Hammer Dulcimers

Rizzetta Standard on twisted dogwood legs.

RIZZETTA HAMMER DULCIMERS Description / Price List: 2016

On this page:

– Electronic Tuners For Hammer Dulcimer, a review
– Dusty Strings Hammer Dulcimers
– Accessories
– Rizzetta Hammer Dulcimers
– New Experiments and Developments
– Hammer Dulcimers FOR SALE

See the Profile page for some photos of Rizzetta dulcimers & historical info. Additional info on Rizzetta designs can be found at Dusty Strings and at Nicholas Blanton Instruments.

Electronic Tuners For Hammer Dulcimer. There are a lot of strings on a hammer dulcimer and modern electronic tuners make the job of tuning much easier. Here are reviews and recommendations for what works best.


Dusty Strings dulcimers are highly recommended for their high quality, good prices, excellent warrantee, and unmatched large selection of models from basic to sophisticated. Selected models are described below. For current prices, pictures, tuning charts, accessories, replacement strings, & more go to: www.dustystrings.com.

DS prefix indicates Dusty Strings products. The 300, 500, & 600 series dulcimers, along with the PD 40 Piano Dulcimer, are designed by Sam Rizzetta in collaboration with Dusty Strings. They sound and look great, are easy to tune and play, hold tuning well, are durable and trouble free, and provide very good price value. Five year warranty.

Piano Dulcimers , like the PD 40, were invented by Sam Rizzetta. They are chromatic with a half-step interval across the treble bridge instead of the diatonic scales of 5th interval dulcimers. Notes are marked black & white like the piano keyboard. Piano dulcimers are easy to understand, and they play in all keys! Other models are traditional 5th interval dulcimers, which are easy to play for diatonic folk music.

DS PD40. The beauty & tone of mahogany; 2 bass bridges extend range to 3.5 octaves! $1225. Case; $165. Prefitted for adding pedal operated dampers! Damper kit & installation instructions; $325. Installed; $395.

DS Prelude. Full size, 12-11; 2.5 octaves; laminated birch; economical starter dulcimer. $485. Use D10 case.

DS D10. 12-11 like Prelude but solid mahogany; louder tone. $760. Chipboard case; $95. Padded case; $120.

DS Overture. 16-15; 3+ octaves; D45 size but without the chromatics; laminated birch. $615. Case; $165.

DS D45. Popular 16-15 size; 3+ octaves; mahogany, some chromatics. $1125. Case; $165. Dampers, kit; $325. Installed; $395.

DS D300. 9-12-11; very portable size with added bass; 3+ octaves; chromatics; solid mahogany. $2245. Case; $315.

DS D500. 3-16-15; like the D550 below but with fewer Super Bass courses. $2495. Case; $375. Dampers; $545.

DS D550. 8-16-15; like a Rizzetta Standard with a mahogany soundboard. Excellent all-around dulcimer. $2695. Case; $375. Dampers; $545. This is a very popular size and highly recommend.

DS D570. NEW! 8-16-15-8; like the D550 but the Super Bass courses are played on left and right! Coming soon!

DS D600. 8-19-18 like a Rizzetta ER with a mahogany top; 4+ octaves; big dulcimer, big sound. $3345. Case; $435. Dampers; $545. Recommend Tri-Stander.

DS D650. D600 with extended bass range; 4.5 octaves; big dulcimer and big sound. $3545. Case; $435. Dampers; $545. Recommend Tr-Stander.

DS D670. NEW! Like the D650 but Super Bass courses are playable on both left and right; the ultimate large dulcimer. $3845. Case; $345. Dampers; $745. Recommend Tri-Stander.

D570 & D670 info sheet.


DS Tri-Stander. Strong, light, portable stand system. Legs mount to dulcimer and telescope to adjust height/tilt, sit or stand. Legs unscrew, collapse for ultimate portability. Safest for large & valuable dulcimers. $345. Legs only; $213. Brackets only; $140. FlatStander option available for flatter playing angle. Same prices.

DS Folding Stands. Convenient, portable. Sit-down stand; $129. Stand-up stand; $139.

