Ancient Music

The Mountain Dulcimer

Oddities

    There are three common Names for this instrument. In order of popularity they are the Mountain Dulcimer, the Three-stringed Dulcimer, and and Lap Dulcimer. It is one of only two stringed instruments that are considered purely American, in that there are no European antecedents. (Look up the Banjo) There is some musical kinship the the bagpipe in that one of the earliest tunings is the same as the two drones and the chanter of the scottish parade pipes. The kinship is furthered by the fact that in the earliest known examples only the "chanter" string was fretted making the other two strictly drones. Also the 'black key' frets are missing. History buffs should look up the Tennessee Music Box

    In modern manufacture the melody string is usually doubled (making it a 'four-stringed dulcimer'?) and the fretting underlays all the strings. The body shape has been much refined but the tone and the music are very little different than they were from the earliest instruments. (The larger body of the Tennessee Music Box made it very mellow and rich toned. It was also frequently played with a bow.) Sample sound(Use your browser's 'BACK' button to return to this site)

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