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Dulcimer Picture

Dulcimer may refer to multiple musical instruments:

  • Appalachian dulcimer, an instrument with frets, played by plucking, also referred to as a "mountain dulcimer", "lap dulcimer", "fretted dulcimer", or "hog fiddle"
    • Banjo dulcimer, an Appalachian dulcimer with a banjo-like vibrating membrane
    • Resonator dulcimer, an Appalachian dulcimer with a metal resonating cone inset in the body
  • Hammered dulcimer, a trapezoidal instrument, struck with a hammer
  • Bowed dulcimer, a teardrop shaped instrument played upright with a bow.

  The Appalachian dulcimer (or mountain dulcimer) is a fretted string instrument of the zitherfamily, typically with three or four strings. Its origins are in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

  Although the Appalachian dulcimer first appeared in the early 19th century among Scotch-Irishimmigrant communities in the southern Appalachian Mountains, the instrument has no known precedent in Ireland or Scotland. Picture  The hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over atrapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand, at an angle, before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings (cf.Appalachian dulcimer). The Graeco-Roman dulcimer (sweet song) derives from the Latin dulcis(sweet) and the Greek melos (song). The dulcimer, in which the strings are beaten with small hammers, originated from the psaltery, in which the strings are plucked.

  Various types of hammered dulcimers are traditionally played in  India,  Iran, Southwest Asia, China, and parts of Southeast Asia, Central Europe  (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic,  Switzerland  (particularly Appenzell), Austria and Bavaria), the Balkans, Eastern Europe(Ukraine and Belarus) and Scandinavia. The instrument is also played in Great Britain (Wales, East Anglia, Northumbria) and the U.S., where its traditional use in folk music saw a notable revival in the late 20th Century. Picture   The bowed dulcimer is an instrument that is held upright, with the bottom of the instrument held on the player's lap. It is about the size of the Appalachian dulcimer and has a teardrop shape. The bowed dulcimer has a sound deeper than that of a violin's, much like the viola or cello. The instrument is normally played with a cello bow.

   The bowed dulcimer has a long history that stretches back to Europe in the 16th century and the 18th century in America. Before World War II, using a bow to play the lap dulcimer existed side by side with the plucking and strumming technique. You can find examples of bowed ducimers in the dulcimer collection at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and also in the collection at the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College in Ferrum Virginia. Professor L. Allen Smith feature several examples in his well-known historical survey A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers.


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