A dulcimer is a type of musical string instrument. It is a variety of zither. Dulcimers have a long history. Musicians in Asia and Europe have used them for hundreds of years. Many of these are played with small hammers. They’re called hammer dulcimers. Today, though, we’re talking about the Appalachian dulcimer. It’s also called the mountain dulcimer. This instrument developed in the American Appalachian Mountains in the early 19th century. It’s part of the zither category of string instruments. Some historians trace its roots all the way back to the ancient lyre.
It’s shaped like an hourglass. Some people think it looks like a guitar, but it’s a very different instrument. Instead of holding it upright, musicians play it from their laps. The instrument can have anywhere from three to eight strings. Some musicians pick the strings with their fingers. Others play them with a bow like a violin. These techniques can produce different sounds. The mountain dulcimer’s range makes it a good instrument for many different types of music. You’ll hear it in folk, classical, jazz, blues, ragtime, cajun, gospel, and rock and roll. Some areas have special festivals for dulcimer music. They’re hand-crafted instruments. Looking at one, it’s easy to see why many people call them works of art. The holes in the soundbox are often made to look like various objects. These might include flowers or animals. When playing the dulcimer, your strumming pattern is very important. You can strum away from your body or toward it. Most players alternate patterns to create special rhythms and unique sounds.
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