An acquaintance who has arthritis in her hands is interested in learning to play the hammered dulcimer and has asked me for an introduction to the instrument to help her decide. I believe I can teach her to manipulate the hammers even with her arthritis; this may limit how well she will eventually play, but I believe she can get to basic fluency and that may satisfy her.
However, I would be remiss if we don't also address the matter of tuning. Dulcimer strings are tuned via metal pins that are turned with a wrench, and a dulcimer has a lot of strings (anywhere from ~22 to ~70). There are two types of wrenches, a T-style one where you apply direct downward pressure while turning and a "goose-neck" one where you get the benefit of a lever arm but need to be careful not to apply sideways pressure to the pin. In both cases the adjustments you make can be tiny (barely perceptible) -- smaller with the longer wrench, but small either way. I have no trouble using either type of wrench, but I don't have any problems in my hands.
I'll be happy to let her try out both approaches on my instrument, but that might not tell her what the experience of tuning an entire instrument will be like for her. I'm not sure either of us wants her to spend an hour tuning my instrument as part of this introduction. :-)
Is one of these better than the other for someone with arthritis? Is there a third option, perhaps something mechanically or electronically assisted?