Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The thought of breaking a string on the hammered dulcimer is terrifying to many players. It does happen, but truly, it's typically a rare occurrence.

I broke a string a couple of weeks ago. Finally got around to replacing it the other day. It was the Bb string at the upper end of the super bass bridge on my 4-1/2 octave JRS concertmaster. Not so surprising, as that is the most likely string to break on my instrument. What I find hard to believe is that three of my students have broken strings in the past month. For one guy, it was his first ever broken string, and he's been playing for 16 years! Must be something in the air.

The breaking of a dulcimer string is usually an unexpected event and can be quite startling. But replacing a string isn't that scary, or difficult. It's a rite of passage. Just do it!

  • Contact your builder to request a new string. Or, call the folks at North Carolina's premier dulcimer store, Song of the Wood. I recommend getting at least two replacement strings. Sometimes the first try doesn't work out and a string is ruined beyond use. 
  • You'll need to request the proper size string. Consult your tuning / string size chart that came with the purchase of your instrument. Or, provide the make / model of your instrument and the note that is produced by the string. If you're talking to dulcimer people they should be able to figure out what is needed.
  • Watch Dan Landrum's tutorial: "Changing a Hammered Dulcimer String" on youtube. He gives essential tips, such as "back out the tuning peg before you wind on a new string!" His instructions are concise and clear, and you can look at it as many times as needed.

Good luck!


  1. Jay and I played for tea at the Strathmore Mansion yesterday and I had in fact broken a string last weekend. I was actually happy that I broke it so it didn't happen while tuning up for a performance, which has also happened, for me it is usually in winter when it is cold outside/warm and dry inside. It is a little nerve wracking to replace a string, but actually not so hard and always satisfying (I DID IT!) I think it is like popping a balloon, startling but usually not fatal.

    1. I think you're on to something ... cold, dry winter air. Changing a string always gives me pause. A moment of stress, then it's done!