Short History and Origin of the Hammered Dulcimer

Why the word ‘Hammered’

The hammered dulcimer is referred to as ‘hammered’ in reference to the small mallets (referred to as hammers) that players use to strike the dulcimer strings. Hammers are generally made of wood (often hard woods, for example, maple, cherry, padauk, oak, walnut, or some other hard wood). However, they can likewise be produced using any material, including metal and plastic. For a sharp sound, the head of the hammer should be left uncovered. For a gentler sound, secure the head with sticky tape, texture, or textured fabric. The heads of two sided hammers are generally oval or round. Mostly one side is left as exposed wood while the opposite side might be covered in any of the above-mentioned materials.

History of the Hammered Dulcimer:

Peculiarity of dulcimers corroborate that the hammered dulcimer has existed in various forms for a very long period. As the history states, the hammered dulcimer originated in the Middle East about 900 A.D and is related to the much older psaltery (classical instrument in which the strings are plucked). From there it spread across North Africa and then Europe. The hammered dulcimer was extensively used during the Middle Ages in England, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Although it had a distinctive name in each country, it was everywhere regarded as a kind of psalterium. Hammered dulcimer has classically been known by different names in different countries. For example, the hammered dulcimer was called a a “santoor” in Iran Iraq and India, “tympanon” in France, a “hackbrett” in Germany, a “cymbalon” in Hungary and “yang ch’in” in China and “santouri” in Greece.

Learn more

Looking to learn more about the hammered dulcimer’s history and origin? If so, check out this great book! To learn more about our other dulcimer sibling, read up on the mountain dulcimer’s history.