The Hammered Dulcimer

The name "dulcimer" is derived from Latin, meaning "sweet sound", and when hearing a dulcimer playing for the first time, that is indeed an accurate description of this folk instrument. The hammered dulcimer or hammer dulcimer is an ancient trapezoidal-shaped music instrument comprised of several courses of strings that are played by striking a hand-held hammer against them, depicted above. Our group's hammered dulcimer player uses an instrument that contains 58 individual strings: 15 treble courses of double strings providing up to 30 individual pitches and 14 bass courses of double strings with 14 more pitches. Each course of double strings is tuned to the same pitch and when struck by the hammer producing the characteristic sweet melodic sound. It is speculated by some that dulcimers may have originated in the Middle East during the first millennium A.D. while others place the origin in Europe near the end of the Middle Ages. For example, hammered dulcimers were popular in England during the reign of James I.