Ancient Music

The Hammered Dulcimer


    The Hammered Dulcimer is a wide-spread family. Almost every European and eastern country has some form of this instrument in its' musical history, from small chinese works covered with black laquer and inlaid mother-of-pearl dragons to massive Greek and German instruments with two and three levels of strings. Listen to the sound track to the movie "Zorba the Greek". That one is called a Cymbalom. The earliest examples seem to be Arabic.

    Generally they all have a center bridge placed so that the string on either side of the bridge comes out tuned a fifth apart over the entire bridge. There is usually a second bridge pushed far to the right purely to provide length for deep bass note strings. Again generally the tunings cover about three octaves with most of the needed "black key" sharps and flats available at odd spots around the board. The "white key" pattern is simple and easy to transpose through the keys of A, D, G, F, E, and E Min, B min, A min, and D min, Making it quite versatile. The hammers are very light. Modern usage has gone to stiff hammers but a lot of older traditions use a long limber hammer for a "drum roll" sustain effect. In the chinese dulcimers the strings of the right hand bridge are tuned an octave below those of the middle section producing an octaved melody effect that the orientals seem to love.

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