its two well-cut sound holes that are located on the front and the back of the instrument.
This mountain dulcimer comes with a noter, pick, and extra strings. The Roosebeck measures 33.5’’ x 5’’ x 2’’, weighs 4.75 lb, and has 26.5’’ scale length.
Obviously, the Roosebeck is a premium quality instrument that has a unique design, but it has few issues. Some customers complained that it is expensive. Also, it is heavy and difficult to move around. Of course, this takes nothing from the performance of this excellent mountain dulcimer.
So, if you are looking for a mountain dulcimer with a unique design and a handful of impressive features, then you should opt for the Roosebeck.
- It has five strings
- It comes with some accessories
- Unique design
- Excellent sound quality
- It is durable
- It is heavy
- It is pricy
Roosebeck Grace – Best Mountain Dulcimer for Beginners
- Wood: spruce
- Size:34’’ x 3’’ x 7’’
- Scale length:5’’
- Strings: 4 (2 melody, 2 middle, 1 bass)
- Weight:4 lbs
More features: right angle 14:1 ratio tuners, F-shaped sound holes, 1.25’’ nut width, 18 metal frets with 6 half frets
The Roosebeck Grace is a top-notch, rugged and brilliant mountain dulcimer that is perfect for greenhorn players still trying to master the basics. Of course, there are models from other bands similar to it, but most people prefer the Roosebeck Grace because it is super easy to use. Also, its eye-catching design and impressive finish are out of this world.
Made from premium quality spruce wood, this rugged mountain dulcimer can withstand continued use and will last for a very long time. The body, bridge, neck, and fretboard of this brilliant piece are solid Sheesham.
One notable thing about the Roosebeck Grace is its vaulted fretboard that boosts the vibration of its soundboard. This ultimately increases the sound quality and volume of the instrument.
This high-performance mountain dulcimer features 4 mechanically geared tuners with a 14:1 ratio and has four strings, including 1 brass drone string, 2 melody strings, and 1middle string.
No doubts, the Roosebeck Grace is a sturdy mountain dulcimer and a must have for greenhorn players, but it has a few issues. First, it is not a perfect fit for professional players. Also, it is somewhat heavier than models from other brands similar to it.
So if you are a beginner looking to take your skill to the next level, then you should opt for the Roosebeck Grace.
- It is durable
- Stunning design
- Excellent performance
- It is heavy
- It isn’t a good fit for professional players
Applecreek ACD100 – Budget Pick
- Wood:laminated spruce
- Size:31’’ x 1.9’’ x
- Scale length:24’’
- Weight:2 lb
More features:maple neck and fingerboard, 6 half-frets
The Applecreek ACD100 is a budget-friendly, lightweight and super effective mountain dulcimer. Its sophisticated design, brilliant finish, and exceptional performance are certainly going to impress you.
What makes the Applecreek ACD100 stand out is its remarkable sound quality and elegant design. Since it can produce premium quality sounds, it can be used by professionals and beginners alike.
The sides, top, and back of this instrument are laminated with high-quality spruce and a hard case shell that protects the instrument. Since the Applecreek ACD100 is sturdy, you have the freedom to use it for long hours without the fear of it falling apart.
The fingerboard and neck of this high-performance mountain dulcimer are made with hard and rugged maple wood. Its strings are flexible and can easily glide over the maple of the instrument and produce beautiful sounds.
With this outstanding mountain dulcimer, you can be sure of making beautiful sounds with relative ease. Whether you place it on your lap or hang it with a strip, you will be able to play the instrument effortlessly.
As you now know, the Applecreek ACD100 is an affordable and exceptional mountain dulcimer. But it has a few issues. First, its tuners are a little too sensitive and the pick that comes with it is too stiff. Also, the string height at the bridge may be too high for some users.
So, if you are looking to purchasing a top-notch mountain dulcimer but on a budget, the Applecreek ACD100 will be perfect for you.
- It is affordable
- Excellent design
- Impressive features
- Overly sensitive tuners
- Stiff pick
- Its string height may be too high for some users
Presently, there are different types of mountain dulcimers on the market. Choosing among them is likely going to be a challenge especially if you are new to it. To make your shopping easier, we made a comprehensive buying guide that will arm you with the intricate information you need to narrow down a good mountain dulcimer that will suit your unique needs and preferences.
Why should you choose a mountain dulcimer?
Has it been your dream to play a stringed instrument? If yes, then you should opt for a mountain dulcimer. You probably may be wondering why you should choose a mountain dulcimer over a banjo or guitar, fiddle, or mandolin. Well, the reason for this is that it is super easy to play, as it only has three strings. Since it is easy to play; you won’t have to spend countless hours learning the basics or sign up for expensive classes.
Another interesting thing about the mountain dulcimer is that you don’t need to be able to read music to play it. Although sheet music and special books are available that indicated the right fret to use when playing a particular song.
Just like other string instruments, a mountain dulcimer can be played slowly and quietly or at toe-tapping speed to produce a pleasant and inspiring sound.
Appalachian dulcimer playing tips
The mountain dulcimer is just like any other string instrument. To learn to play it, you have to be dedicated, focused and practice endlessly. Below are some tips that can help make your journey to becoming a proficient player smoother.
How to hold a dulcimer
Unlike a guitar you can play while standing and sitting, a mountain dulcimer is usually played while seating. To ensure that the instrument remains stable on your lap, you have to wear the right shoes and seat on a stable and comfortable chair. Another thing you can do to increase stability is to angle or position the right side of the instrument towards your hip.
If you are right-handed, the headstock of your mountain dulcimer should be on your left.
If you are having a hard time keeping your dulcimer steady or it keeps sliding down your lap while you play, then you should consider mounting a strap to it.
