What is a Dulcimer?
The Mountain or Appalachian dulcimer is generally considered a true
American musical instrument, developed in the Appalachian Mountains in
the early to mid 1800's. It remained fairly obscure until the early
1960's when a renewed interest in folk music revived interest also in
the dulcimer. Today the popularity continues to grow.
Technically speaking, the mountain dulcimer belongs to the family of the plucked zither. It should not be confused with the hammered dulcimer. The dulcimer mentioned in the King James version of the Bible probably does not refer to the hammered dulcimer. An appropriate name, dulcimer, means sweet song, coming from the Latin dulce for sweet, and the Greek melos for song or sound.
Historically the dulcimer evolved from other instruments from the "old" countries. From Germany the scheitholt was played with a noter run over the melody string. This concept spread to France where it became the Epinette des Vosges, an instrument still played there today. Later it showed up in Sweden as the humle, in Norway as the langeleik, in Iceland as the langspil, and in Holland where it became the Hommel.
The hammered dulcimer is a trapezoidal-shaped, multi-stringed percussion instrument belonging to the psaltry family. You can find an excellent description and history of this instrument here. We have several HD players in our group and more are certainly welcome.