Hammered Dulcimer?

Edited: December 19, 2020, 3:55 PM · Just curious if anyone here plays the hammered dulcimer (not mountain)?

I really like how it's used in Eastern European folk music and other parts of the world. I may eventually add this instrument, time will tell.

Replies (14)

December 19, 2020, 8:18 PM · A friend of mine used to own one. We used it mostly for medieval music. I think hers came from Dusty Strings.
December 19, 2020, 8:50 PM · That name reminds me of a sign I saw inside the Yale School of Music: "Press button when lit."
Edited: December 19, 2020, 9:16 PM · Dusty Strings has built a solid business over the years, certainly. I don't know if they still exist, but there are several small independent shops close to where my family still lives (East Tennessee) that make both hammered and mountain dulcimers. Their entry level prices are...higher than Dusty Strings but they don't sell near the volume. Gorgeous instruments though, both in sound and visually.
December 19, 2020, 11:47 PM · Dusty Strings is still going strong. https://dustystrings.com/

The hammered dulcimer came West into Europe the same way the violin did, from Central Asia. The original is the Persian santur, invented around 1000 years ago. It went East and became the Yang Qin in China, but in Europe it made a splash at court in Dresden, c. 1690-1710 in the hands of a fellow named Pantaleon, who had a huge version built (called the "Pantaleon," of course). The ability to play expressively with dynamics was a hit, and inspired Cristofori (the story goes) to build the first piano, which of course is a mechanized version of the santur/hammered dulcimer/Pantaleon.

December 20, 2020, 3:21 AM · Cymbalom?
December 20, 2020, 5:10 AM · I saw a Dave Lindsay hammered dulcimer at a
folk festival and wanted to copy that style so then ordered a book by Charlie Am which was a crude guide to get me going. The first one took quite a while as purchased a lot of the tools at low prices from antique stores and then had to learn how to sharpen, tune up, and use them. What fascinated me about the Lindsay dulcimer was that the soundboard basically floated and moved with a half inch gap around the perimeter to let the music out. The first dulcimer was an embarrassment but they got better as I learned. I started using highly figured curly maple and dying it with colors such as red, blue, green, purple, and they were very attractive looking instruments and sounded good. The violin has always been the main focus but I did spend a half hour a day for years practicing and while it has its own set of difficulties to master it is way easier in my opinion then the violin to sound good.
Edited: December 20, 2020, 8:07 AM · Oh yes, Dusty Strings is still going strong, they have made a strong niche for themselves. I was referring to several small family-owned dulcimer shops in East Tennessee (from whence I hail). Gorgeous instruments, but starting a much higher price than what Dusty Strings offers - but well worth the money. I just hope they've managed to make it through Covid, they've been around for a very long time.

Adrian - yes, that's it - and is what it is called in the part of the world my family came from. Here is a link to two virtuosos playing concert level instruments.

Finally, a YouTube link that works :-)

Edited: December 20, 2020, 8:28 AM · Jeff - very interesting that you started by building one! I've thought that it might be kinder to my neck and shoulders than the violin, possibly, but I love the violin so much I won't set that aside. Hopefully my body won't force that choice. I may, however, set some money aside and pick it up as a second instrument to give my body another way to make music.

A lap harp might also be a good choice, but I really like the sound of a hammered dulcimer.

December 20, 2020, 3:56 PM · Every two weeks I meet a dulcimer player, and we play duets (I play cello). His instruments are from China, and he has made one, largely from carbon fibre, pearwood and aluminium tube.

His dulcimers have a four octave range, but he claims the layout of the strings is not intuitive, for a chromatic instrument. He does a bit of dancing with hammers to play scales, for example.

They are quite heavy, and very sensitive to weather changes.

One interesting feature is the resonance after he plays a note: we notice this particularly at the end of pieces, where the dulcimer rings on for ten seconds or so. But we manage to ignore this.

December 20, 2020, 4:36 PM · Very interesting Graeme. Who knows if I will ever head this direction for a second instrument, but I do love the sound of these instruments. Ease of transport is certainly one factor, at least as long as I live in a 2nd floor apartment. The price does go up fast, especially if you want an chromatic version, not all are...
December 23, 2020, 1:52 PM · If the damsel comes with it, what drink does she get hammered on? (Presumably that's what Stephen means by "lit"?)
December 23, 2020, 2:18 PM · Sorry, I only play the mountain Dulcimer.
Edited: December 23, 2020, 6:11 PM · Marty, that's interesting. The similarity of names has always been interesting to me. To me they are very different instruments but both are called dulcimer, at least in the West.

Out of curiosity, which came first for you, violin or mountain dulcimer?

December 23, 2020, 6:14 PM · Dulcimer leads to hammered dulcimer the same way weed leads to heroin.

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