Hammered Dulcimer

ham-erd duhl-suh-mer
The hammered dulcimer is a percussive string instrument with a typically trapezoidal shape. The player uses hammers, mallets or spoons to hit the strings that resonate through a wooden soundboard, placed on the lap. The hammered dulcimer can reach ranges between 2.5 and 4 octaves which increase with the size of the instrument and the number of strings.
History of the Hammered Dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer is an ancient instrument with a complicated history. Its earliest origins place its invention at approximately 900 AD during the Persian empire, an area that is occupied by Iran, Iraz, Turkey and Afghanistan today. The Spanish Moors and crusaders were then said to have taken the instrument to Europe where it became widely popular by 1200 AD. Other theories suggest that the hammered dulcimer was actually invented in Europe in the 15th century. The ancient Greek instrument, the ‘psaltery’, was said to be its inspiration, as they both share a trapezoidal-shape with strings and a resonator box placed on the player’s lap. In the early 16th century, during the reign of King James, the hammered dulcimer experienced popularity among street performers in England. In the Middle East and Eastern Europe, variations of the instrument became known as the santur and cimbalom. In China, it developed into the yangqin. In the late 17th century, German hammered dulcimer player Pantaleon Hebenstreit, designed a nine-foot long dulcimer known as a pantalon. This invention formed some of the inspiration for the harpsichord and the piano. European settlers took the dulcimer to America where it eventually became known as “the lumberjack’s piano” in states such as Maine and Michigan in the 19th century. The hammered dulcimer is one of the most influential musical instruments that is still played around the world today in many variations including: the hackbrett, cimbalom, santoor and khim.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$300 - $1,500

Hear the Hammered Dulcimer

Audio of the Hammered Dulcimer is Coming Soon

How to Play

A percussion instrument consisting of a set of strings stretched over a soundboard, played by striking the strings with small hammers. The player can create chords and melodies simultaneously.

In Popular Music

The 1980 song ‘Watching The Wheels’ by ex-Beatles John Lennon features a hammered dulcimer played by Matthew Cunningham. American songwriter Joni Mitchell has also used a dulcimer on her songs such as ‘California’, however, they weren’t always hammered dulcimer.

Famous Players

Bill Spence, Ted Yoder, Malcolm Dalglish

Close Relations

Santoor, Yangqin
Video Credit: Evan Plays Dulcimer
Understanding the Hammered Dulcimer










Instruments of Music

Copyright © 2023 Instruments of Music. All Rights Reserved.