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Arch-Dulcimer by Don Rickert


Arch-Dulcimer by Don Rickert

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Product Description

ATTENTION!: You most likely got to this page via a search engine rather than visiting the Adventurous Muse Storefront. This is a custom-made instrument, available ONLY at our new store, Don Rickert Musical Instruments (


Never heard of an Arch-Dulcimer? Of course you haven't, as Dr. Don Rickert of Don Rickert Research & Design (owns Don Rickert Musical Instruments) invented it...sort of...explanation below.

In short, the Arch-Dulcimer is a double-fingerboard lap or Appalachian Dulcimer. One fingerboard is tuned like a standard dulcimer (d-a-d, for instance). The other is tuned either as a "baritone dulcimer" (a fifth lower) or as a "bass dulcimer" (an octave lower). We have not finished all of the design research, but we're looking at about a 26.5" string length for the higher part and about 29" for lower part).Experimenting with optimal rib height in order to find the the "sweet spot" between pure bass-infused power and a clear melody projection on the high notes.

We call it an Arch-Dulcimer because it is related to of the same idea as an Arch-Lute (often played by Sting these days), which has a shorter standard set of string courses and a set of really long bass/drone strings. Courses are sets of strings that are always played together...for example, a mandolin has 8 strings grouped into 4 courses.

Now, you might ask, haven't double-fingerboard dulcimers, such as the "Courting Dulcimer" been around for a long time? The answer is yes, but Courting Dulcimers are played by 2 people, sitting facing each other. The players are really close to each other, hence the term Courting Dulcimer. Lure has it that courting couples in the Appalachians used to play these things as part of the courting ritual, for lack of a better phrase...don't know about that, but a cool story nevertheless. There are some images of some Courting Dulcimers below:

Click on an image for a larger view.

Dul022 Gail_knapp_courting_dulcimer Courting_dulcimer 

If you look closely at the photos above, you will see that the fingerboards run in opposite directions (even the one with the peg boxes at the same end), as would be appropriate for their use. Generally, each half of courting dulcimer is tuned the same.

The Arch-Dulcimer is a different beast, as showing in the visual conceptual mock up below:

 Arch Dulcimer Concept 

So, what are we looking at?

At one level, it is simply a wide dulcimer with a standard length fingerboard and a second baritone/bass fingerboard. Here's another way of looking at...a dulcimer that allows a single player more flexibility than single dulcimer and MUCH MORE. When you play either of the fingerboards, particularly in the traditional manner using a noter, the strings on the fingerboard you ARE NOT playing vibrate sympathetically to whatever you are are playing on the other fingerboard. This, of course, depends on the two fingerboards being really well-tuned and in the right keys. The intended baritone (a fifth lower) or bass (octave lower) tunings would be the right keys.

This phenomenon is demonstrated to some extent (if you have really a really good sound system hooked up to your computer) on the double neck violins played by several notable Indian (as in India) musicians. SeeRadhakrishna'ssite at

Here's something you can try at home.

You need a fiddle, ability to tune and play the fiddle and a mandolin for this, so you might have to engage your friends to help out with the playing skills and/or their instruments.

  1. Tune the fiddle REALLY WELL in standard g-d-a-e tuning. This might be a good time to invest in an electronic tuner.
  2. Tune the mandolin precisely the same as the fiddle...I mean THE SAME, not just close.
  3. Place the mandolin on the most resonant table in the house.
  4. Play something on the fiddle. Unless you play sharp or flat, that mandolin should start vibrating sympathetically...your fiddle will have never sounded so good.

Thanks it for now. Have fun.


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