CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in the Midlands & the North

Leslie Evans - plectrums vs. hammers

When he first started playing Mr. Evans used hammers,

"but I left that idea, right at the beginning, it wasn't successful. You can't damp the sound, you see, and you need plectrums to be able to play very quiet... They were, like, cane, bound at the end. with a sort of wool, very dull, you couldn't get a loud tone with them at all. I have seen them, like round rings on the end of cane, wood ... very thin ... sort of hoops, and they'd bounce back off the strings."

This seems to be the only reference to such hammers in this country, but the description tallies closely with the hammers as used by Joseph Strunz and August Zach of Steiermark, Austria; one may wonder if there is any connection with the notion of a 'German' dulcimer.

Another possibility is that such hammers were similar to those used in East Anglia and described in the early tutors: as, e.g., fig, 124 or 136.


His plectrums were made specially for him by a celebrated banjo-player of former times, Alfred Kirby; they are of surprisingly complex structure, being jointed in the middle, with whalebone rivetted in the middle of celluloid "to allow a bit of give".

He used to use ordinary sewing needles with the tops cut off (c.f. Charlie Biddle using pins) - "you had to hold them very tight" - and he changed when the BBC requested

"something that would produce a piano-like tone ... metal against metal didn't work out as regards the microphones: when I first started they were like a big square box on four legs ..."

He used to stand at a low table to play.