Choosing a Pick
Presently, there are different types of picks on the market. But not all of them will be good for you. To pick a good one, you should try out different picks until you find the one that you are comfortable with.
While some dulcimers come with three or four strings others come with five or even six strings. If you are an amateur player, it is wise to stick to dulcimer with three or four strings as they are very easy to play.
This is one of the most important things you should learn if you plan on playing in a band. The easiest way to tune a mountain dulcimer is with an electronic tuner. If you don’t have one, then you can use electronic instruments like a keyboard to tune it.
You can also watch the following video to see the proper dulcimer playing:
See, you don’t need to buy an expensive mountain dulcimer to play better especially if you are just starting out. Opting for affordable models like the Applecreek ACD100 is a smart move as they are rugged and can withstand extensive use. Even more, they are very easy to play and adjust.
On the other hand, if you are a professional player looking to replacing your present mountain dulcimer, then you should choose top-notch models like the Applecreek ACD200K or the Roosebeck Emma. As a professional player, you should never buy a low-quality instrument just to save a few bucks, as it may fall apart or develop a fault that may be expensive to repair.
Features to consider while buying the best mountain dulcimer
While all the units on our list of best mountain dulcimers impressed us, we know that you have unique needs and preferences. To help you make an informed decision and ultimately narrow down a dulcimer that will suit you, we considered some key feature like shape, construction, and wood among others, that you should give careful attention to before making a purchase.
Whether you are going for a budget-friendly dulcimer like the Applecreek ACD100 or fairly expensive models like the Roosebeck Emma or the Applecreek ACD200K, it is important that you take a close look at its construction. If you are new to dulcimers, you may not really know what to look out for or where to check. Well, if that is the case, then you should buy from reputable brands that have a lot of positive reviews.
On the other hand, if you have been playing for a while or you know a thing or two about a dulcimer, then you should check its finishing, quality of the wood it is made of, and if it is well glued.
As you probably guessed, making an hourglass shape is more difficult than a teardrop shape. That’s why teardrop instruments are less expensive and hourglass shapes are at the top of the price range. But before visiting your favorite online store to get the first hourglass shaped dulcimer you can find, you need to keep in mind that a high-quality teardrop shape dulcimer will blow a poorly made or low-quality hourglass shaped dulcimer out of the water every time.
If you are an amateur player, you can buy a small dulcimer, but as you get better and you become more proficient, you should buy a bigger one.
Another important feature you should give close attention when buying a dulcimer is the wood it is made from, as it determines the sound quality of the instrument.
The best mountain dulcimers on the market are made from solid wood. The type of wood a dulcimer is made from is another thing you should check before making a purchase.
Most dulcimers on the market are made from hardwood like walnut, poplar, cherry, and sassafras or soft wood like cedar or spruce.
We recommend trying dulcimers with different wood before you narrow down the one that suits your needs.
Stay away from dulcimers made from plywood like the plague, as they are less durable and may fall apart after a while.
Unlike the guitar and the banjo, mountain dulcimer can have a different number of strings. While some models like the Roosebeck Emma has 3 to 4 strings other like the Roosebeck European has from 5 to 8 strings. The way and manner you plan to play the instrument will determine the number of strings you will need. Dulcimer strings can come in different length.
If you are just starting out, you have to keep in mind that dulcimers with many strings are difficult to play.
Head structure and frets
The original handmade mountain dulcimers had a scrolled head that is somewhat similar to a violin with hand-carved pegs. When the demand for the instrument increased, some builders or craftsmen simplified the scroll to a simple slotted head like a classical guitar with one slot and eventually to a plank-style head.
In recent years, builders started to replace staple with frets that are stretched all the way across the fingerboard, enabling chord playing, which was impossible when staple was being used.
Regardless of the type of mountain dulcimer you are opting for, you may have to tune it to get the sound you want.
A well-tuned dulcimer will be easier to play and produce better sounds. If your strings are not properly tightened into the instrument, you will always have to tune it before you can play. So, to increase your playing time and reduce your tuning time, you have to invest in an electric tuner. Also, you have to ensure that the strings in your dulcimer are properly tightened.
Feel free to add something you think is important and relevant, and please mention some of the products reviewed as examples in the buying guide, where appropriate.
In older dulcimer models, the bridge occupies a place or position close to the tail of the instrument. However, in newer models, the bridge is usually placed away from the tail. This is done to enable the instruments make a guitar-like sound.
The resounding answer is no. Anyone can learn how to play dulcimer with ease. In fact, you don’t need to have a musical background or learn how to read music to play it.
Yes. 6-year-olds can learn how to play an Appalachian dulcimer easily.
Yes, you need a pick you are comfortable with to play well.
The easiest way to tune a dulcimer is to use an electronic tuner. Alternatively, you can use electronic instruments like a keyboard among others.
Since there is no warranty on strings, manufacturers recommend that users change the strings that come with the instrument. If you are a student, you should change the strings on your instrument every 3months. If you are a professional player, on the other hand, you may have to change your strings weekly.
No doubts, all the mountain dulcimers reviewed in this guide are of high quality. But, here are our top three picks.
The Roosebeck Emma is our top choice. Its sound quality, excellent finishing, and performance make it one of the best mountain dulcimers on the market. So, if you are looking for the best of the best, then you should opt for the Roosebeck Emma.
Our second best mountain dulcimer, the Applecreek ACD200K is a top-notch dulcimer that features a 27.5” scale length, 18 frets, ebony nuts and saddle among others. The Applecreek ACD200K is a must have for professional players looking to taking their game to a new level.
Our third best pick, the Applecreek ACD100 is a budget-friendly mountain dulcimer that is made from premium quality materials. Its sophisticated design and solid body set it apart from other models similar to it.
We hope that our guide helps you in your search for the best mountain dulcimer on the market that will suit your unique needs.