Dulcimer (Fr. psaltérion, tympanon; Ger. Hackbrett; It. salterio; Hung. cimbalom, cymbalon, cymbálum; Russ. tsimbalï; Sp. salterio, tímpano)
- David Kettlewell
(Fr. psaltérion, tympanon; Ger. Hackbrett; It. salterio; Hung. cimbalom, cymbalon, cymbálum; Russ. tsimbalï; Sp. salterio, tímpano)
A name applied to certain instruments of the box Zither type with more than one string but without a keyboard. In many parts of the world, the dulcimer has a trapeziform box; its strings, commonly from two to six for each course, are unfretted, but some are divided into two segments by a partitioning bridge (fig.1). The courses are usually set in intersecting horizontal planes. The player may hit the strings with hammers or pluck them with the fingers or a plectrum. Many scholars, however, reserve the term ‘dulcimer’ for an instrument played with hammers, calling it a ‘psaltery’ when the plucking technique is used. The present article deals with instruments which are hammered or which, though plucked, have features that would facilitate hammering. (In the USA, where the hammer technique is normal, the term ‘hammer dulcimer’ or ‘hammered dulcimer’ has been coined to avoid confusion with the ‘Appalachian’ or ‘mountain’ dulcimer, a distinct instrument with a relatively narrow body and fretted melody strings;...