How To Play Hammered Dulcimer: To play the hammered dulcimer, strike the strings with small hammers. Practice single notes, chords, and arpeggios. Explore advanced techniques like double stops, glissandos, and ornamentation for a captivating performance.

Understanding the Hammered Dulcimer

The hammered dulcimer is a stringed instrument that consists of a trapezoidal-shaped wooden soundboard and a series of strings stretched across it. It is played by striking the strings with small mallets called hammers. The instrument is laid flat on a stand or placed on the player’s lap and can produce a wide range of tones, from delicate and soothing to vibrant and energetic.

bigstock Detail of a man playing a Hamm 27818534
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Getting Started: Essential Equipment and Setup

To begin your journey with the hammered dulcimer, you’ll need a few essential items. First and foremost, you’ll require a quality hammered dulcimer, which can be purchased from music stores or online retailers specializing in traditional instruments. Additionally, you’ll need a set of dulcimer hammers, which come in various sizes and weights to produce different sounds. Lastly, consider investing in a sturdy stand or a comfortable playing surface to hold your instrument securely.

Basic Playing Techniques

Playing the hammered dulcimer involves employing a variety of techniques to create different tones and melodies. The most fundamental technique is striking the strings with the hammers. Beginners should start by practicing single-note melodies, gradually progressing to playing simple chords and arpeggios. Understanding the layout of the strings and the placement of the hammers is crucial for accurate and consistent playing.

Expanding Your Skills: Intermediate Techniques and Exercises

Once you’ve grasped the basics, it’s time to expand your skills and explore more advanced techniques. This includes mastering double stops, which involve playing two strings simultaneously to create harmonies, and employing glissandos and tremolos for added expression. Regular practice of scales, exercises, and finger drills will improve your dexterity and help you navigate the instrument with ease.

hands of a hammered dulcimer player
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Perfecting Your Craft: Advanced Techniques and Musical Interpretation

To truly master the hammered dulcimer, it’s essential to delve into advanced techniques and develop your musical interpretation skills. This involves exploring ornamentation techniques such as trills, rolls, and grace notes, which add intricacy and flair to your playing.

Additionally, focusing on dynamics, phrasing, and expression will enable you to convey emotions through your music and create a captivating performance.

Is the hammered dulcimer easy to learn?

The difficulty level of learning the hammered dulcimer varies from person to person. While it may seem complex at first, with dedication and consistent practice, it can be mastered. Beginners may find it challenging to navigate the strings and coordinate their hands to produce the desired sounds. However, with proper instruction and patience, anyone can learn to play the hammered dulcimer. Starting with basic techniques and gradually building upon them will help beginners develop their skills and confidence over time.

How do you play the dulcimer for beginners?

For beginners, it is recommended to start by familiarizing themselves with the layout of the strings and the placement of the hammers. Practice single-note melodies to develop accuracy and control. Learn basic chords and arpeggios to understand harmony and accompaniment.

Start with simple tunes and gradually progress to more complex pieces. Take advantage of instructional materials, such as books, online tutorials, or even seeking guidance from an experienced dulcimer player or instructor. Consistent practice, patience, and a positive mindset are key to success when learning the hammered dulcimer.

Is it hard to learn to play the dulcimer?

Learning to play the dulcimer can be a challenging endeavor, particularly for those with no prior musical experience. The instrument requires hand-eye coordination, finger dexterity, and an understanding of musical concepts.

Hammered Dulcimer
Image Source: dulcimer .net

Initially, beginners may struggle with hand placement, striking the strings accurately, and producing consistent sounds. However, with practice and perseverance, the challenges can be overcome. Consistent practice, guidance from experienced players or instructors, and a willingness to learn and grow will contribute to the successful mastery of the hammered dulcimer.

What are the tunings on a hammered dulcimer?

The hammered dulcimer offers various tuning options, depending on the desired musical style and repertoire. Common tunings include D-A-d (where D represents the lowest note on the instrument), G-C-g, and D-G-d. These tunings provide a diatonic scale and are suitable for traditional folk music.

Some players may experiment with alternate tunings, such as modal tunings or chromatic tunings, to expand their tonal range and accommodate different musical genres. It’s important to note that tuning the hammered dulcimer requires careful adjustment of the strings’ tension and may require assistance from experienced players or tuners.


Do I need any prior musical experience to play the hammered dulcimer?

While prior musical experience can be beneficial, it is not necessary to play the hammered dulcimer. With dedication and practice, anyone can learn to play this instrument.

How long does it take to become proficient in playing the hammered dulcimer?

The time it takes to become proficient varies from person to person. With regular practice and guidance, beginners can start playing simple melodies within a few weeks, but mastery comes with years of dedicated practice.

Can I tune the hammered dulcimer myself?

Yes, tuning the hammered dulcimer is part of the learning process. It is recommended to seek guidance from experienced players or teachers initially until you become familiar with the process.


Learning to play the hammered dulcimer is a fulfilling and rewarding journey that opens up a world of musical possibilities. With patience, practice, and a deep appreciation for the instrument, you can gradually develop your skills and create beautiful melodies. Remember to start with the basics, progress at your own pace, and always seek guidance from experienced players or instructors. So, pick up your hammers, unleash your creativity, and embark on an enchanting musical adventure with the hammered dulcimer!