Hensley Dulcimers (low-cost instruments, cont)

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Hensley Dulcimers (low-cost instruments, cont)

Postby pristine2 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:37 pm

I've played several new dulcimers in recent days and there are two that deserve very special mention. One is custom instrument from Paul Conrad, which I will write about at length later.

The other is an astonishingly inexpensive ($135) all-cherry dulcimer from Rodney Hensley in Kentucky. It is a remarkable, professional-calibre instrument sold at far below its real value.

When I first took the instrument out of the box, I was very happy, but not quite blown away. It's made of a very handsome piece of seasoned cherry, apparently from an old barn. Top and back are both bookmatched. The fattened waist and carved pegs are also very pleasing, but the overly-large dove soundholes prevent me from calling the aesthetics perfect.

The instrument intonated terribly, but the moveable bridge offered hope. After tapping and wiggling the bridge while testing the frets against the harmonics, and tuning and retuning for close to 45 minutes, I brought the instrument into good pitch without filing the bridge or nut. The intonation is now comparable with with many of the better dulcimers I own.

The wooden tuning pegs are snug but smooth -- among the nicest fit I've ever come across, actually. Tuning is accurate and easy.

And the sound --- my, my my. Luxurious and shimmering, all the way through to the highest notes on the fretboard. Powerfully resonant with great clarity. The timbre reminds me of a fine viola.

After playing it for two hours or so, I realized I had a gem. The wonderfully crafted joints, the subtle edging, the seductively dark cherry are reminiscent of a Mize. Only this instrument intonates better than a Mize does, and is quite a bit louder, too. The overall quality far exceeds that of dulcimers I paid more than $400 for.

I recommend this instrument *not* for beginners, but for intermediate and advanced players who can adjust the bridge themselves and appreciate the subtle refinements of sound this dulcimer offers.

$135? The price is absurdly low and unsustainable. Eventually, he'll either raise his prices or stop making them. If you see one, grab it --- especially one with smaller soundholes.

photo by Bill Howard

Full photo album of this instrument:
http://s272.photobucket.com/albums/jj19 ... %20CHERRY/

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Postby dulcimerdawg » Mon Jan 19, 2009 6:37 pm

Someone recommended those on another thread where a member was asking about a lower cost introductory dulcimer. I would definitely take one of those over some of the so-called student dulcimers. Even with any initial adjustments that need to be made, a beginner could overcome that by having an experienced player help them do that. And of course, yours may have have been an exception and not all of them would need adjustment.

You can tell he's a Kentucky builder. It has a little bit of Ledford flavor to it and a lot of Warren May in it. It's a good looking dulcimer and much more visually attractive than most student dulcimers you see. Although, I'm with you on the soundholes. I'd take traditional hearts, diamonds, or "F" soundholes over doves, hummingbirds, and vines any day.
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Postby Bigcreek » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:11 pm

I was the person who recommended Rodney Hensley dulcimers in the other thread.I bought six of the first eight or so he listed with Buy it now on ebay.After I got the first one I was amazed with the quality and the wonderful sound it produced so I bought the other five.I have two walnut and three cherry and one walnut with a poplar top.The cherry has the best sound but all sound great.I spoke with Rodney several times on the phone and he stated he worked with Warren May for about five years and you can really see the influence.I have seen $400-500 dollar dulcimers that I would never trade any of my Hensley's for.I have collected Appalachian folk instruments for over twenty years and His are by far the best for the money I have ever encountered.And Richard is right on he should be getting much more and I hope some day soon he will get the credit he deserves.
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Postby TJisanass » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:44 am

Last edited by TJisanass on Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Zira » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:37 pm

They're not so low priced anymore, $200 & up plus shipping, no case. They look really nice though & I too nearly bought one when they were on e-bay. Your comments make me wish I had.
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