Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review of FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer

Last year I was lucky enough to hear about a free trial of a new model of dulcimer. The folks over at Folk Craft Instruments were designing a dulcimer based on an old FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer and were asking for volunteers to try it out and give it a review. So I signed up and many months later, the FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer arrived, with a Honduras Mahogany Body, Honduras Mahogany Soundboard, 22 Inch Scale Length, with 1 1/2 and 8 1/2 Frets.

When I opened the package and pulled out this sweet little dulcimer I was immediately charmed by it's symplicity and clean craftmanship. The color is rich and warm, and I was eager to try out the sound. Because of the short size, it fits nicely in the lap whether there are arms on a chair, or if I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor.

What I found was a crisp tone that was very enjoyable, and more volume than I expected in such a small instrument. It has a bit of a plucky sound that reminds me a little of a Ukulele, due to it's smaller size and short string length no doubt, but not overly so. The notes are not sustained as long as a full size mountain dulcimer, but the tone is quite nice, and has a pleasing warmth.

Fingerpicking gave a surprisingly rich full bodied sound, none of the pluckiness that I mentioned earlier. Vigorous strumming had more of the high silvery mountain dulcimer drone that goes great with traditional tunes. The middle 'A' string did buzz a bit when strummed with strong force, but only when left open. Other than that the action was really sweet and that made it easy to play.

Because I'm used to traditional dulcimers, I found the shallow height of the fretboard a little difficult at first, since I brace against the fretboard with my thumb for both chording with my left hand and fingerpicking with my right. But I did manage to get accustomed to it fairly quickly. I do not play with a noter, and I can see how that might be a challenge as well. I imagine with regular play adding a pickguard might not be a bad idea, as there definitely could be wear and tear over time. But if it's not played very often it would not be an issue.

All in all, the FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer is a sturdy little instrument that you can take anywhere and play. It would make a nice companion on either a hiking trail or college campus, and it is quite charming in my little studio room that I use for practicing. Sadly, it is too similar to my own mountain dulcimer (a Folkcraft FSH) to make it worth keeping; but it has been a pleasure trying out this little beauty, and I can recommend it to anyone who wants a small instrument that they can take anywhere.