minstrel: appalachian dulcimers...again

mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU
Wed Dec 24 07:04:39 PST 1997

On Mon, 22 Dec 1997, William and Scianna Augustine wrote:

> A friend of mine has an Appalachian dulcimer, and asked me if it could
> be considered a period instrument. I remember some discussion on that
> point over this list several months ago, but have deleted the pertinent
> references. Would someone out there help me answer her query?

I have done a bit of research on this myself.  In fact, at a recent Bardic
Collegum, I taught a class on beginning lap dulcimer playing (this is a
dulcimer...  these aare the strings...  these are frets...).  One of the
handouts I prepared for the class was on "Period Equivalents of the Lap
Dulcimer."  If you can wait until after Xmas, I will post that hand-out
here.  In the meantime, just for a teaser, I will let you know that the
"Appalachian Dulcimer," in the form that we see it most commonly today
(hourglass shape, 4 strings, fretted), is not period, but there are
anscestors of the dulcimer that do fall within our period.  Most of these
come from Eastern European areas, with names like hummle, schietholt, and
a few others with names I can't possibly begin to try and spell withough
my handout here.
	There is a misconception that the lap dulcimer is Scotch-Irish in
origin, since it is most popular in the areas in America settled by the
Scotch-Irish immigrants (southern Appalachia, Ozarks).  In fact, the
Scotch-Irish picked it up from the Pennsylvania Dutch.  It is an
Eastern-European instrument in origin, and you will not find one native to
the British Isles.
	I have seen period forms of this instrument for sale at Pennsic
(what *isn't* for sale at Pennsic?), but the closest thing to a period
dulcimer I have seen for sale commercialy in a mundane place of business
was something called a "beginers dulcimer."  It was smaller than a regular
dulcimer, had 4 strings, like a modern dulcimer, but had a rectangular box
shape, like a shietholt.
	Like I said, after Xmas I'll post my handout here and hopefully be
a little more coherant.  In the meantime, tell your friend that I would
say you could get away with playing a modern lap dulcimer at events (it is
probably just as close, if not closer, to a period form of dulcimer than a
guitar is to say, a lute).  And just a hint, in my experience, the Dorian
tuning on the dulcimer works real nice for most period tunes (Mixolydian
is nice to try, too).
	Stay tuned for more....!

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