Hammered dulcimers are actually a percussion instrument, even though their name makes them sound like a string instrument. These ancient stringed percussion instruments take many names depending on the country where they originate. For example, they also have the name cimbalom, hackbrett, salterio, tympanon, and that’s just a few.
Also, keep in mind that hammered dulcimers and mountain dulcimers are very different instruments. If you want to learn more about mountain dulcimers, check out this article.
In this article I will go into even more depth about the best hammered dulcimers and give you all the information you need to pick out a great instrument for yourself.
So, do you want to learn more about hammered dulcimers? If yes, read on.
Top 8 Best Hammered Dulcimers Of 2020 Reviews
1 Masterworks Sapelli Pioneer Package Dulcimer
Masterworks is an instrument maker that specializes in hammered dulcimers, bowed psalteries, mountain dulcimers, and accessories for these instruments. The company was founded by Russell Cook in 1981. Obviously, their long history shows Masterworks’ expertise and knowledge.
Masterworks’ Sapelli Pioneer Package Dulcimer is a hammered dulcimer that has fifteen treble and fourteen bass courses. The large number of courses means that this hammered dulcimer has over a three octave range. It has a Sapelli soundboard, laminated birch back, maple bridges, and ash endrails. Plus, Masterworks includes everything you need to get started with the hammered dulcimer: instrument, light weight case, x-brace stand, student hammers, tuner, tuning wrench, and guides.
2 Musicmakers Hammered Dulcimer
Musicmakers is another instrument maker that specializes in folk instruments. They are especially known for their large selection of harps and accessories. However, they do produce just about any folk instrument you could want. Ukuleles, psalteries, hurdy gurdys, kanteles, mandolins, these are just a few of the great folk instruments that Musicmakers creates.
Musicmakers makes one hammered dulcimer. It has seventeen treble and sixteen bass courses. Because of all the courses, this hammered dulcimer has the largest range of any on our top eight list. But, don’t let the large number of courses scare you. Musicmakers has tuned this instrument and placed the notes to make this hammered dulcimer extremely easy to play. However, it does not come in a kit. So, you will not receive more than a gig bag with your purchase of the hammered dulcimer.
3 SALA Persian Professional Dulcimer
SALA Musik is an instrument maker that specializes in ethnic instruments. So, if you want a bunch of instruments from around the world, this is the hammered dulcimer maker to buy from. SALA organizes their instruments by ethnicity and type. Therefore, you will find Turkish instrument, Persian instrument, Ouds, Darbukas, and other types of ethnic instruments made by the company.
SALA Musik’s Santoor, or Persian dulcimer, is a great example of a hammered dulcimer. It can play twenty-seven different notes. So, it does not have the range of some of the other hammered dulcimers on this list. But, the SALA dulcimer is tune to 9 Kharak Santoor, for those familiar with Persian music.
4 Masterworks Pioneer Package Dulcimer
Masterworks is a very well-known and respected hammered dulcimer maker. So, it makes sense that they would have multiple products on this list. Masterworks is a group of instrument maker craftsmen from southeast Oklahoma. Therefore, you know that their instruments will be American made and a wonderful quality.
Masterwork’s Pioneer Package Dulcimer illustrates what makes this company so great. It has fifteen treble and fourteen bass courses, which creates an over three octave range. 1 ¾ octave of those three is fully chromatic. So, you will never struggle to find notes to play. Plus, the laminated birch soundboard and back; maple bridges; and ash endrails ensure that this hammered dulcimer is durable. And, you are not beholden to the color of the wood, as you can choose from black, brown, or natural stain options. Finally, the Pioneer Package Dulcimer comes with a light case, x-brace stand, student hammers, tuner, tuning wrench, and how-to pamphlets in addition to the instrument itself.
5 Masterworks Student Dulcimer
Masterworks does not just create professional quality hammered dulcimers. They also make great student instruments. The company has been around since 1981 and specializes in creating elite “performer quality” instruments. Masterworks moved from Estes Park, Colorado to Bennington, Oklahoma in 1994 in pursuit of their goals. The arid and mountainous environment in Colorado was not well suited to producing high quality hammered dulcimers.
Obviously, Masterworks has taken steps to ensure that they are the top creator of hammered dulcimers in the world. And, so it makes sense that their student instruments would be wonderful as well. Masterworks’ student hammered dulcimer has twelve treble and eleven bass courses. This creates a 2 2/3 octave range, which is much easier for beginners to learn. It is also only 9 lbs. Therefore, it is a good weight for children as well as adults to use. Finally, Masterworks throws in a “Understanding and Fine Tuning” booklet and string/gauge/tuning chart to help you get started with the instrument.
6 Alizadeh Economy Class Dulcimer
There is not much out there about Alizadeh. The company only produces a couple hammered dulcimers available for purchase in the United States. However, Alizadeh’s Persian Santoor—hammered dulcimer—is one of the best around. It is actually one of the best-selling Persians Santoors in the world.
