dulcimer

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dulcimer

(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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dulcimer

 

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.

REFERENCE

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.

dulcimer

Music
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
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