Dusty Strings – Seattle, Washington - Atlas Obscura

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Dusty Strings

This music school doubles as a store for unique, hand-crafted, and hard-to-find instruments. 


Dusty Strings began as a far dustier enterprise than it is now. It began 40 years ago, in the basement of owners Ray and Sue Mooers. Sawdust from a table saw they had received as a wedding present covered the basement, where the couple—along with Ray’s close friend and fellow tinkerer, Randy Hudson—built hammered dulcimers. Ray had fallen in love with the instruments at the Northwest Folklife Festival in 1977. After taking a workshop on folk instruments, he and Randy built their first dulcimer using paneling from the basement wall in their rental house. The pair had no experience in woodworking or instrument building, but a love for tinkering turned out to be enough: Now, Dusty Strings is a Pacific Northwest institution with a storefront in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood that sells instruments to music stores across the country. 

Walk into the shop and you’ll feel like you’re walking into a museum of string instruments. The walls and floor displays teem with harps, hammered dulcimers, mountain dulcimers, and autoharps, along with more standard guitars and banjos. 

The workshop and storefront are always bustling and the shop also repairs instruments by appointment. Dusty Strings also runs a music school, which provides private and group lessons for instruments from dulcimers to accordions and even, yes, guitar. Ray and Sue founded the school on the belief that playing music is a life-enhancing experience for everyone, regardless of their skill level. After all, haven’t you always dreamed of playing the concertina?

Know Before You Go

The store is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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