Pedal Operated Damper Systems. For PD40 or D45. Installed $395. Kit to install it yourself; $325. For D500, D550, D600, D650, Rizzetta Compact, Rizzetta Standard, Rizzetta ER; Installed $545. D670; $745.

For hammers please see to the Hammers page.


Sam is now building experimental instruments only. The regular Rizzetta designed models listed here are available only from Nicholas Blanton. Contact Nicholas for details, current prices, availability and backlog: Nicholas Blanton Instruments. Nick and Sam have collaborated for a long time and Nick’s craftsmanship is highly regarded. From time to time Sam will have one-of-a-kind experimental and used dulcimers available, and they will be listed at the bottom of this page.

These instruments are the result of Sam’s 45 years of experience and experiments, plus a long time collaboration with Nicholas Blanton. Options for Rizzetta dulcimers now include: “tuned braces” for enhanced tone and power, resin-sealed interiors and soundboards for best tuning stability and resistance to humidity changes, and carbon fiber backs for lighter weight, greater strength, and enhanced tonal clarity, power, and musicality. There are also some new features. The “third-bridge” extra low bass “Super Bass” courses, a Rizzetta innovation for American dulcimers, can now be played on both the left and right sides of the dulcimer, which expands the usefulness of these low bass notes. And those Super Bass notes can be dampened along with all other strings when dampers are added. Sample tuning charts are pictured below. Variable density bridges are another innovation. They provide smoothly balanced tone and sustain from the highest treble notes to the lowest bass. The high treble notes are sweet and bell-like while the lower notes have a full-throated richness.

You can read about my experimental carbon fiber dulcimers and see photos on the Carbon Fiber Instruments page. You can hear them on my latest CD Dulcimer Fandango. See the Recordings page or: Hear sound clips; buy at: Rizzetta at CD Baby.  

Listed prices are approximate; please check with Nicholas Blanton for current pricing.

Mini. 4-13-12; 3 octaves+; ultra portable; 33″x14″x4″; 9 lbs.; great sound; small size; light weight; a serious dulcimer for travel. $1500. Discontinued; we might make one occasionally.

Compact. 8-16-15; Similar to Standard but very portable size & weight; 39″x17″x4″; 14 lbs. Loud, rich tone in a compact size. A favorite of players & performers who want to travel easily & sound good. With carbon fiber back; $3105. All wood; $2895. Available without the 3rd bridge as an ultralight 16-15; 10 to 12 lbs. depending on details, carbon back or arch back; about $3100. Will fit in a Dusty Strings C45 case which is a little oversize; for a form fitting case contact www.coonhollowcanvas.com.

Standard. 8-16-15; almost 4 octaves; 3 octaves chromatic; 45″x20″x5″; 19 lbs.; 16 lbs. with carbon back; rich and powerful tone; redwood top; mosaic inlay; hardwood sides; great all-around dulcimer in a popular size. Approximate prices: carbon chassis, $3200; all wood, $2900. Will fit in a Dusty Strings C500 case.

Extended Range (ER). 8-19-18; very large, ultimate 5th interval dulcimer; over 4 octaves; 3-1/2 octaves chromatic; 1.1″ string course spacing; 48″x22″x5″; 19 lbs. with carbon back; amazingly rich tone & lush bass. Note, this is lighter and more portable than my early ERs. With carbon fiber back and chassis, about $4200. Will fit in a Dusty Strings C600 case.

Piano Dulcimer 3.7. 6-16-6; 3 octaves + 7 half steps; 45″x20″x5″; easiest chromatic system, see PD info above; like PD40 but larger; more powerful tone. About $3200.

Rizzetta Extended Range Dulcimer, redwood soundboard with mosaic inlay, carbon back.

The sample tuning chart below is for an ultralight carbon fiber Extended Range dulcimer. Note that the Super Bass “third bridge” courses can now be played on both left and right sides. More Super Bass can be added on heavier dulcimers. For more on carbon fiber hammer dulcimers see the Carbon Fiber Instruments page.


The sample tuning chart below is for an ultralight Compact model dulcimer. Note that the Super Bass “third-bridge” courses can now be played on both the left and right sides. More Super Bass can be added to heavier dulcimers. For more on carbon fiber dulcimers see the Carbon Fiber Instruments page.



