Hammer Dulcimers

Rizzetta Standard on twisted dogwood legs.

RIZZETTA HAMMER DULCIMERS Description / Price List: 2019

On this page:

– Electronic Tuners For Hammer Dulcimer, a review
– Dusty Strings Hammer Dulcimers
– Accessories
– Rizzetta Hammer Dulcimers
– New Experiments and Developments
– Hammer Dulcimer Resonators NEW!
– Hammer Dulcimers FOR SALE, including used dulcimer for sale by owner.

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. Modern electronic tuners make the job of dulcimer tuning much easier. Here are reviews for what works best.

DUSTY STRINGS HAMMER DULCIMERS

Dusty Strings dulcimers are highly recommended for high quality, affordability, 5 year warrantee, and unmatched wide selection of models. Some are described below. For current Dusty Strings prices, pictures, tuning charts, & more go to: www.dustystrings.com.

DS prefix indicates Dusty Strings products. The 300, 500, & 600 series dulcimers and the PD 40 Piano Dulcimer are designed by Sam Rizzetta in collaboration with Dusty Strings. Mahogany is listed as the soundboard wood for many DS models, however some are now made with sapele, a similar wood with especially beautiful tone and appearance.

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! All other models are traditional 5th interval dulcimers, which are the most common and best for diatonic folk music.

DS PD40. Mahogany; 2 bass bridges extend range to 3.5 octaves!  It is supplied ready for pedal operated dampers which are available pre-installed or as a do-it-yourself kit.

Dusty Strings dulcimers with traditional 5th interval tuning:

DS Prelude. Full size, 12 treble & 11 bass courses (12-11); 2.5 octaves; economical starter dulcimer.

DS D10. 12-11; solid mahogany; louder tone than Prelude.

DS Overture. 16-15; 3+ octaves; laminated birch. The 16-15 size, pioneered by Sam in the 1970s, quickly became the preferred configuration for most players. Today even most beginners prefer to start with the 16-15 size and musical range.

DS D45. Popular 16-15 size; 3+ octaves; mahogany, some chromatics. Based on Rizzetta’s innovative tunings of the 1970s which provide more range and chromatic notes. Dampers optional.

DS D300. 9-13-12; very portable size with chromatics, plus added bass on innovative 3rd bridge; 3+ octaves; mahogany. Clear, bright tone.

DS D500. 3-16-15; 3+ octaves; 3 Super Bass courses. Optional pedal operated dampers.

DS D550. 8-16-15; like a Rizzetta Standard with mahogany top. Popular all-around dulcimer. Dampers optional.

DS D570. NEW! 2-8-16-15-8; like the D550 but Super Bass courses are playable on both left and right! See info sheet below. This is the ultimate 16-15 size dulcimer, and it opens entirely new performance possibilities! Dampers optional.

DS D600. 8-19-18; like a Rizzetta ER with mahogany top; 4+ octaves; big dulcimer, big sound. The bass tone will amaze you. Dampers optional. Because of the size, a Tri-Stander is the recommended and safest stand.

DS D650. 11-19-18; D600 with extended bass range; 4.5 octaves; big dulcimer, big sound. Dampers optional. Use Tri-Stander.

DS D670. NEW! 2-9-19-18-9; Like the D650 but Super Bass courses playable on left and right; the ultimate large dulcimer. Dampers optional. Use Tri-Stander.

D570 & D670 info sheet.

ACCESSORIES

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. $365. Legs only; $225. Brackets only; $150. FlatStander option available for less inclined, flatter playing angle. Same prices. TriStander legs now have flip locks, or lever-action locks. They require much less force and hand strength, plus they lock tighter. The flip locks are also adjustable and replaceable. I love them!

DS Folding Stands. Convenient, portable. Sit-down stand; $149. Stand-up stand; $159.

Pedal Operated Damper Systems. For PD40, D45, D500, D550, D600, D650, D570, D670; available installed or as a kit to install yourself.
For, Rizzetta Compact, Rizzetta Standard, Rizzetta ER; Installed about $545 to $700 or check with Nicholas Blanton.

For hammers please see the Hammers page.

RIZZETTA HAMMER DULCIMERS

Sam is now building experimental instruments only. The regular Rizzetta designed models listed here are available 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 dulcimers are the result of Sam’s 50 years of experience and experiments, plus a long time collaboration with Nicholas Blanton. Some of Sam’s many innovations include: bridge markers for dulcimers, chromatic notes, and bracing features for improved tone. And there are always new developments. The “third-bridge” extra low bass “Super Bass” courses, a Rizzetta innovation, can now be played on both the left and right sides of the dulcimer. When dampers are added, they also work with the Super Bass notes. Sample tuning charts are pictured below. Variable density bridges are another innovation. They provide smoothly balanced tone and sustain control from low bass to high treble. The high notes are sweet and bell-like while the lower notes have a full-throated clarity and richness. And a new arched back design feature makes for dulcimers that are both stronger and much lighter in weight.

