Mountain Dulcimers

MOUNTAIN DULCIMERS

For Rizzetta mountain dulcimers currently available, scroll down to the FOR SALE section.

I’ve done a lot of experiments on amplifying dulcimers with pickups and microphones, including building my own pickups. Here is a compilation of useful information and recommendations. Amplifying Mountain Dulcimers

Since the 1960s I have made and played mountain dulcimers, or fretted dulcimers, and they are featured on the CD Moonlight on the River. While my early mountain dulcimers were wood, and wood mountain dulcimers are played on my recordings, for years I have experimented with dulcimers made partly or largely of carbon fiber composite. Carbon dulcimers, made in the same designs as my wood ones, tend to sound like wood dulcimers that have an extremely thin hardwood soundboard, or top. Although very thin wood will easily crack, carbon fiber will not. I design my dulcimers for responsiveness and volume to suit the melodic fingerpicking styles I like to play. Critical design features include the soundboard, the bracing, and the weight and stiffness of the fretstaff. Carbon helps achieve design goals while maintaining adequate strength. Unlike wood, it is also immune to humidity problems.

Mountain Dulcimer

Pictured above is a carbon mountain dulcimer in standard DAD’D’ tuning. Sound is strong and warm with the characteristic tonal clarity of carbon. The mellow, lush, and articulate tone is especially nice for fingerpicking.

As a structural material for dulcimers, perhaps the most useful carbon fiber application is for soundboards. Dulcimers with carbon soundboards on wood bodies have the carbon tone at lower cost and faster build time. The baritone dulcimer pictured below has a carbon soundboard and a light weight carbon reinforced frestaff. The back, sides, fretboard, and peghead are East Indian rosewood. Tuning is ADA’A’. Tone is wonderfully deep, strong, and mellow.

Baritone Mountain Dulcimer

In recent years I have performed a lot with carbon dulcimers. They are durable, trouble free, and project well in a concert hall. Concert goers have remarked that they thought my dulcimers were amplified when actually they were not.

I also build all-wood dulcimers with the same design features. Their sound is also very pleasing. Wood soundboards generally produce a brighter more “woody” tone while carbon yields a more “glassy” and round tone.

My dulcimers have a 27 inch scale length and mean-tone temperament fretting using low, wide frets for a very smooth playing action. A 6-1/2 fret is included. A 1-1/2 fret is not included but can be added. My dulcimers are generally set up with four equidistant strings and wide fretboards (1.9 inch width) for easier fingerstyle playing. Note that this is a little too wide to install the popular L. R. Baggs Dulcimer Pickup.

I do not have a walk-in store, but my dulcimers can be seen and played by appointment at my Inwood studio or at some of the festivals where I perform and teach. I do not take orders but occasionally have one-of-a-kind dulcimers available to sell.

FOR SALE

(None currently available for sale.)

PHOTO GALLERY

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Fretted Dulcimer, signed, 1970 #14 Sam Rizzetta. ( SOLD )

Rizzetta instruments were numbered from the early 1960’s until the early 1980’s; after that they were just dated. This is one from that early time period. There were a few dulcimers made to this particular pattern, and this was the fanciest. Spruce soundboard. American black walnut back and sides are all bordered with handmade maple and ebony checkerboard mosaic inlay. Violin varnish finish. Dove sound holes (although some people call them angel sound holes). The fret staff has arches under the fret board and a cutout at the strum hollow for lighter weight. The soundboard has a relief slot under the saddle for a very responsive tone when fingerpicking. A lock screw with rosewood knob allows tightening the relief slot for more appropriate tone when strumming with pick and noter. Fretboard and peg head have laminated stripe inlays of maple and rosewood. Nut and saddle are bone. Peg head face plate is inlaid with burled walnut and bordered with mosaic inlay. It is fitted with four gold tuners with planetary gears and ivoroid knobs.
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The string scale length is 28 inches. Fretting is for a very sweet sounding mean-tone temperament. 6-1/2 and 13-1/2 frets are installed. Action is low and fretboard is straight for a fast and super smooth playing action. The bone nut and saddle are grooved to accommodate either four equidistant strings or paired melody strings. It was strung for D’D’AD and mostly played in that tuning. Tone is warm, bright, and very responsive for its size. This dulcimer was recorded on the very first Trapezoid album, as well as on other recordings. It was my most used performing and recording dulcimer from 1970 to 1995.

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Fretted Dulcimer, signed, 1995 Sam Rizzetta. (SOLD)

Like most Rizzetta dulcimers, this another one-of-a-kind. It was my primary recording and performing dulcimer from 1995 to 2009, and it won awards at many exhibitions. Large, asymmetric body and tone chamber. Highly figured, quarter sawn, honey-colored lacewood soundboard, back, and sides. Trailing heart sound holes. Ebony fretboard and peghead face have one-of-a-kind vine inlays of mother-of-pearl, abalone, and turquoise. The western red cedar fret staff is hollowed. Top and back have purpleheart binding with abalone border around the top. Back has abalone and ebony inlay stripe. The black walnut peg head with maple border around its ebony face is fitted with four gold Schaller tuners with enclosed, sealed gears. Lacquer finish.

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Extra wide and low frets with low, fast action and very straight fingerboard make playing a dream. String scale length is 28 inches. Fretting is for a mean-tone temperament providing an especially sweet scale. 6-1/2 fret and 13-1/2 fret are original. Tone is bright and responsive with rich overtones. Ivoroid nut and bone saddle are grooved to accommodate either four equidistant strings or paired melody strings. It was strung for D’D’AD and mostly played in that tuning. A Baggs pickup and strap button jack are installed.

This dulcimer can be heard on many cuts of the CD Moonlight On The River and is pictured on the album cover. It also has a custom, felt-lined, ultra light, hardshell case handmade of cedar and fiberglass.