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Note that this page is being revised.  Please check back for the updated information.



Aaron O'Rourke has provided two sound files for his Fingerstyle Dulcimers.  The first is of the prototype, which has a Sitka Spruce top and Sapele sides and back.  You will note that the attack is greater and the instrument has what Aaron refers to (affectionately mind you) as a bit of a growl.  The second file is of his current performance instrument which has a Port Orford Cedar top and Claro Walnut sides and back.  Definitely no growl on this instrument.  Just the sweetest blended chords you ever want to hear.  Depending on the song he is playing, Aaron may have a favorite, but rest assured either sound is uniquely that of an Aaron O'Rourke Fingerstyle Dulcimer and is not likely to be confused with any other dulcimer on the market.

It's a wonder to see


If you are reading this, you probably already own at least one and quite possibly many steel string dulcimers.  If you are seriously trying to branch out and improve your playing while adding to the sound profiles available to you, perhaps your next dulcimer should have nylon strings.  This is not just my standard instrument with nylon strings stretched over it.  This is a completely new and innovative approach designed from the ground up to incorporate the features and sound profile Aaron O’Rourke conceived in his head long before we met.  My involvement was to take Aaron’s vision and make it a reality.  Between us, we have come up with a dulcimer that can open many new doors for the creative musician.   Conceived primarily as a fingerstyle instrument, it shows promise for flat picking as well.  It's so new, that there just hasn't been time to explore all that it can enable the musician to accomplish.  Aaron will be building an entire instructional curriculum to demonstrate the potential that nylon strings bring to the dulcimer.  


If you want to be on the cutting edge of where the mountain dulcimer is headed, subscribe to my website (and Aaron's as well) and watch as more information becomes available.  If you are seriously considering an instrument, I suggest you contact me so I can measure the demand and plan accordingly.


The instrument pictured below is  Aaron's performance instrument.  It is the result of hours of evaluation on a prototype that yielded much useful information.  


Unlike my steel string dulcimers, the nylon string instruments use the top as the soundboard.  In order to get past the limitations of a long neck/fretboard dampening the vibrations for most of the length of the soundboard, the neck/fretboard is elevated so that it does not contact the top at all.  Now the entire soundboard is free to vibrate to produce the volume and tonal qualities we desired.

An asymmetrical bracing system, modified from advanced ukulele designs optimizes both the high and low frequencies.


Since the the nylon string  dulcimer is constructed more like a member of the guitar family than a typical dulcimer, the materials used for the top, sides and back have a significant impact on the sound produced.  Premium soundboard material from reclaimed old growth trees, boards and stumps are used for optimal sound quality.  Sides and backs are made from superior tonewood that is used in fine guitars.

Check out the photos below for more of the unique features you will only find on a Stephens Lutherie, Aaron O'Rourke Fingerstyle Dulcimer and see the "Purchase" tab for the differences between the Signature and Pro Models.


By suspending the neck/fretboard above the soundboard, the entire soundboard is free to vibrate resulting in increased volume and improved sound quality.

Undamped Soundboard


Solid hardwood end blocks at the head and foot of the instrument protect the fragile sides, top and bottom from handling damage.

Solid End Blocks


The sound hole in the upper bout is placed facing the musician to provide a close connection between the artist and the instrument.

Side-Placement Sound Hole


Bindings play an important role in protecting the body from the inevitable bumps of an instrument used for performance. Stephens dulcimers can be built with bindings on the upper and lower edges of the body.

Optional Edge Binding


The use of asymmetrical bracing provides a balanced response across the entire frequency spectrum.  

Asymmetrical Bracing


 Internally, there is a rigid carbon fiber reinforced beam that runs the full length of the body of the instrument. This provides the rigidity and strength to resist the 80 pounds of string tension that is trying to bow the top of the instrument over time.  It also supports the floating neck/fretboard above the soundboard.

Beam Construction


The neck is bolted to the body of the instrument with four 5mm socket head screws that are concealed within the body of the instrument. This not only facilitates production and the generation of a fine finish, it allows for the flexibility of changing the neck if in the event of damage or a desire for an alternate string or fret


Bolt-On Neck


The bridge bolts on to the body so that it can be changed to meet future requirements.  With both a bolt on neck and bridge, the instrument provides the ultimate in flexibility.  It also provides for intonation adjustment.



The lightweight Gotoh tuners provide the fast 4:1 tuning ratio that is ideal for a nylon string instrument.   Unlike frictions tuners, they stay put once you adjust them.

Ultra-Lightweight Tuners


Nitrocellulose lacquer has been the choice of fine acoustic instrument builders for decades. The multi-coat process follows an epoxy pore filling on open pore woods to achieve a true professional finish. Each instrument receives a two stage buffing on a custom, variable speed buffer designed specifically for achieving a deep gloss finish. 

Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish


The neck is reinforced with two extremely rigid carbon fiber bars that assure it will stay straight for generations to come.

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Neck


The fretboard has a 10” radius to facilitate very rapid left hand technique with a minimum of hand strain.  This radius works well for playing with the dulcimer on edge or flat in the lap.

Radiused Fretboard

fret board

The use of a cnc router allows the fret slots to stop short of the edge of the fretboard. Each end of each fret has it's tang cut back so the end of the fret completely covers the slot. A hemispherical end is then put onto the ends of the frets for the ultimate in player comfort. As the wood of the neck expands and contracts with changes in humility, there will never be a sharp fret end protruding from the fretboard.

Stopped Frets


A novel, keyhole string retention system allows for fast and secure string replacement for either standard or ball end nylon strings or ball end steel strings.  The top is reinforced with a bridge plate of very dense wood to resist the strain.

Easy String Changes

jjb pickups.jpg

Custom dual transducer pickup system. All instruments include a pickup system that has been custom designed in collaboration with JJB Electronics to transmit the instruments true sound without coloration or distortion. These special surface mount transducers are under less pressure than under saddle pickups thus decreasing the likelihood of them transmitting a percussive or harsh sound. The piezo transducers are located to pick up the resonance found on both the treble and bass sides of the soundboard. These do not "fade" or distort at high volume or with high-power systems. The highs are crystal clear while the lows are, low.

JJB Pickups

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