You can read about Sam’s latest experimental light weight dulcimers and see photos on the Hammer Dulcimers, Ultra Light page. You can hear carbon dulcimers on the CD Dulcimer Fandango. See the Recordings page or: Hear sound clips; buy at: Rizzetta at CD Baby.  

For custom soft cases to fit Rizzetta dulcimers we highly recommend Coon Hollow Canvas.

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

Mini. 4-13-12-4; 3 octaves+; ultra portable; 33″x14″x4″; 9 lb.; great sound; small size; light weight; 2 octaves continuously chromatic; a serious dulcimer for travel. $1500. Discontinued; we might make one occasionally.

Mini Dulcimer with Super Bass playable on both left & right.

Compact. Similar to Standard but very portable. Strong and rich tone with wide range in a super portable weight and size; 4-16-15-4; 38″x17″x4″; 4+ octaves. Now available in Ultra Light 10 lb. to 12 lb. depending on features. Super Bass courses are playable on both left and right. One inch string spacing between courses center-to-center is easily playable while keeping overall size minimal. It will fit in most airliners as carry on baggage under current guidelines for musical instruments. This is the model I use when I have to fly to a performance or workshop. While a variety of tuning set ups are possible, especially for the Super Bass, here is a sample.
Compact Tuning Chart

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Ultra Light Arch Back Compact Dulcimer with Super Bass on both left & right.

The Compact has long been a favorite of players & performers who want to travel easily & sound good. It has recently been updated to an ultralight option with many new enhancements. The new design is extremely sturdy and stable in tuning with an amazingly light carrying weight. With arch back and black carbon fiber frame, weight is 10 lb. About $3500. With a decorative wood outer frame instead of carbon fiber, weight is about 1/2 lb. heavier. Extra Super Bass courses can add up to one pound more. At present, Compacts made by Nicholas Blanton will differ from mine a bit in weight, features, and price. A Compact will fit in a Dusty Strings C45 case, although it is a little oversize. For a form fitting case I recommend Coon Hollow Canvas. Helen Pilling at Coon Hollow has made a light weight case for my personal Ultralight Compact that has optional backpack straps. It is the cat’s meow for airline travel and large festivals. (I may have one UL Compact available soon.)

Standard. 4-16-15-4; over 4 octaves; up to 3 octaves chromatic; 45″x20″x5″; 13 to 17 lb. depending on features; rich and powerful tone; mosaic inlay; great all-around dulcimer in a popular size. Its longer scale length and larger soundboard give it a rich, warm, and powerful tone. String spacing of 1-1/8″ between courses center-to-center is easy to play. Super Bass notes are playable on both left and right. Approximate price: $3700. Will fit in a Dusty Strings C500 case. Coon Hollow Canvas can make a custom fit case. Options for extended Super Bass.

Standard Tuning Chart

Ultra Light Arch Back Standard Dulcimer; Super Bass playable on left & right.

Extended Range (ER). 2-7-19-18-7; very large, ultimate 5th interval dulcimer; over 4 octaves; 3-1/2 octaves chromatic; 1.1″ string course spacing; 48″x22″x5″; 17 lbs. with carbon back; amazingly rich tone & lush bass.

Extended Range Dulcimer, redwood top, mosaic inlay, carbon back, 2-6-19-18.

Extended Range Dulcimer 2-7-19-18-7 with Super Bass on both left & right.

The current ER 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. Current versions have Super Bass playable on both left and right.

Extended Range Tuning Chart

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 $3700.

Piano Dulcimer 3.7 Tuning Chart

EXPERIMENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS – NEWS FROM SAM

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 numerous innovations and enhancements over the years. This includes inventing the bridge marker system that is now in universal use. I added the bridge markers to the first hammer dulcimer I made, around 1970, after starting to play. Some new and interesting developments are on the Hammer Dulcimers, Ultra Light page. Three recent improvements are noteworthy 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 materials provide tone that is more articulate and mellow with less sustain and better balance from the lowest notes to the highest notes.

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 due to tone and structural considerations. Some players wanted the SB on the right, which can be detrimental to tone and warp the soundboard. New engineering and precision building now makes it possible to have Super Bass bridges on both left and right. Plus, stress and risk of warping are reduced. Super Bass Left and Right can be seen on my recent dulcimers and on the Dusty Strings D570 and D670. 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 sometimes detrimental to the dulcimer and therefore not approved by me. Super Bass on Left and Right just works better and is safer for the dulcimer. In playing, I use the Super Bass on both sides about equally and would not want to be without that capability.

3. Internal Braces. For a long time, internal adjustable and replaceable brace bars have been a special feature of many Rizzetta dulcimers. New materials for those braces 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, and not all dulcimers can be retrofitted. I am willing to modify my earlier dulcimers as well as some of my designs made by Dusty Strings or Nicholas Blanton. Check with me for mod prices.

