Hammered Dulcimer


The hammered dulcimer is known for its use in Celtic music in the US
although different versions of the instrument appear in other areas of
Europe, the Middle Eastand in the Orient. Apparently, the hammered
dulcimer came to the United States with people from the Celtic regions and
became a popular instrument until the time the piano took over this role.
The hammered dulcimer was sold in Sears catalogues for a time.

The mountain dulcimer was named after this instrument although they are
very different. Many hammered dulcimer players play by ear but others
work on original music for the dulcimer or transpose pieces to fit the
instrument. Donna’s 3 ½ and 4 1/2 octave dulcimers were built by Jerry
Read Smith.

The Celtic Harp

Versions of the harp have been found dating back to the 9th and 11th
centuries. A few 15th century Gaelic harps are still in existence and are
about 31-38 inches in height with 29-32 strings each. Harp strings were
made from metal, bronze and eventually, from animal gut. The size of the
harps gradually became larger with the orchestral harp and it’s pedal system
developed around the 18th century.Professional harpers in Ireland initially held
a position of respect. Poets and harpers performed together in the courts of
Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Eventually, traditional harpers lost their status
and became itinerantmusicians traveling the countryside. One of the most
famous harpers in Irish history, Turlough Ó Carolan, lived from1670-1738.
Ó Carolan composed much of the repertoire currently used by harpers and
hammered dulcimer players. The songs he wrote were often named after wealthy
patrons (Planytx or In Memory of…) EdwardBunting published his writings to preserve
much of the music, technique and lore associated with the harp. After a period of
lost interest in the instrument, musicians began to study the ancient harps and
research their music in the 1970’s. Instrument builders began reproducing both the wire
strung and gut strung harps and continued with modern improvements.Today,
the Celtic harp is used for traditional music along with modern
compositions for soloists and ensembles. The solid body electric harp has
been developed with pickups on each string, much like an electric guitar. So
modern harps are used for quite a variety of genres at this time.
The Pedal Harp
The pedal harp uses pedals to change the pitch of the strings. There are 7 pedals,
one for each note of the scale. From left to right, they are D C B E F G A
There are 3 pedals on the left side of the harp and 4 pedals on theright side of
the harp. Most of the time, the left foot works the pedals on the left, and the
right foot works the pedals on the right. Each pedal has 3 positions : up, middle,
and down. When the pedal is in the up position,the note is flat. When the pedal
is in the middle position, the note is natural. When the pedal is in the down position,
the note is sharp