Hand Crafted Instruments in the Dulcimer Tradition

Rensselaer Falls, New York | 48 Sales


Hand Crafted Instruments in the Dulcimer Tradition

Rensselaer Falls, New York 48 Sales On Etsy since 2016

5 out of 5 stars

Announcement   New Product! Shoulder Straps to make playing more comfortable (and even more fun).


Last updated on Aug 30, 2018

New Product! Shoulder Straps to make playing more comfortable (and even more fun).

Michael Sedore

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Michael Sedore


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Love at First Strum

It was Amazon that suggested a book on building "Pickin' Sticks". I enjoy woodworking, so I bought the book, built my first-ever instrument, and fell in love. Bright airy sound transported me to barn dances and crisp mountain mornings. The instrument was cute, compact, comfortable. I'm no musician, but I could quickly strum out the old hymns I grew up with. It was so much fun that I built two more. And then I began adding my own design ideas to a few more. Friends and family kept saying I should sell them, so I opened an Etsy shop and signed up for some craft fairs. The whole process--designing, building, playing, and and sharing--has added new and rewarding dimensions to my life.

An instrument takes shape from thousands of small measurements, cuts, and strokes. It wants hours to dry its glues and days to cure its finish. It needs proper strings, precise tuning, and tedious adjustment. When all is right, the moment comes that I imagine all along--wood and steel singing together for the first time. That first strum, the newborn voice, is the magic. It's what draws me on as my hands shape and finish the wood.

No two of my instruments look or sound quite alike. They're individually crafted and meticulously tuned. Small changes in dimension, shape, or wood sometimes profoundly affect the instrument's sound. I'm often surprised by what I hear.

I believe that connecting with the wood--its natural color, grain, and texture--is an important part of experiencing my instruments. I use no stains, dyes, varnishes or lacquers that would form a barrier between instrument and player. The finish is simple, durable, and easily renewable: linseed oil and paste wax. I hope people will enjoy the unique look and sensual feel almost as much as the distinctive sound.

In a larger dimension, I'm honored to stand in the folk instrument tradition, the generations of nameless craftspeople who made music from whatever was at hand, who made and played more for spirit than reward.

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Shop members

  • Michael Sedore


    Though my titles were teacher, technologist, consultant and pastor, I've always had a shop and worked with wood. Now mostly retired from other distractions, I'm able to indulge my passion for beautiful woods and even try my hand at making music.

  • Huguette Ferraton

    Product Specialist

    My partner in marriage, in business, and in life, Huguette is the muse for all that I do. A talented and creative seamstress, she makes gig bags and shoulder straps for our instruments. She also operates her own Etsy shop "SewCraftySoCute".

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Last updated on Sep 20, 2018
Frequently asked questions
What is a dulcimer?

The dulcimer is a 3 (or 4) string instrument, with frets arranged for a major (do-re-mi...) scale. Modern dulcimers are usually tuned to open D or G, so that a simple chord is available at every fret.

What kinds of dulcimers are there?

The Two Basic Dulcimer Types

(1) Traditional Appalachian Mountain dulcimer: a sound box, often in a teardrop or hour-glass shape, topped with a fret board. It's played horizontally on a table or the player's lap.

(2) Stick Dulcimer: guitar-like shape, i.e., fret board on a neck that opens into a small sound box. Smaller and lighter than a mountain dulcimer, it's held like a guitar for playing.

Another instrument, called a Hammered Dulcimer, is a very distant cousin. It has one string for each note, and it's played by striking the strings with small hammers. It's a historical accident that they're both called dulcimers.

How does a stick dulcimer compare to a guitar or ukulele?

A dulcimer has fewer strings than a guitar or ukulele. More importantly it has fewer frets--basically only the white keys of a piano. As a result, the dulcimer is much easier than other string instruments to play.

Why do some dulcimers have four strings?

Four-string dulcimers usually have just three string courses, i.e., two of the strings are tuned identically and run next to each other.

How are dulcimers played?

Since it's a folk instrument, there are no rules about playing a dulcimer. Two basic styles, however, are common.

(1) Traditional Note-and-Drone play. In this style, a melody is played on the highest string while the other two strings create a droning accompaniment. Early mountain dulcimers often were not even fretted under the drone strings. Most players start out with this style, and many never move away from it.

(2) Chordal play. In this style, chords are formed much like those on a guitar or ukulele. Chord charts for stick dulcimers are readily available.

Of course many variants are common--that's part of the fun!

How does wood choice affect an instrument's sound?

Tonewoods are always controversial among players and builders! Preferences are subjective and differences are subtle, but here are my observations based on over 150 instruments built:

Cherry - rich, mellow
Maple - bright, clear
Padauk - bright, lively
Walnut - rounded, mellow

Aspen - rich, rounded
Cedar - crisp, lively

The outside woods, have most influence on the sound in about this order: Top, Sides, Back.

Why is the small wood piece near the sound hole slanted?

The wood piece is called the saddle, perhaps because the strings ride on it. Its placement is critical: too low and the instrument will be flat, too high and it will be sharp.

Because the strings are different thicknesses, they need to be at slightly different distances from the nut.

The saddle is slanted so that the thinnest string can be slightly closer to the nut. The correct slant is individual to each instrument and is determined by trial and error.

How do you go about changing strings?

The strings are attached to small brass pins set at an angle in drilled holes at the instrument's tail. To change a string, just
1. Cut the string (or loosen it at the tuning peg).
2. Pull out the pin with a pliers: regular slip-joint pliers are fine,
(Remember that the pins are angled slightly downward.)
3. Place the pin through the new string's loop.
4. Tap the pin into place.
5. Attach the string's free end to the tuning peg and tighten.

Note that the saddle is spot-glued to the instrument top, so it shouldn't fall off. If you want to re-adjust the intonation, just tap the saddle and it will pop free.

If you need help choosing or finding strings, please contact me.