Hammered Mbira

Designed by Don MacLane, a Kinetic Sculpter and Luthier from Oregon in the USA, it is a union of the Mbira, also know as a thumb piano, from the Shona people of Zimbabwe and the hammered dulcimer. Here is the link to his site.

It uses the steel rods from the thumb piano and the layout of the hammered dulcimer. It was originally designed by Don while he was working in Japan and wanting a Hammered Dulcimer that would travel and not require regular tuning. He used his many years experience working in metal to come up with his Hammered Mbira.

12 Rod Hammered Mbira with a Maple soundboard
12 rod Hammered Mbira with Padauk soundboard

I met Don “virtually” at a Sandbridge Hammered Dulcimer retreat run by Ken Kolodner and his team over Zoom, due to Covid. As part of the week long workshop we had some light relief by me showing people around my small workshop for making Hammered Dulcimers, and his workshop where he made hammered Mbira’s amoungst other things.

I contacted him about buying an Mbira, he very generously offered to show me how to make Mbiras. We are in communication over Zoom and email sharing ideas, but to be honest Don is the main source of all knowledge on his Mbira. I have yet to shake him by the hand for his amazing generocity is sharing his knowledge on making this wonderful instrument with me.

The 12 rod instruments I currently make are great for travelling, they rarely require tuning and are much more rubust than a standard hammered dulcimer. I do not believe they are a substitute for the hammered dulcimer, the sound is unique and I feel it has its own place.

We used my Maple soundboard 12 Rod Hammered Mbira for the theme tune on the audio play my wife directed recently.

Check my for sale page to see what instruments are currently available and also contact me if you wish to discuss your requirements.