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What is a dulcimer?

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Quick Answer

The hourglass-shaped mountain dulcimer is an instrument that comes from early 19th century Appalachia and belongs in the zither family, says Wonderopolis. The hammered dulcimer comes from a much earlier time and is played with small hammers striking the strings, according to the Smithsonian.

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Full Answer

Artisans hand-craft all mountain dulcimers, deciding the number of strings from three to eight. The musician balances the dulcimer across the lap. Some musicians use bars to slide up and down the light strings while others use their fingers to make the notes. Strumming and finger-picking produce the mellow sounds. The hammered dulcimer rests on a stand and produces sounds across a wide range of tones and volumes.

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