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The Music Quest: Answer 9

About This Daily Classroom Special
The Music Quest  focuses on discovering the wonders of our musical universe. Visit it for a musical question—a description and hints about a mystery composer, musician, instrument or musical excerpt.
The Music Quest was written  by former Teachers Network Web Mentor Kristi Thomas, a teacher at  William F. Halley Elementary School Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Answer 9


The Appalachian Dulcimer

The word dulcimer is believed to be derived from the greek word "dulce" (which means sweet) and the latin word "menos" (which means song). The Appalachian dulcimer is a descendent of the European zither. It probably came to America in the 1770's via the Germans, who settled in Pennsylvania, bringing with them their square, three-stringed schietholt. Once in this country, the folk instrument found its way to the Appalachian region, where the mountain settlers began to build their own out of whatever wood was available. The instrument's design gradually changed, shaped by the artistry of the unique mountain region and its people.

The Appalachian dulcimer is designed to be played laying flat on a lap or table. To play the instrument, you press the strings with the fingers of the left hand, and pluck them with your right. Originally, the dulcimer had only three strings. Now, four, five, and sometimes six strings are not uncommon. There are as many shapes and styles of dulcimers as there are players and mountain craftsmen. The dulcimer was originally played as an accompaniment to singing, but in recent years has evolved as a solo instrument.

Applalachian dulcimers were almost lost to the American public, but researchers have helped return this unique folk instrument to popularity. The dulcimer has grown beyond its mountain roots, attracting the attention of musicians performing Early Music, jazz, and blues.


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