Who took my F#?

The mother of all hammer dulcimers

The mother of all hammer dulcimers

Above we see the mother – make that the ueber grandmother – of all hammer dulcimers, to which I aspire someday. This is a big ol’ honkin piece of fabulous equipment that virtually needs its own forklift. For now, I am on the training-wheels model. Look at all those pretty, shiny (I’m supposed to tune a gazillion strings every time?) work of art.

Unlike the various notes on a flute, one string on an HD does not feel differently nor is it hammered differently than another string. To make it even more challenging, there are 3 areas, on the baby model, in which strings may be struck. Their location is confusing though because the pitch of a note does not correspond to its placement on the soundboard. In other words, there’s an F# on a lower location on the far left set of strings that is higher in pitch than the D, that is lower in pitch, that is located on a higher location on the middle set of strings. Confused yet? I was. I emailed my teacher tonight because I could not find my F#. Vanna – I’d like to buy an F#! But it was hiding in plain sight all along. Who knew?

The age old joke amongst those of us who play these beasties is:

Let’s Get Hammered!!




Strings galore

Many moons ago, when it was still popular to wear bell bottom jeans and to say groovy and far out, I played classical guitar. There were 6 strings to tune, which seemed to take forever.

This morning, in the wee insomniac hours, I decided to count the strings of all the instruments I play. The hammer dulcimer, and mine is the smallest model, has 46. The harp, also a fairly small model, has 26. The octave mandolin has 8 and the banjo has 5. That’s about a gazillion strings, or 85, depending on your counting methods.

Tuning all my strings is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. When I’ve come to the end, it’s time to start over again.


582 tuning pegs. Objects may appear less numerous in photographic situations. 🙂