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I, like many hammered-dulcimer players I've met, have a bag full of hammers. However, I find that I only ever use one pair, a set of double-headed hammers (padded on one side, unpadded on the other). Is this typical, or am I missing out on some important aspect of playing by not varying my hammers? If I should be using more than the one set, what are the characteristics that matter most? Weight? Width of the striking surface? Something else?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The ability to phrase your playing into an almost vocal-singing-like quality versus the ability to energize your playing into highlighting the percussive nature of your instrument, to me, is indeed an 'important aspect of playing' hammered-dulcimer. Long-flexible-light-soft-bouncy hammers affords vocal quality more readily, and short-stiff-heavy-hard-unpadded hammers brings out percussive quality more easily. the 'bag full of hammers' are useful for uncountably more subtle choices like long-and-stiff, heavy-but-really-padded, etc. Of course, choosing which hammers to use depends on the feel of the song.

Examples of vocal-like playing:

  • (Hengyu Du)
  • (Liqun Li)

Examples of energy-percussive playing:

  • (Max Zbiral-Teller?)
  • (song starts at 1:00)
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