CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in the Midlands & the North

Bill Fell - instruments

Bill has made some half-a-dozen instruments.

These are mostly on the pattern of his father's, but one recent instrument was designed to be hammered instead of plucked (thus having a greater space between the courses), and had chessmen bridges - he calls them studs - instead of the long single ones he has used before.


His pride and joy, the large instrument he usually plays on, took him 18 months to make, and features the same number of different woods in the veneer, as well as mother-of-pearl.

Bill also takes special delight in sticking transfers all over his instruments, and embellished an old instrument for which he paid 12/6d in this way.

Otherwise his instruments are remarkable for their fine marquetry work.

Three of his own dulcimers are rather larger than average, 18", 41" and 44 1/2 " long respectively, and the sides are deeper and thicker than most, giving much more an impression of playing strings which are inside a box ratherthan on top of one.


The masterpiece, fig. 148, has an internal frame of Dexion ("heavyweight Meccano for adults") to take the strain of the strings, popularly estimated at between one and a hundred tnns.


He has just written [1976] with news of another "what I think will be the smallest playable Dulcimer you ever did see, the longest part is 11 1/2 ", and it plays; the top notes are ideal for calling up packs of dogs".

It is particularly clear to see how Bill added his own personal stamp to a style that was already existing, by comparing this instrument with those of his father, here, and of Leslie Evans, here.

One smaller dulcimer, dating from c.1948 has an earphone in the base to serve as an amplifying microphone, although Bill owned that it was of "not very good quality". At 26" long, it is shorter than many dulcimers.