Electrified Dulcimers

November 1, 2017

I have always believed that the right way to amplify a hammered dulcimer is with a microphone. This will still be true in many cases, but in situations like church bands with high sound pressures from electric guitars, drums, etc, it is difficult to get enough volume to be heard without feedback. I have been working on how to properly amplify a hammered dulcimer with installed pickups and have it worked out. The above photo is of my totally electric test bed dulcimer. This is an early photo, and shows a couple Schatten pickups clamped on. Since then I have worked out how to make a better set of pickups, and where to install them, both on the above dulcimer and inside normal acoustic dulcimers. The key is don’t put them on the top or back. There will be at least two sweet spots somewhere on the rail set that will produce good warm acoustic sound with little feedback. They sound just great and at high volumes! Plus, now that we have an electric signal, it can be modified in many ways for cool new sounds never before heard. The wonderful world of guitar effects pedals is wide open to us! Exploring what can be done is so much fun! I intend to make a video on this when I get some time.

We are ready to start installing pickup systems in dulcimers. In new dulcimers where we can install the system as we are building them, the charge will be $150.00. There will be two pickups wired to a stereo jack. We have found that this type pickup works best if the signals from each is preamped separately. The best preamp is the Schatten Mini Pre 2 which has internal gain adjustment and two separate gain knobs one for each pickup. You can set the output of each pickup for best balance and sound. We are a dealer for Schatten, and can supply you with the preamp plus a 3′ stereo patch cord for $100.00. The output jack on the preamp is mono, so just a standard guitar cord from there into an amp or into the house sound system. The pre amp doesn’t have any tone controls, but the sound coming from the dulcimer is good enough that it doesn’t need it. It is warm and rich as is. The amp or house sound will have enough tone control if the sound needs changing a little.

We can also retrofit pickup systems into any Songbird dulcimer, so if you want to ship us your dulcimer, we can do it for $150.00 plus return shipping. It will involve making an access port in the back of the dulcimer which will be then covered with an inlaid screw on access plate. So a new hole in your dulcimer, but covered so it doesn’t change the resonance. The jack will be on the far left of the lower rail, out of your way for playing.

If you are thinking about a small amp for electric playing, I recommend an acoustic guitar amp. They produce the widest range of frequencies and have more headroom so they won’t distort (unless you want them to). You will want to make sure your amp has a LINE OUT jack on it for connecting to house sound. Also, if you want to play around with effects pedals (too much fun) the amp should have an effects loop (2 jacks, effects send and return).

We will eventually make a page for the web site with all this and buy now buttons, etc., but until then, if you are interested you’ll have to contact us directly. email chris@songbirdhd.com Phone 563-571-5296