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Early Belgian Dulcimer (or Hackebrett) from the Hans Adler collection Early dulcimer made in Belgium.jpg
Early Belgian Dulcimer (or Hackebrett) from the Hans Adler collection

The word dulcimer refers to two types of musical string instruments.


Hammered dulcimers

The word originally refers to a trapezoidal zither similar to a psaltery whose many strings are struck by handheld "hammers". Variants of this instrument are found in many cultures, including

Appalachian dulcimer and derivatives

In the Appalachian region of the U.S. in the nineteenth century, hammered dulcimers were rare. There, the word "dulcimer," which was familiar from the King James Version of the Bible, was used to refer to a three or four stringed fretted instrument, generally played on the lap by strumming.

Variants include:

Related Research Articles

The banjo is a stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity to form a resonator. The membrane is typically circular, and usually made of plastic, or occasionally animal skin. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by African-Americans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk and country music, and has also been used in some rock, pop and Hip-Hop songs. Several rock bands, such as the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Along with the fiddle, the banjo is a mainstay of American styles of music, such as Bluegrass and old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz. Banjo is also a common instrument for Caribbean genres like Biguine, Calypso and Mento.

Hammered dulcimer percussion-stringed instrument

The hammered dulcimer is a percussion-stringed instrument which consists of strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonant sound board. The hammered dulcimer is set before the musician, who in more traditional styles may sit cross-legged on the floor, or in a more modern style may stand or sit at a wooden support with legs. The player holds a small spoon-shaped mallet hammer in each hand to strike the strings. The Graeco-Roman dulcimer derives from the Latin dulcis (sweet) and the Greek melos (song). The dulcimer, in which the strings are beaten with small hammers, originated from the psaltery, in which the strings are plucked.

Lyre Ancient Greek string instrument

The lyre is a string instrument that dates back to 1400 BCE in Greece. Known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later periods.

Zither Class of stringed musical instruments

Zither is a class of stringed instruments. Historically, the name has been applied to any instrument of the psaltery family, or to an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body. This article describes the latter variety.


Gusli is the oldest East Slavic multi-string plucked instrument, belonging to the zither family, due to its strings being parallel to its resonance board. Its roots lie in Veliky Novgorod in Novgorodian Rus'. It may have a connection to the Byzantine form of the Greek kythare, which in turn derived from the ancient lyre, or might have been imported from Western and Central Europe during the Middle Ages, when the zither had immense popularity. It has its relatives in Europe and throughout the world: kantele in Finland, kannel in Estonia, kanklės in Lithuania, kokles in Latvia, Zither in Germany, citera in the Czech Republic, psalterium in France and so on... Furthermore, the kanun has been found in Arabic countries, and the autoharp, in the United States. It is also related to such ancient instruments as Chinese gu zheng, which has a thousand-year history, and its Japanese relative koto. A stringed musical instrument called guslim is listed as one of the Me in ancient Sumer.


The tsymbaly is the Ukrainian version of the hammer dulcimer. It is a chordophone made up of a trapezoidal box with metal strings strung across it. The tsymbaly is played by striking two beaters against the strings.

Old-time music Genre of folk music

Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments, most often the banjo, guitar, and mandolin.

Appalachian dulcimer fretted string instrument

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings, originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

Hummel (instrument)

The hummel is an old Northern European stringed instrument similar to an older type of zither and is related to the Norwegian langeleik. The name is thought to come from the German word hummel, meaning "bumblebee", referring to the droning sound created by the accompaniment strings.


The trapezoidal yangqin is a Chinese hammered dulcimer, likely derived from the Iranian santur or the European dulcimer. It used to be written with the characters 洋琴, but over time the first character changed to 揚, which means "acclaimed". It is also spelled yang quin or yang ch'in. Hammered dulcimers of various types are now very popular not only in China, but also Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, Iran, and Pakistan. The instruments are also sometimes known by the names "santoor" and "cymbalom". This instrument had an influence on the Thai classical instrument, known as Khim (ขิม).

Stroh violin Mechanically amplified stringed musical instrument

The Stroh violin or Stroviol is a type of stringed musical instrument that is mechanically amplified by a metal resonator and horn attached to its body. The name Stroviol refers to a violin, but other instruments have been modified with the amplification device, including the viola, cello, double bass, ukulele, mandolin, and guitar. John Matthias Augustus Stroh, an electrical engineer in London, invented the instrument in 1899.

Folk instrument

A folk instrument is a musical instrument that developed among common people and usually does not have a known inventor. It can be made from wood, metal or other material. Such an instrument is played in performances of folk music.

Appalachian music

Appalachian music is the music of the region of Appalachia in the Eastern United States. It is derived from various European and African influences, including English ballads, Irish and Scottish traditional music, hymns, and African-American blues. First recorded in the 1920s, Appalachian musicians were a key influence on the early development of Old-time music, country music, and bluegrass, and were an important part of the American folk music revival of the 1960s. Instruments typically used to perform Appalachian music include the banjo, American fiddle, fretted dulcimer, and guitar.


The khim is a stringed musical instrument derived from the Mesopotamian or Persian Santur. It is similar to the Hammered Dulcimer or Cimbalom. This khim was introduced to Thailand from China, and introduced to Lao and Cambodia from Thailand later, where a similar instrument is called yangqin. It is played with two flexible bamboo sticks with soft leather at the tips to produce a soft tone. This instrument can be played by either sitting down on the floor with the khim on the floor, or by sitting on a chair or standing while the khim is on a stand. The khim produces a bright and expressive sound when played. It is made of wood, with brass strings that are laid across the instrument. The Australian-born musician and vocal artist Lisa Gerrard specialises in the use of a khim hammered dulcimer, featuring its music on several albums and performing with the instrument live on tour.

Plucked string instrument

Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such a way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vibrate. Plucking can be done with either a finger or a plectrum.

The Santouri is a stringed instrument in the hammer dulcimer family. There are Greek, Persian and an Indian types which are distinct from each other in style, construction, tuning and technique. The Persian and Indian instruments are more generally respectively known as the Santur and Santoor.

The dulcitar is a variant of the Appalachian dulcimer, which retains the dulcimer's diatonic fret layout yet features a long neck that is intended to be played upright in the guitar style rather than flat across the lap. Luthier Homer Ledford coined the word dulcitar as a portmanteau of dulcimer and guitar, building his first model of the instrument around 1971. One of Ledford's dulcitars was accepted into the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as displayed in a traveling exhibit on American craftsmanship.

Damping is a technique in music for altering the sound of a musical instrument by reducing oscillations or vibrations. Damping methods are used for a number of instruments.

Santur hammered dulcimer of Iranian or Mesopotamian origin

The santur (Persian: سنتور‎, is a hammered dulcimer of Iranian or Mesopotamian origins.