What are the Different Types of Dulcimers?

What are the Different Kinds of Hammered and Appalachian Dulcimers? What is the Background of Dulcimers? How to Play the Dulcimers?

Dulcimers are beautiful musical instruments played worldwide with different names and sometimes different mechanisms and builds. With various cultures in different countries, dulcimers have undergone different changes in their making, segregating them into different types. With today’s article, we’ll share what are the different types of dulcimers with you. But before that, let’s take a little peep at the background of types of hammered dulcimers.

1. What are the Different Types of Dulcimers?

A dulcimer is a stringed folk instrument that primarily comes in two types: the hammered and Appalachian dulcimers. This is your answer to what are the different types of dulcimers.

  • Hammered dulcimer has strings stretched over a sounding board with a trapezoidal shape and is typically set on a stand, angled in front of the player, who strikes the strings with two small hammers called mallets.
  • The Appalachian dulcimer is known as a mountain dulcimer. It is a smaller variation of the zither family instrument with three to five strings and a fretted fingerboard.

2. How to Play the Dulcimers?

The musician holds it in their lap and strums using a short stick, often called a quill or plectrum, while using their left hand to control the chords or melodies. It has strings normally stretched across a trapezoidal resonant soundboard. The hammered dulcimer is placed in front of the player, who can stand or sit on a wooden support. Dulcimers are an excellent choice for beginners and young people who wish to learn how to play an instrument because they are among the simpler instruments to master.

Additionally, they may be played almost anywhere, at any time, because they are relatively soothing, making them ideal for the player’s relaxation, creating a calming setting for listeners, or both. Now, let’s proceed to the types of dulcimers. (See How Do You Play The Sitar?)

3. What is the Background of Hammered Dulcimers?

  • In addition to Iraq, India, Iran, Southwest Asia, China, Korea, and some regions of Southeast Asia, different types of hammered dulcimers and other instruments of similar nature are traditionally played in the Balkans, Eastern Europe (Ukraine and Belarus), and Scandinavia.
  • It is also played in Central Europe, including Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland (particularly Appenzell).

In case you’re thinking what are the different types of dulcimers in the hammered category known to other parts of the world or not, let me tell you that the instrument is also popular in the US, where it saw a remarkable renaissance in folk music in the late 20th century, as well as in the UK (Wales, East Anglia, and Northumbria). (See What Does Gangnam Style Mean?)

4. What is the Cultural Development of Hammered Dulcimers?

  • United Kingdom (UK): The Scottish, East Anglian, Birmingham, and London regions of the UK are where we may still find the forebears of the North American hammered dulcimer. The term dulcimer refers to the East Anglian dulcimer, a hybrid of the salterio and other instruments. In the UK, there was a rise in popularity between 1850 and 1930. The elegant black paint with gold filigree ornamentation and moveable individual chessman bridges are characteristics of East Anglian dulcimers. However, wool is used in binding bent cane hammers.
  • Canada: The hammered dulcimer also migrated across Canada with the early immigrants. Moreover, the Ukrainian tsimbaly has been played for over a century by numerous players in Western Canada.
  • The United States: During the early 1700s, early migrants brought the hammered dulcimer to America. You could have heard it referred to back then as a whamadiddle or a lumberjack’s piano. Both chromatic and diatonic tuning methods are possible for the instrument. Over the years, there have been moments of popularity for hammered dulcimer music genres, including Celtic, hymns, polkas, waltzes, and even contemporary rock and pop tunes.
  • Ireland: Whenever pondering upon what are the different types of dulcimers in the hammered category known in the country, we do know that in the 17th century, the hammered dulcimer (called the teadchlar in Irish) was a common musical instrument in Ireland alongside the harp and pipes. In addition, the timpan or tiompan—believed to be a psaltery—was referenced in legends dating back to the sixth century AD and was purportedly played by faeries. Must See The History of Mariachi.

5. What are the Types of Hammered Dulcimers?

Go through the following types to know what are the different types of dulcimers in the hammered category:

A. Hackbrett

Image by Th G from Pixabay

The hackbrett is a hit-string instrument. This instrument was developed from the string drum and doulcemèr in Germanic nations. The term hackbrett refers to a hammer hitting that simulates cutting meat on a cutting board. The instrument was first mentioned in writing in 1447 in the town council records of Zurich, Switzerland, stating that Ackli played (struck) the hackbrett in the night, neither pleasing nor disturbing anyone. 

Although it was featured in classical music such as opera and sinfonia, these types of dulcimers were mostly played in alpine regions and have since become a folk instrument. Christoph Willibald Gluck included two parts for hackbrett in his opera Le cadi dupé of 1761 and Leopold Mozart in his Sinfonia in D Major Le peasant wedding of 1755. The hackbrett is available in various sizes and forms, including trapezoid, half-trapezoid, and rectangular, as well as with and without soundhole design. (See What is Kazoo?)

