Appalachian Music and Literature
The hammered dulcimer had a different origin than that of the lap dulcimer.
It originated in the Middle East, probably in Persia and Arabia. The hammered
dulcimer was reasonably common as a concert or parlor instrument in many
areas, while the lap dulcimer was orginally known only in the isolated
region of Appalachia.
The hammered dulcimer is a trapezoid-shaped wooden box, usually four-foot
long, eighteen-inches wide, and four-foot thick. It is played by hitting
sets or courses of strings with "beaters" or "hammers."
The hammers are either flexible or stiff, light in weight, often padded
with leather, wool, or cotton. They often look like canes.
The instrument has a trapezoid layout of eighteen or more strings.
The strings pass over a bridge which divides each course of strings into
unequal lengths. There are two to six strings per course tuned in unison.
On each side of the bridge the pitch is different.
A larger dulcimer often has another set of strings, which provide bass notes,
at the right side of the soundboard. In tuning the
strings, there is an interval of a fifth across the bridge.
Sam Rizzetta is a well-known maker of the hammered dulcimer in the
Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature is a self-contained teaching
unit by Avis Caynor and Reneé Wyatt (1997), reprinted with permission
in 2003 in the larger web site AppLit.
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list of AppLit pages on music