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(dŭl`sĭmər), stringed musical instrument. It is a wooden box with strings stretched over it that are struck with small mallets. The number of strings may vary. The dulcimer is related to the psalterypsaltery
, stringed musical instrument. It has a flat soundboard over which a variable number of strings are stretched. Its origin was in the Middle East, and it is referred to in the Bible. It appeared in Europe in the 12th cent. and flourished until the late Middle Ages.
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 and modern zitherzither
, stringed musical instrument, derived from the psaltery and the dulcimer. It has a flat sound box over which are stretched from 30 to 45 strings; these are plucked with the fingers and a plectrum. In the 18th cent.
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. It originated in the Middle East and was adopted in Europe in the Middle Ages. It is known, in varying forms, in Turkey, Iran, China (including Tibet), and other parts of Asia, the Middle East, and N Africa. The popularity of the dulcimer continued in Western Europe until the 17th cent., when it sharply declined, though a German, Pantaleon Hebenstreit, enlarged it to make an instrument called the pantaleon in the early 18th cent. It is still much used in Eastern Europe in Romani (Gypsy) bands. In Appalachia a plucked dulcimer very similar to the zither is popular. It has an elongated hourglass shape and is held on the player's lap.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a hammered stringed instrument. The dulcimer consists of a flat wooden body in the shape of a trapezoid, with strings stretched over the upper soundboard. The sound is produced by striking two wooden sticks or hammers against two to five metal strings. The instrument’s range extends from E in the bass clef to E in the third octave.

An ancient instrument, the dulcimer is depicted on ancient Assyrian monuments. It has been known in Western Europe since the 18th century; it achieved its greatest popularity in Hungary and Slovakia. The Moldavian (ţambal, the Armenian and Georgian santir and tsintsila, and the Uzbek chang are all related to the dulcimer. The chromatic dulcimers developed in the late 19th century by the Hungarian master craftsman V. Schunda formed an instrument family by adding an alto, bass, and contrabass dulcimer to the original dulcimer; such dulcimers are used in folk orchestras. In 17th-century Russia the harpsichord was called a dulcimer.

I. F. Stravinsky included a dulcimer part in The Fox and Ragtime for 11 instruments.


Modr. A. Muzykul’nye instrumenty. Moscow, 1959. Pages 80–82.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a tuned percussion instrument consisting of a set of strings of graduated length stretched over a sounding board and struck with a pair of hammers
2. an instrument used in US folk music, consisting of an elliptical body, a fretted fingerboard, and usually three strings plucked with a goose quill
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
It was a beautiful spring day in Chinatown when I stopped by the Mencius Society to talk with Xiao Xiannian, a virtuoso of the Chinese hammered dulcimer known as theyangqin.
Although it is commonly thought to have come from Persia through Silk Road trade, recent research has established a more probable introduction of the dulcimer to China by European sea merchants in the eighteenth century.
For the performance of the score for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari he uses three different prototype dulcimers, two of which are historic innovations in instrument design.
Each summer, club members from the north of England organise a visit to a public location to set up their dulcimers and play for the public.
The Nonsuch Dulcimer Club is the national organisation for players of the dulcimer group of instruments, which includes the Hammered Dulcimer, Mountain (or Appalachian) Dulcimer, and the Autoharp.
This latest CD reissue from Veteran is a long-awaited set of recordings of East Anglian dulcimer players, mainly a reissue of the cassettes of the same name released in 1998.
Nearly all were from Ohio, but she also recorded performers, dulcimer collectors, and luthiers when she traveled to several National Folk Festivals (such as in St.
The dulcimer is often thought of as the typical folk music instrument of Eastern Europe, but its present form is a relatively modern product.
One of the book's most valuable sections explores the history and traditions of the musical instrument known variously as the Appalachian, mountain, or lap dulcimer. Though this instrument became popular during the 1960s folk music revival and found a place in a wide variety of musical styles, its role in folk culture and its origins remained obscure.
Pam and Philip Boulding are the duo at the core of Magical Strings, and Bell Off the Ledge (their seventh recording) features Philip on Celtic harps, hammered dulcimer, and pennywhistles, and Pam on hammered dulcimer.
Visitors interested in musical instruments flock to Miller, a secondgeneration fiddle and dulcimer maker.
Among her publications were A Garland of Mountain Song (1953), Singing Family of the Cumberlands (1955), The Dulcimer Book (1964), Jean Ritchie's Swapping Song Book (1964), Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians (1965), and Jean Ritchie's Dulcimer People (1975).