Santoors are slightly different than standard hammered dulcimers because their range is much smaller than usual. The tuning system will also likely cause problems even for experienced hammered dulcimer players. But, Alizadeh does include an extra set of strings and tuning tool with the purchase of their hammered dulcimer. Therefore, you have everything you need to learn how to tune this unique instrument. Also, Alizadeh ships their hammered dulcimer in a hard case, which is unusual and very nice because it keeps the instrument from breaking.
7 Roosebeck Single Strung Dulcimer
Roosebeck is another great hammer dulcimer maker. The brand is a part of the company Ethnic Musical Instruments (EMI). EMI was founded in 2004 and had their headquarters in Southern California. EMI creates a large number of ethnic musical instruments. In fact, like Musicmakers, you can find pretty much any ethnic or world instrument that you would like on EMI’s website.
EMI’s brand Roosebeck created hammered dulcimers. The brand currently makes five different dulcimers, of which the Single Strung Dulcimer is one. This hammered dulcimer has ten treble and nine bass strings. It is made from walnut and other hardwoods. Roosebeck recommends tuning the courses by fifths. They explain the tuning procedure in their Owner’s Guide. This is a great looking and wonderful sounding instrument for the money.
8 Ekberi Persian Quality Dulcimer
Ekberi is another company that does not have much of an online presence. They only currently offer one hammered dulcimer in the United States. Like a couple of other products on this list, the Ekberi hammered dulcimer is a Persian 9 Kharak Santoor. So, make sure that you want a hammered dulcimer that is tuned to the G scale before you purchase this product. You will not have the pitch options of some of the other large hammered dulcimers.
Ekberi gives you everything you need to get started with this hammered dulcimer. It comes with a hard case to protect the instrument. Additionally, you will receive an extra set of strings, two hammers, and a tuning wrench. There is no User Manual. So, if you are a beginner, you will need to look up how to tune the instrument yourself. However, the good and unique tone of this instrument, in addition to the affordable price, make the Ekberi hammered dulcimer a great addition to any instrument collection.
Also see: Top 7 Best Bagpipes of 2020 Reviews
Best Hammered Dulcimers Buying Guide
Now that you know the eight best hammered dulcimers available, I will tell you how to choose between them. The following buyer’s guide will help you find the hammered dulcimer that will fit your playing style and experience level.
A hammered dulcimer has two bridges. The treble bridge on the left side of the instrument holds the treble strings. And, the bass bridge on the right side of the instrument holds the bass strings. The two bridges never change from hammered dulcimer to hammered dulcimer. However, the number of strings that cross the bridges does change.
As you can tell by a quick glance over the eight products above, hammered dulcimers can have a lot of combinations of strings. There will always be more treble strings than bass strings. But, the instrument could have 15/14, 17/16, 10/9, or so on.
Hammered dulcimers with less strings are easier to tune and play, so they are often recommended for beginners. Yet, the instruments with more strings provide a greater number of pitches. So, if you want the largest pitch range possible, you should choose a hammered dulcimer with more strings.
Another feature that often varies form hammered dulcimer to hammered dulcimer is the tuning system. Most often the hammered dulcimer is tuned to the circle of fifths. This means that each string is separated by a fifth. Tuning to the fifth will be familiar to players of the string family (violin, viola, and cello).
Although most hammered dulcimers are tuned to the circle of fifths, they don’t have to be. Plus, the bass pitch can vary. Therefore, you should purchase a hammered dulcimer that has the tuning system you desire. If you are a beginner, you should purchase an instrument with the tuning system that will be easiest to learn.
Another helpful tool for learning the hammered dulcimer is the metronome. Go here to learn more.
Hammered dulcimers use small hammers to create the sound. As you might expect, the hammer play a huge role in the sound of the instrument. Most hammered dulcimer makers include two hammers with their instruments. But, these hammers may not be the best quality or work well for an advanced player.
There is a little bit of variation that can occur from hammer to hammer. Most hammers are still made form hardwood. However, they can also be found in metal or plastic. The majority of hammered dulcimer hammers are also stiff. But, this is not always the case, especially in Asia. Finally, the hammer could have one or two heads.
Clearly, hammers are extremely personal to the player. If you are a beginner, using the hammers that come with your instrument is probably fine. But, intermediate and advanced players should find hammers that suit their playing style.
Finally, you will want to look at the number and type of accessories provided with your purchase. Beginners should buy a hammered dulcimer that comes with a lot of different accessories. This makes it easier to get started playing.
However, if you already have tuning wrenches and extra strings, you may not need as many accessories included. These players will want to find the best instrument they can without worrying about the number of accessories it comes with.
One thing you should always look for is that your hammered dulcimer comes with some kind of a case. Hard cases are the most protective. But, soft cases are okay too. Purchasing a product with a case ensures that your hammered dulcimer will get to you safely.