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Appalachian or mountain dulcimer origins


where does the mountain dulcimer originate from ? 


I’m often asked about the origins of the dulcimer. I know that there are polarised views on this topic. Some see connections with early European instruments, whist many American players are proud of it’s Appalachian origins. The truth is probably somewhere in between. The following text is an extract from the cover of Roger Nicholson’s albumThe Gentle Sound of the Dulcimer, released in 1974:


Most of the European countries had an indigenous zither-like instrument in the seventeenth century, used in rural areas and at the royal courts to accompany songs. During the eighteenth century began the migration of people from Europe to the New World, where the greatest concentration of settlers was in the Appalachian mountains. Here the traditional cultures of many nations intermingled and the dulcimer in its present form emerged. By the 1850’s a dulcimer could be found in most Appalachian homes, where it would be played when the family sang the songs handed down by their fore-fathers or to provide dance music.


When I started playing the instrument over thirty years ago, it was referred to then as the Appalachian dulcimer. Nowadays it has other names including lap dulcimer and fretted dulcimer. Although some still call it the Appalachian dulcimer, the term mountain dulcimer is the most used today. 

Dan Evans' modern mountain dulcimer

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