Bill Flanagan – Hammered Dulcimer


BillHDI first heard the wondrous sound of the hammered dulcimer at a county fair in Eastern Tennessee at the age of thirteen. I remember thinking how fascinating the instrument was, yet how incredibly difficult it must be to play. The performer was John McCutcheon, one of the finest hammered dulcimer players in the country. I didn’t give it another thought for many, many years. In the meantime, I learned to play the 5-string banjo and then the guitar. I had a great time with those instruments for about twenty years, and for several years was heavily into contemporary fingerstyle guitar. I found myself unsuccessfully trying to reproduce the brilliant sustained tones that were in vogue on fingerstyle guitar albums by artists such as Alex DeGrassi and Ed Gerhard. Then one day I was listening to a cassette tape compilation of acoustic guitar pieces and stumbled upon a duet played by acoustic guitar and hammered dulcimer. I recalled my earlier exposure to the instrument many years before, and I realized that the hammered dulcimer offered the brilliant sustained tones — the “wall of sound” effect — that I had unsuccessfully been striving for on guitar all along. Within a month I had purchased my first hammered dulcimer — a Master Works 15/14 model — along with a John McCutcheon instructional videotape, and had begun teaching myself to play. That was over fifteen years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Music is many things for me… it is something I do for enjoyment and relaxation, and although I do not advertise (other than the fact that this website exists) I also perform on various occasions such as weddings or seasonal events. My current instrument is a gorgeous mahogany Master Works 16/15c, with very rich tone and a long sustain (recently custom-modified with the addition of 6 lower-octave notes to become a 16/15/6/2). It is equipped with pickups for amplification, and I play through a state-of-the-art Bose Personal Amplification System, which produces an extraordinarily clear sound that projects evenly throughout the performance space.

I also play 5-string banjo in the progressive acoustic group Everest Rising.