What we like about this instrument
The hammered dulcimer is a fascinating instrument to learn to play. It is kind of like a grand piano with the lid open and the sustain pedal on - you hold the "hammers" in your hands to strike the strings. But on the dulcimer the notes are separated about 1 inch apart, and tuned to just the "do-re-mi" scale (not chromatically) so it is easier to find and play the correct notes.
The secret is to learn a few basic patterns for scales and chords. They are easy to learn, and if you want to change keys, you just repeat the same patterns higher or lower along the bridge. This size dulcimer has 6 major and 6 minor keys available, each one located in a specific area on the instrument, and they all play the same. That means if you learn a song in key of C, you can repeat it in the ley of G just by moving to another area on the bridges and playing the same pattern.
Christmas carols are especially bright and cheery on the hammered dulcimer. Playing melodies is the easiest way to start off, and the sound blends nicely with any chorded instrument like guitar, organ, harp, or piano. In fact, the combination of harp and hammered dulcimer is pure magic!
We rate this a 4-hammer project for these reasons. 1) You need a lot of clamps to glue the box together firmly enough to withstand all the string tension, and 2) You need a good dose of patience for installing the 66 strings properly so they play in tune. We provide fully illustrated assembly instructions with the kit (or plans), and we also have video instruction on our web site for installing and tuning the strings. We can also help with troubleshooting over the phone if you have the instrument nearby when you call so we can hear the notes as you pluck the strings.
Tools you will need
Large spring clamps are very handy for assembling the box. They need to open 3" wide to reach the full thickness of the frame, and we use at least 20 of them for clamping the back and front panels. You could get by with other clamps, but you may need to pad the jaws to avoid denting the top or bottom surfaces of the box. A drill press will also be helpful for boring the holes for tuning pins and hitch pins, and it would help to fasten a good size plywood piece to your drill table to help support the large box as you drill. You could also do the drilling with a hand-held drill if you are careful and have a steady hand.