The hammered dulcimer is a stringed instrument with 31 string pairs stretched over a trapezoidal shaped sound box. Usually, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand in front of the musician, who holds small wooden mallet hammers to strike the strings. The dulcimer has two bridges, a bass bridge near the right and a treble bridge on the left side. The bass bridge holds up bass strings, which are played to the left of the bridge. The treble strings can be played on either side of the treble bridge, playing them on the left side gives a note a fifth higher than playing them on the right of the bridge. The strings of a hammered dulcimer are found in pairs, two strings for each note. Each set of strings is tuned in unison and is called a course. As with a piano, the purpose of using multiple strings per course is to make the instrument louder, although as the courses are rarely in perfect unison, a chorus effect usually results like a mandolin..
We recorded the hammered dulcimer in two microphone positions. At the top of the instrument we placed – in a ms stereo set-up – a pair of Neumann U87s and at the bottom we put a single condenser. These two positions are covering a wide range of sound and you are free to mix them at your own requirements. We played the hammered dulcimer in minor thirds and concentrated mainly on three different articulations. Firstly we recorded the „normal“ notes which means that we hit the strings with the typical small wooden mallets, we called this articulation „Mallet“. Furthermore we struck the strings with a drum stick which we called „Sticks“ and finally we recorded an articulation where we struck the strings with a timpani mallet and damped the strings with the palm of the hand which we named „Muted“. All these articulation were recorded in 4 round robin variation and up to 4 velocity layer.
Beside this we cared most about producing the typical hammered dulcimer tremolo. Thus we equipped the instrument with two different ways to produce this roll alike tremolo. The first option to generate the tremolo will be achieved by duplicating each already played note when releasing the key. This lets you exactly control the velocity and tempo of the tremolo. The other and more easy way to produce the tremolo uses the modwheel. By turning the wheel you control the tremolo tempo from slow to fast. In order to avoid sounding too artificially we included a random factor which automatically affects the tempo and the velocity which results a very organic tremolo which lets you easy switch between single notes and tremolo rolls. Furthermore we added several functions and effects such as the control of reverb, delay, decay, distortion or octave which expands the entire sound of the hammered dulcimer and gives you a lot of options.
All in all we came out with an instrument which enriches your music with a nice and organic feel whether you used it as a solo or just as a background instrument.