My Instrument: the cimbalom

In English I refer to it by its Hungarian name, cimbalom.  In Romanian it’s ţambal.  Basically it’s a box strung with metallic strings that the player hits with two sticks―a dulcimer, in other words.  The original, “Romanian” version is portable, with fewer strings, and I use a strap to hold it when in play.  I used to play it this way in wedding processions and still do on occasion.  It looks like this:

țambal mic

This one is about a hundred years old and used to belong to my grandfather.  It is strung with approximately 64 brass and 4 wound strings.  White felt is woven through the groups of wire strings to dampen the vibrations.  The original tuning used by my father and grandfather and by me, when I first started to play, is different than what I use now.  I tune this like the large cimbalom.

My main instrument is the large cimbalom or ţambal mare, which was made in Hungary.  It has a much heavier frame, with steel supports inside, and many more strings than the small instrument.  There are approximately 80 steel strings and 48 wound strings.  A pedal operates the dampers.

țambal mare