~ How do the bridges affect the sound of a Hammer Dulcimer?

  • More dense woods such as Rosewood or Ebony seem to produce a darker or mellower tone. Lighter material such as walnut or cherry tend to produce a little brighter tone and are definitely less efficient in transferring the musical energy of the vibrating strings, thus producing less sustain.
  • The overall size of the bridge affects the tone somewhat. In my opinion a larger, more massive bridge is less desirable than a smaller, more petite bridge.
  • Bridge caps (the material on top of the bridge that the strings sit on) as well as the side rods (the rods on the extreme left and right sides of the instrument) have more to do with the instruments sound than any other single part of the instrument as they are the only things that come in direct contact with the strings.
  • Hard metal promotes brassy tones and extensive sustain and is more difficult to tune (because of the friction of the strings on metal)
  • Wooden rods or bridges without rods are extremely soft and dramatically reduce sustain.
  • Delrin rods (which most instruments have these days) are somewhere in between metal and wooden tone-wise and are very slick which promotes ease of tuning.
  • Separated bridge caps tend to reduce sustain somewhat compared to continuous bridge caps and side rods.
  • Remember, the sound of any builder’s instrument can be dramatically changed by varying nothing more than the bridge or bridge caps!

Posted in: Ask Russell