Why Master Works?

How do you view car shopping? Is it fun for you? Do you analyze the decision for days, weeks, months, or even years? I used to – it was something I looked forward to – checking out reviews and articles, considering all the options and the colors. Now, after running work vehicles literally a million miles, it has become just another time-consuming job to replace another utterly worn out, stuff-hauling, trailer-towing, job-completing van.

Now, how do you view dulcimer shopping? Is it fun for you? Are you excited about finding just the right instrument? Surely it doesn’t resemble my van-replacing experiences! No, searching for a musical instrument should be an enjoyable, soul-satisfying project. Discovering the instrumental entity that fulfills your heart’s yearning should be a gratifying experience.

So, what are you searching for? What will make “the one” exactly right for you? Well, I hope that “the one” will be an inspiration, causing many hours of practice time to magically appear in your lifestyle simply because of your appreciation for its voice. I hope “the one” elicits such pride that a sunset never fades without your soaking up its harmonies. I hope “the one” is smart, doing everything it should do without the “baggage” of hammer dulcimers of the past. I hope your treasure is just that: a highly-respected and valued item of great worth, something you would retrieve if you had only one trip back to your burning home. My desire is for you to become known for your performance of beautiful music on your new instrument. It will take a special piece to accomplish this, and I have dedicated a huge portion of my life to realizing this challenging goal. 

Master Works seeks to marry the glorious foundations of the hammer dulcimer’s past with the most innovative ideas and modern needs, seeking to understand the desires of the future dulcimer player. Music and instruments change. We recognize the demands of future musicians, providing them an instrument without limits, enabling momentum as they expand their craft. These innovations must evolve without sacrificing the tradition and beauty of an instrument that was played long before Christ walked the earth.

And, what is the benefit of a new invention if not tried and tested? How would you like to be a Marine on the line with a new weapon: “Now tell me again, Sarg, who built this and how many successful conflicts has it experienced?” The Groves Musical Encyclopedia is full of thousands of untested prototypes of musical infatuations that did not survive the test of time. When you invest in a Master Works hammer dulcimer, you are vested in an instrument of historical value that will fulfill your musical needs now and in the future.

Master Works builds a portable instrument without sacrificing its structural integrity. The hammer dulcimer abounds with hundreds of pounds of stress, complicating the process of producing a portable instrument. What good is a personal instrument that’s sturdy but too heavy to travel with? In the process of building hundreds of experimental dulcimers, I discovered something wonderful: less mass and stiffness not only lightened the dulcimer but also made it livelier, louder, fuller, and more responsive. A hammer dulcimer doesn’t have to weigh a ton to be durable and stable. While successfully reducing bulk and weight, Master Works has maintained the highest standards of structural integrity.

Master Works builds instruments with a richer, mellower tone versus the traditional tinny, thin, brassy voice of past instruments and most produced by present-day manufacturers. I have had many folks comment after a concert on the harp-like sound of my instrument. Of course, how an instrument is played is somewhat responsible for the outcome. But that is how I describe Master Works instruments: almost a hybrid of piano, harp, and mandolin in voice. They are musically versatile, capable of playing wonderful hymns, harp tunes, and love songs with great emotion, while also adept at performing American traditional fiddle tunes, Irish jigs, and complicated jazz and classical melodies with clarity and power. Sustain is often of great concern to many, especially experienced players. Sustain is not a product of tone but of basic engineering, mostly of the bridges and bridge caps. In other words, it can be varied tremendously on a single instrument design. The ability to satisfy everyone’s taste comes purely from the level of experience attained by the craftsmen at Master Works.

Master Works builds a variety of dulcimer models to suit everyone’s needs:

Master Works supports players, realizing the dulcimer community is only sprinkled throughout the nation and even the world. Most performers do not have an organized club nearby to keep their dulcimer feet on the ground or a dulcimer shop around the corner to solve dulcimer puzzles and problems. We are 100% committed to standing behind our instruments. I am confident of our reputation, which is the backbone of nearly three decades of success! Also, the best way to succeed on the dulcimer is by associating with other players as often as possible. Therefore, Master Works is committed to sponsoring numerous dulcimer festivals in several states with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of donated instruments, free advertisement in our publications, and promotions in all available avenues. The Walnut Valley Association’s national hammer dulcimer contest recognizes our quality and sincere desire to help. They have asked us to sponsor the national contest for more than 25 years straight, which is a great reflection of Master Works’ commitment to your success!

Take the time to hear the difference. Come by the workshop in Bennington, Oklahoma, or stop by and visit me at one of the festivals and shows I attend each year all over the country. If I don’t have the instrument that sets your heart aflutter, we will make it! It will be our honor to do so.

Russell Cook

Fullness without foolishness.
Complete but not complicated.
Innovative but not impossible.
Totally cool!

Comments from players over the years