The Mountain Dulcimer-An American Original

The Mountain Dulcimer instrument, with the sweet, haunting sounds, is the favorite instrument of the hill folk in the Ozarks and Appalachia. Resembling an elongated guitar without the neck, the dulcimer is a true American folk instrument, as it has no counterpart anywhere else.

The mountain dulcimer, with the sweet, haunting sound, is the favorite instrument of the hill folk in the Ozarks and Appalachia. Resembling an elongated guitar without the neck, the mountain dulcimer is a true American folk instrument, as it has no counterpart anywhere else.

The mountain dulcimer, instead of being a standard instrument, is actually shaped to the creativity of its maker. Most have three strings, but some have four. Because it has no neck and the frets are over the body, it is classified as a fretted zither.

No one knows for sure when the first dulcimer was made, but it is thought to have been in the mid-1800s. Many people say that the dulcimer was first made in Appalachia and brought to the Ozarks, but others say it was made in the Ozarks first and spread to Appalachia. However, everyone agrees that the mountain dulcimer is the instrument of the hill people. There is even a story about it first made by a Cherokee Indian, who called it Indian walking cane, because it had a long, narrow shape. Dulcimer makers used whatever native wood was available, to make their instrument.



Most traditional players play the dulcimer by ear; play the music as they feel it. You hold the dulcimer on your lap, with a pick and a noter, although the fingers can also be used. The pick can be a guitar pick, or a turkey quill. The feathers were removed from the quill, of course. The noter is usually a piece of wood that is tapered on one end, and made to fit the players hand, so it can be moved smoothly up and down the fretboard. In playing the notes, the noter slides along the fret board so that notes flow from one to the next, without a break. But a noter can be lifted occasionally to give a break sound.

Yes, the mountain dulcimer is a true original, seldom heard beyond the mountains. But that sweet, haunting sound signifies the rugged people who settled in the mountains to carve out a living, and tell about it in their hauntingly beautiful folk songs. If you ever get to hear a mountain dulcimer, you're in for a real treat!

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