The Instruments

Hammered Dulcimer, Mountain Dulcimer, and Autoharp Information


Hammered Dulcimer  hammered dulcimer

The Hammered Dulcimer or Hammer Dulcimer is the largest of our society’s instruments. It is a large trapezoidal instrument with many courses of strings (each course being made up of two to four strings), which are suspended across the soundboard on two or more bridges. The strings are struck with short, flat wooden mallets held on edge (6 to 10 inches long). The tuning is typically diatonic, but extra bridges are often added to make the instrument more chromatic.

The Hammered Dulcimer is known for its sweet (Latin dulcis), ringing tone and characteristic sustain.

Listen to a sample:

Wedding Bells (©2004 Cliff Cole, DayBreak)

The Hammered Dulcimer is and ancient instrument found in many diverse cultures around the world (I learned to play the Chinese version or Yang Qin many years ago in Sichuan Provence for instance). Most scholars agree that the hammered dulcimer was first developed in ancient Persia. Learn more here ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammered_dulcimer).


Mountain Dulcimer  mountain dulcimer

The Mountain Dulcimer (also known as Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer, Appalachian Dulcimer, or Lap Dulcimer) is an early American form of zither developed in the Appalachian mountain region from one or more european zithers. Learn more here ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_dulcimer)

Listen to a sample:

Auld Lang Syne arranged and performed by Rob Yoder

The Mountain Dulcimer traditionally is constructed in either an hourglass or teardrop shape. The fingerboard of the instrument stretches the length of the soundboard, but not beyond. Typically, 3 or 4 strings are used; one or two melody strings and two drone strings tuned in fifths, fourths, or octaves. The mountain dulcimer was traditionally played using a noter, a small stick that presses the melody strings down against the frets. The noter is held in the right hand and slid along the fretboard to create the melody, and a pick (traditionally a quill ) held in the right hand strums across all the strings. Modern players forego using the noter and instead form melody and chords with their left hand while struming or picking with the right.


Autoharp  autoharp

The Autoharp is probably the best known of the instruments represented here. Many of us grew up with Autoharps in our classrooms. Elementary school teachers would use the Autoharp to accompany children’s songs. The modern instrument typically has 36 or 37 strings tuned diatonically or chromatically. Chords ar formed by pressing down one of a series of chord bars which mute the strings that are not included in the selected chord. The strings were then strummed with a pick. Advance players can pick out a melody using a flat pick or finger picks and a combination of chord bars. Learn more here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoharp).