The Influence of Shape

Bear Meadow Instruments come in two basic shapes: The Teardrop, and The Hourglass. Each has their assets and liabilities.


The Hourglass shape seems to integrate the individual strings into a chord very readily. The hourglass also has a wonderfully balanced voice, when played across the fretboard. As you move from string to string, there is no shift of nuance in the voicing of the instrument, making it a superb instrument for finger-picking and chording.

On the other hand, there is something about the Teardrop shape that keeps the drone strings especially clear when the dulcimer is strummed. It may be related to the way the teardrop sounds a little hollow in the "baritone" part of its voice (because it doesn't have the upper bout that the Hourglass shape does). For whatever reason, its clear, distinct sound is just what's needed for an instrument that is to be mostly strummed.

The Concert Hourglass shape is similar to the standard Hourglass--and has the same scale length or Vibrating String Length (VSL)--but is longer, broader, and deeper. The larger dimensions of the Concert models means that the sound is deeper, more richly resonant, as well as more powerful. By powerful, we mean the Concert line has both greater dynamic range and projection.

To understand what we mean by projection, try this experiment: Choose a dulcimer which seems to be especially loud. Station someone far away from you in a large auditorium, or in the next room of a house. Now play, starting loudly and steadily playing more softly. As the playing become softer, can the other person still hear the sound distinctly, or as a shapeless mumble?

It is this quality to be heard distinctly even when played softly which is "projection," and is critical to a musical instrument intended for concert performance. The Bear Meadow Concert models were designed specifically so that when you need more from your instrument, it delivers as required.

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