Hammered Dulcimer

Hammered Dulcimer The hammered dulcimer is a multi-stringed trapezoidal instrument that is struck to produce music. It should not be confused with the Appalachian or mountain dulcimer, which is a narrowly-shaped, fretted instrument that has only a few strings and is plucked to produce a melody. Although these instruments share a name they are not related. The Appalachian or mountain dulcimer produces a pitch by shortening or fretting the sound on a limited number of strings as do guitars, banjos, and violins, the hammered dulcimer is more closely related to the harp or piano in that it relies on having one or multiple strings tuned to the desired pitch. Evidence suggests that the hammered dulcimer has existed in various forms for a very long time, but the Appalachian or mountain dulcimer is a much newer instrument. For many years the term dulcimer was applied only to what is now referred to as the hammered dulcimer.

The early history of the dulcimer is closely linked to another instrument called a psaltery. Both instruments consist of strings stretched horizontally across a shallow rectangular of trapezoidal box. The difference between the two is how they are played. The strings of the psaltery are plucked with the fingers, while dulcimer strings are struck with small mallets or hammers. Technically, both instruments are from the same family of instruments called board-zithers. These types of instruments are believed to have developed from the ground-zither, a primitive form constructed by stretching strings over a hole or pit in the ground. It is believed that the psaltery and the dulcimer provided much of the inspiration for the invention of the piano.