When asking what are the different types of dulcimers in the hammered category, the hackbrett is known by different names in different countries, which are listed below:

  • Norway: Hakkebrett
  • Switzerland: Two kinds of Swiss hackbrett: Appenzell hackbrett (Appenzeller hackbrett) and Valais hackbrett (Walliser hackbrett)
  • Sweden: Hackbräde, hammarharpa
  • Denmark: Hakkebræt
  • German Americans: Hackbrett
  • Belgium: Hakkebord
  • Austria: Three types of Austrian hackbrett: Styrian hackbrett (Steirisches hackbrett), East Tirol hackbrett (Osttiroler hackbrett), and Salzburg hackbrett (Salzburger hackbrett)
  • Netherlands: Hakkebord

B. Santoor/Santur

Photo by Dima Valkov on Pexels

The santur has Persian origins as a direct ancestor of the qunan and the early psalteries. It appears that the psaltery may have been the initial musical instrument, as it is suggested by stone sculptures from ancient Assyria that date to approximately 700 BC. This may have influenced the development of other Middle Eastern dialects, like the Persian santur

The cultural developments of santur are different around the world. They are known by different names:

  • India: Indian santoor (santoor)
  • Iran: Iranian santur (Shatha Tantri Veena)
  • Turkey: Santur
  • Iraq: Iraqi santur (santour or santoor)
  • Greece: Santouri

C. Salterio

Image by JorgeAlbertoJara from Pixabay

In the contemporary hammered dulcimer world, the Salterio is amongst one of the less well-known types of hammered dulcimers. The psaltery and the hammered dulcimer, two different types of zithers, were referred to as salterio in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. These two instruments’ definitions are often vague and unclear. A psaltery is plucked, whereas a hammered dulcimer is typically (but not always) a string instrument that is struck with hammers.

The different names of dulcimers around the world are:

  • Italy: Salterios
  • Mexico: Mexican salterio (salterio Mexicano)
  • France: Doulcemèr or tympanon

D. Yangqin

If you think what are the different types of dulcimers found in Asian countries, here is its derivative in the past, the character for yangqin (also known as yang quin or yang ch’in) was 洋琴, which stood for the foreign zither. However, the first character was altered throughout time to 揚 which means acclaimed. Because it is so important in accompanying string and wood instruments, the yangqin is sometimes referred to as the Chinese piano.

Although ancient instruments employed silk, the yangqin’s traditional strings are bronze. Steel alloy strings are used on newer yangqin from the 1950s (in conjunction with copper-wound steel strings for the bass notes). With up to five strings in each course, there are about 144 total strings. A yangqin has a bass bridge, right bridge, tenor bridge, left bridge, and chromatic bridge, which totals four to five.

Musicians usually employ the jianpu notation system rather than Western staff notation while performing traditional Chinese music when playing with these dulcimers. Additionally, this instrument is capable of 顫竹 (chàn zhǔ), which is softly flicking the sticks over the strings to produce a tremolo, a rapid vibration. (See How Many Beats is a Whole Note?)

The different cultural adaptations are:

  • Mongolia: Yoochin (ёочин or ёчин)
  • Vietnam: Đàn tam thập lục (lit. “36 strings”)
  • Japan: Darushimaa (ダルシマー)
  • Korea: Yanggeum (양금)
  • Uzbekistan: Chang

E. Cimbalom

Often known as the concert cimbalom, it is the ancestor of hackbrett. These dulcimers have been employed in the works of several classical composers, including Pierre Boulez, Igor Stravinsky, and Zoltán Kodály. The Blue Man Group is a more modern example of its application. (See What Type of Instrument is a Piano?)

The different names of cimbalom around the world are:

  • Belarus: Belarusian tsymbaly or cymbaly
  • Hungary: Concert cimbalom
  • Slovenia: Cimbale, oprekelj
  • Poland: Cymbały
  • Ukraine: Tsymbaly (имaли): Hutsul tsymbaly, Semi-concert tsymbaly, and Concert cimbalom
  • Lithuania: Cimbalai, cimbolai
  • Moravia: Cimbalom
  • Romania: Ţambal
  • Croatia: Cymbal, cimbale, cimbule
  • Czech Republic: Cimbál
  • Latgalia: Cymbala
  • Serbia: Tsimbal (цимбал)
  • Russia: Tsimbaly (цимбалы), dultsimer (дульцимер)

F. Khim

The instrument is played with flexible bamboo sticks with soft leather tips, which provide a lovely, mellow tone. The khim is played while seated on the ground or when seated, standing, or holding the khim on a stand. Brass 42 strings have 14 notes (courses are in strings of threes). On the left side of the bass bridge, the lowest note is (La2 or A2). The middle note, located on the right side of the treble bridge, is (La3 or A3). On the left side of the treble bridge, the highest note is (La4 or A4). Must read Why Do Pianos Have 88 Keys?