Besides playing them, my primary work with building hammer dulcimers since 1970 has been to do research and controlled experiments to better understand and improve them. This has led to a lot of innovations and enhancements over the years. Three recent improvements are interesting because they can be retrofitted to many of my earlier dulcimers, as well as some of the Dusty Strings Chromatic Series models that are partially based on my designs.

1. Bridges. New bridge designs and bridge materials provide a more articulate tone, a more mellow tone, less sustain, more projection, and better tonal balance from the lowest notes to the highest notes. The high treble is sweetened, the melodic mid-range is more clear and well-defined, low notes are more open and mellow, and overall projection and dynamic range are increased. The sound difference that bridges can sometimes make is a bit surprising.

2. Super Bass. The extra low, third bridge, Super Bass courses are now playable on both the left and the right sides. Super Bass bridges are an early invention of mine to add more bass notes. They were originally playable only on the left. Some players moved the SB bridge to the right side, which is detrimental to tone and also often warps the soundboard. Some new engineering and precision manufacturing now makes it possible to have Super Bass bridges on both left and right. Not only that, the stress on the dulcimer, and any risk of warping, is reduced. Super Bass Left and Right can be seen on my newer personal dulcimers and on the new Dusty Strings D570 and D670. Nicholas Blanton does not yet build this feature but hopefully might do so on request. You might see some dulcimers based on my designs that have Super Bass on the right only. That was never part of my design specifications; it is detrimental to the dulcimer and not approved by me.

3. Internal Braces. For a long time, internal adjustable and replaceable braces have been a special feature of many Rizzetta dulcimers. New materials and specifications for those braces can provide a more mellow and less sustaining tone. Some, but not all, dulcimers will benefit from this mod. Dusty Strings models do not need it.

Not all dulcimers need changes; yours might already be as good as it can be. And not all dulcimers can be retrofitted. While some of these mods will be costly, they are less than a new instrument and can make a big difference. I am willing to modify my earlier dulcimers as well as those based on my designs and made by Dusty Strings or Nicholas Blanton. Price must be calculated for each specific instrument and project. Here are some rough estimates:

– Replace and adjust internal brace bars… $200 to $350.
– Bridge replacement… $600 to $1500 depending on the size of the dulcimer and the number of Super Bass courses, if any.
– Add Super Bass Left and Right to a dulcimer that has SB only on one side… $450 to $700 depending on the number of SB courses.


Rizzetta Extended Range Dulcimer (similar to ER photo on this page).
Built in 1994 by Sam Rizzetta and Nicholas Blanton. Owned by Madeline MacNeil, original owner. 8-19-18 bridge layout. 4+ octave range. Lowest note: D (2 octaves below middle C). Highest note: E (2-1/3 octaves above middle C). All natural wood construction.

This “grand piano” dulcimer is featured on several CDs by Madeline MacNeil, including As Time Goes By, Morning Has Broke, Songs of Earth and Sea, and Heaven & Angels Sing.

$4,000. Includes carrying case, portable Tri-Stander telescoping legs, hammers, & tuning wrench. Shipping extra. Photos on request. Contact Madeline MacNeil directly.

Madeline MacNeil
Berryville, Virginia

Antique Hammer Dulcimer
This is a rectangular, parlor-style dulcimer, probably pre Civil War. It is similar in style to dulcimers made by the Wade Brothers 1840 – 1861 in western New York and northern Kentucky. 12-11 bridge layout. Original dark brown varnish with red-brown graining. Square head piano tuning pins. It has been recently re-strung and tuned. It holds tune, plays well, and has a sweet tone. As is usual for such dulcimers, there are some non-structural cracks in the top and back; they do not influence tone or tuning stability. It would be a good instrument for historical programs and re-enactors, as well as those wanting to start playing with minimal investment. I would appraise this dulcimer at about $400., but price can be negotiated with the owner. Contact:

Betsy Calvert
The Plains, Virginia
betsycal66 at gmail dot com

Rizzetta Compact Dulcimer
Betsy Calvert also has a very nice Compact to sell. See info above on Compacts. This model is much in demand, and there is generally a long backlog and waiting time. Here is an opportunity to acquire a nice one without the usual long wait. Contact Betsy directly at email address above.