The Appalachian dulcimer (or mountain dulcimer) is a fretted string instrument of the zither family. It seems to have made its first appearance in the United  States in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The dulcimer started to become more popular in the years between 1950 to 1965 with the instrument showing up at folk and music festivals. It is usually played by putting it on a person’s lap. It also could be placed on a table or it can be played when standing and using a strap to hold it in place. The strings can be plucking or strummed with the right hand, while fretting with the left hand to change the notes and or the chords.

The most popular version of the mountain dulcimer generally has three or four strings. The four string version has double melody strings that are tuned the same. That would give the melody additional volume to make it stand out more. The instrument is generally strung with the melody string (or double strings if there are 4 strings with the double melody) on the player's side of the instrument The bass string is on the outside facing away from the body. This instrument is one of the easier string instruments to play but it still has a very pleasing and full sound to it due to the amount of strings. The instrument can be played in a very simplistic way and still be very nice to listen to. Like any other instrument it has the potential to be played in more complex ways. In the simple version it can be played with the melody and strums. In a more complex version it can be played in a chord melody way with a finger picking approach. There are a few different fret variation choices with this instrument and a few options that would be nice to have. That is why it would be important to talk to someone who understand this instrument before you purchase one.

Dulcimer Body shapes

Dulcimers come in a few different shapes. The most popular are labeled hourglass, teardrop. Each shape has it’s advantages. As people get to more advanced stages of playing they can decide for themselves what sounds please them more. The shape of the instrument is only one of the things that give an instrument it sound. The type of wood used the overall depth and other factors also have a lot to do with the way an instrument would sound.

Here are a few websites where you can see players playing the dulcimer

Joni Mitchell - A Case of You (live 1974}

Cyndi Lauper - True Colors livebutter

Holly Brook - All I Want cover (Joni Mitchell) - August 2009

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