HAMMER DULCIMER RESONATOR-STANDS

Rizzetta Resonator-Stands amplify a dulcimer and make the tone more rich, resonant, mellow, and articulate. This is useful for performers, but any player might enjoy the tone enhancement. Resonators are perhaps most useful for small and medium size dulcimers. Sound-wise, it is like having a larger instrument. I can travel with a smaller, lighter weight dulcimer and still produce a big, lovely sound. I now use a resonator most of the time. For those who have been asking me for a resonator they can use with dampers, see the TriFold Stand. I now make three styles of Resonator-Stands:

1. The TriFold Stand is the most universal and recommended for most players. It is a sit-down stand that folds flat for portability and is the only resonator that can be used with dampers. Playing tilt angle is variable, and it will hold a dulcimer of almost any size or weight. Folded dimensions are 2-1/2″ x 24″ x 24″. Weight varies from 5 to 6-1/2 lb. It is very portable and easy to carry. About $300.

2. The original Resonator-Stand is a light weight, reinforced wood sound panel, like a small table, that is supported with 3 Dusty Strings TriStander legs. A special suspension conducts vibration from your dulcimer to the sound panel. This is the only resonator that can use telescoping legs. It can be played standing, but cannot be used with Rizzetta or Dusty Strings dampers. Tilt angle is variable. It is primarily for dulcimers up to 18 lb. but can be adjusted to hold heavier ones. Weight, not including legs, is about 4 lb. Maximum dimensions are 38″ x 24″ x 3″. About $375. Legs sold separately.

3. The Box-Resonator is a hollow wooden chamber that provides maximum resonator effect. Height is for sit-down playing; screw-in legs can be added for standing. Dimensions are 19″ x 19″ x 25″ high. Weight is 8-1/2 lb., so it is not difficult to transport. Tilt angle is variable. The Box-Resonator is very strong and sturdy to hold any dulcimer. $375.

You can see and try resonators at my shop, or look for me at music festivals. I only have time to make a few and will not ship them. But they can be custom ordered from Nicholas Blanton, see link at top of page. At present, I do not have plans to post audio clips or photos since production is very limited.
Email: rizzetta1@frontier.com

HAMMER DULCIMERS FOR SALE

1994 Rizzetta Extended Range Dulcimer

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Built in 1994 by Sam Rizzetta and Nicholas Blanton. Owned by Madeline MacNeil, original owner. 2-6-19-18 bridge layout. 4+ octave range. Lowest note: D2 (2 octaves below middle C). Highest note: E6 (2-1/3 octaves above middle C). All natural wood construction. Redwood soundboard, dark wenge hardwood frame. This “grand piano” dulcimer is featured on several CDs by Madeline MacNeil, including As Time Goes By, Morning Has Broken, Songs of Earth and Sea, and Heaven & Angels Sing.

$2500. Softcase and leg set also available. For more information, contact:

Madeline MacNeil
Berryville, Virginia
mmdulcimer@gmail.com
madelinemacneil.com
540-955-3595

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 ideal for historical programs and re-enactors, as well as those wanting to start playing with minimal investment. I would appraise this dulcimer at $450.

Asking $275. More details and photos are available from the owner. Contact:

Betsy Calvert
The Plains, Virginia
betsycal66@gmail.com

1993 Rizzetta and Blanton Compact Model Dulcimer
Compact models are much in demand. Here is an older one in excellent condition, very few dings. 16-15 bridge layout. Full, resonant tone. Weighs about 14 lbs. Top and back are solid redwood; frame is beautiful dark and highly figured tropical hardwood. Decorative, hand-carved 8-pointed star sound-hole rosette. Mosaic wood inlay on top borders. Holder to attach mini-microphone on back for performing. Recent check up and updates by Sam Rizzetta, including many new strings.

Price: $2200. Includes sturdy oak stand with adjustable height. Not included but also available for sale are a Main Street case and TriStander telescoping leg system. The legs telescope to allow playing seated or standing and collapse to 15.5″ for portability.

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Details and more photos are available from owner. Contact:

Tabby Finch
Round Hill, Virginia
finchtab@yahoo.com

1986 Augusta Grande
In the early 1980s, the Augusta Grande model introduced the Rizzetta 16-15 bridge layout, with chromatics, which influenced most American dulcimers that came after. Original Augusta Grandes are still highly prized for their tone and durability.

Asking $1600. With Main Street case. Can also include a scissor stand or 3 wooden, screw-in legs. Contact the owner:

Gloria Hays
iriedulcimer@yahoo.com
352-807-1600

2006 Extended Range Dulcimer
Ultra light 17 lb. ER with redwood soundboard and carbon fiber back. Email rizzetta@frontier.com for more information.

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