The khim comes in several forms:

  • Butterfly shape
  • Irregular rectangle or trapezoid (18, 22, or 30 notes)
  • Oval (14 notes)

6. What are the Types of Mountain or Appalachian Dulcimer?

Whenever we ask anyone in America about what are the different types of dulcimers played in the mountains, it would originally come out to be performed in the Appalachian area of the United States. The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the lute family with generally three or four strings. The fingerboard runs the entire body length and is often fretted in diatonic scales.

Due to a lack of written sources, the Appalachian dulcimer’s history was until quite recently, entirely conjectural. More detailed study since 1980 has tracked the instrument’s history through separate periods, with potential origins in several related European instruments: the Swedish hummel, the Norwegian langeleik, the German scheitholt, and the French épinette des Vosges. Must read What is a Mountain Dulcimer?

Go through the following types to know what are the different types of dulcimers in the Appalachian dulcimer category:

A. Bowed Dulcimer

Photo by Alice Challies on Unsplash

The bowed dulcimer is either a regular instrument played with a violin bow or a specially created dulcimer developed around bow playing. A dulcimer and a cello or viola da gamba combination is how this specially designed instrument is described. There are various historical precedents for bowing when playing the regular dulcimer; L. A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers by Allen Smith has various illustrations of this historical phenomenon (1983). In the late 1990s, Kenneth Bloom of Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, created the more contemporary purpose-built version of the instrument.  Also, check out how to play the trumpet for beginners?

B. Banjo Dulcimer

Photo by Matheus Triaquim on Unsplash

What are the different types of dulcimers that could be derived from banjos? Here’s the trick: an Appalachian dulcimer is transformed into a banjo dulcimer by the addition of a vibrating membrane to the instrument’s body. Using the same logic as the banjo, this modifies the instrument’s loudness and tone. During the early years of the dulcimer resurgence, luthier Homer Ledford created many instruments he named the dulcijo and banjo dulcimers is a portmanteau of dulcimer and banjo. Makers of dulcimers for the banjo variant are:

  • Mike Clemmer makes the banjo dulcimer ban-jammer.
  • Since 1980, Banjo-Mer banjo dulcimers, originally made by Doug Thomson (banjomer.com) were produced.
  • The Banj-Mo, a solid frame banjo dulcimer made by Dennis DenHartog, has been in production since the spring of 2001.
  • The early 2000s saw the start of McSpadden Dulcimers’ banjo dulcimer production.

C. Dulcitar

The dulcitar is a variation of the Appalachian dulcimer that maintains the dulcimer’s diatonic fret structure while incorporating a long neck designed to be played upright in the guitar way as opposed to flat over the lap. The term dulcitar, which is a combination of the words dulcimer and guitar, was created by luthier Homer Ledford in 1971.

However, a Ledford dulcitar was included in a touring exhibition on American artistry and added to the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection. Ledford registered the term dulcitar as a trademark in 1976 (#73075051), and other luthiers have created instruments with theoretically similar features under different names, including strum stick and pickin’ stick. (See 10 Most Difficult Guitar Songs)

D. Resonator Dulcimer

The resonator dulcimer is an Appalachian dulcimer with a metal resonating cone inserted into the body that picks up and acoustically enhances the strings’ vibration. Homer Ledford, a maker of dulcimers, came up with the idea for the first instrument in 1977 and finished it in 1979 under the name dulcibro (a portmanteau of dulcimer and dobro). The resonator dulcimer was never mass-manufactured commercially, unlike resonator guitars, resonator ukuleles, and resonator mandolins. (See Best Way to Listen to Music on the Go)

E. Electric Dulcimer

What are the different types of dulcimers that need electric coil pickups? Well, it’s the electric dulcimers, which have a strong body and one or more coil pickups. In fact, the instrument’s coil pickup serves as its defining feature; the electric dulcimer may be thought of as the electric guitar’s dulcimer-like counterpart. Contrary to an acoustic dulcimer, which resonates with the vibrations of the strings in the hollow body, the solid-body electric dulcimer’s strings have a lot of power in them.

Electric dulcimers include coil pickups that produce a clear tone perfect for use with effects. Steel strings wrapped with nickel are required. There are many different guitar amps available on the market that offer various features and tones. Electric dulcimers are a great match for effects, as they provide a limitless variety of sounds and sonic combinations.

These were some of the most varied and cultured ones if you’ve been searching what are the different types of dulcimers used all around the world. We tried to cover as much information about them as required to aid your appropriate knowledge. (Also read Musical Jars Experiment)

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