Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
MAY
26

Playing an instrument or playing music?

When I perform, people often ask me how long I’ve been playing the hammered dulcimer.  I think they mean this question to compliment my apparent years of study, probably many, you know, to learn from teachers how to develop the appropriate virtuosity on the instrument.

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1637 Hits
SEP
13

Keep your instrument out!

Keep your instrument out!

If you have a musical instrument, don’t pack it away --- it ought to be out!

If you don’t play it, it still should be there to see, like hanging on the wall or such.  What an addition to your house’s décor!

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2607 Hits
AUG
29

Hammered dulcimers in many lands

Hammered dulcimers in many lands

People often ask me about the origin and history of the hammered dulcimer, and usually they have no idea that it has the popularity and heritage that I tell them about.  It's a widespread, very international, musical instrument!  Many Americans don’t know that it ever existed at all till they see my own instrument where I’m out playing, and they commonly assume that it’s some mountain instrument developed in the Blue Ridge or such (though I don't play it in a style that should lead to that assumption).  So I get to enlighten them the way I was enlightened thirty-some years ago when I first saw one myself!

It's even considered a national instrument in a number of countries such as Hungary, India, China, and Iran.

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10103 Hits
AUG
20

The hammered dulcimer is the ancestor of the piano

The hammered dulcimer is the ancestor of the piano

Harpsichords and clavichords had been in development for a few centuries when an Italian named Bartolomeo Cristofori decided in the late 1600s to try to adapt the idea of the hammered dulcimer to the chromatic keyboard design. 

Harpsichords had only one loudness (known to us as “quiet”), and their tone was essentially always the same plucking-crow-quill sound as well.  Cristofori recognized that applying the hammer concept could open the way to a great range of volume and tone --- so he worked on making a sophisticated key assembly that could handle the varied actions of swinging a hammer at the strings.  Now, instead of the player’s moving two hammers around on a diatonic (do-re-mi) pattern of notes, he or she would be able to use all ten fingers to push buttons (keys) that swung hammers that were already oriented in front of their chromatic notes.  (And separating the right and left hands for different musical roles could create the effect of a "duet" that we're so familiar with in keyboard playing.)

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82968 Hits
JUN
27

Choosing a hammered dulcimer of your own

Choosing a hammered dulcimer of your own

It can be quite a challenge to choose your own instrument, because there are so many factors to consider in order to get what you’ll be happiest with, especially if you have particular goals and dreams for your own playing.  Then again, if you really want to play an instrument, almost anything will do just to get started!

For the hammered dulcimer, my main instrument these days, I recommend that people try out lots of them.  Craigslist or eBay can actually be a problem if you don't really know the different builders, because the builders and the instruments are all so different in sound quality and general quality. 

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