Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Talented Tuesday - Old Time Dulcimer

4-String Appalachian Dulcimer

The other day I was talking to a client about the musical instruments that I can play. One of which, they say they had never heard of before. The Mountain Dulcimer. The above pictured dulcimer is taken from Amazon,and is the very same model that mine is. 

A dulcimer has a long history in the Appalachian mountains, but little is known about it before then. No real records exist of its being built prior to the 16th century. It is believed to have come from the Scots-Irish immigrants who settled the Appalachian mountains. 

Its' build is close in resembling a violin or fiddle, but it has an elongated narrow body. It is played by "plucking" the strings rather than using a bow, or strumming, as in a guitar. One uses a fretboard press to form the notes, and its strings are traditionally plucked with a feather quill. I have used a quill with mine, but find a guitar pick works equally as nice.

Its sound is reminiscent of the zither. And if strummed, you do, indeed, find a sound quite similar, but with less rich tones, as there are traditionally only 3 or 4 strings.

I am, by no means, proficient in playing the instrument, and solely play for my own amusement. I can definitely go back to the very day I decided I wanted a dulcimer. You can laugh, but it's the truth: I first heard and decided I want to learn to play the dulcimer after watching John Boy (Richard Thomas) on the Waltons, about 1972 or 1973, play a love song for his girlfriend. You can see it here:

You can hear the unique sound of the dulcimer in this video. Of course, there are countless other videos of dulcimer playing on You Tube but this is why I own one today. (Golly, I sure do miss John Boy, and Mary Ellen, and Jason, and .....well, you get the idea. That's for another time.)

Do you have a family member who plays a musical instrument? How about recording them for future generations to hear?  You'll want to do that as soon as possible or the time may pass you by!

If it already has, be sure to record that this person played an instrument in your family notes. Record, if known, the kind of music they enjoyed playing. (For instance, my Dad used to play the guitar, and he played mostly songs by the Everly Brothers.) What kind of music was your ancestors favorite if known?

Include a photograph of their instrument, if its still available to photograph. Preferably include a photograph of them playing the instrument, if at all possible!

As always, we don't have all the answers, but if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let us know! We will do our very best to answer your question! And comment below! We love hearing what you have to say!

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