These instruments are made of mahogany with turquoise inlay, have polyurethane strings and sound in the range of a stand up bass.
Not to be confused with some "bass" dulcimers out there that actually only go down to a "drop D" on a guitar. Those can be fun for playing an octave below your normal dulcimer, but not to be confused with a "true" bass instrument.
The reason nobody makes an actual acoustic bass dulcimer is the size box needed to support those low notes won't really fit on your lap. So mine is solid body and can be played through a variety of bass amps. [More on amps below.]
This is a clip of Aaron O'Rourke accompanying me on the Dylan song Buckets of Rain. This was on the first prototype and Aaron had seen it about an hour before we did this little house concert.
It's being played through a little $80 bass amp by Behringer.
|This is a quickie tutorial I recorded to get folks started on their bass dulcimer. Some more will be available in the future.|
for your bass dulci...
There's a wide variety of amplifiers available but most beginning bass players are wanting portability and value.
As I mentioned above these instruments can sound fine through pretty basic amps like the BT108 by Behringer for $80. (Got mine for $50 - shop around.)
They also make a BXL 450 for $180 that has more wattage and can fill a larger venue. It is rather heavy though.
One of my favorites is the Roland MCB-RX because it is small, very portable and runs on 6 AA batteries for hours. Great for playing around camp fires at festivals. You do pay more for those features at about $280.
These are the same folks who make the Micro-cube that so many dulcimer players use now.
|I use Ping bass tuners and Pahoehoe polyurethane strings custom formulated by Road Toad Music.|
I make two models:
The fretless model seen above cost $475 - the inlay lines are positioned like a diatonic dulcimer fretboard with the 6 1/2 fret. Technically speaking these are fully chromatic instruments since you can play the notes between the fret lines.
My "acu-fretless" "out lay" model costs $525 - these use slots instead of frets - like inlay grooves without any inlay in them. The string actually gets "fretted" on the forward edge of the groove. You get the accuracy of a fretted instrument and the expressiveness of a fretless. More on that model soon.I've discontinued my fretted version for a number of reasons.
It was necessary to fret precisely between the metal frets to avoid a "buzz." Since the size of the grooves in my "acu-fretless" are .280" wide they are as easy to hit precisely and also more forgiving.
Also the fretted version had no option of bending a note either for expression or to grab an accidental.
While both the fretless and the "acu-fretless" can easilly be played diatonically just like your standard dulcimer, yet also chromatically since the notes between the frets are also available.