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Appalachian Dulcimer

Updated on November 13, 2011

Wood Working Class Made Fun

Those who know me also know that music is an important part of my life. Give me a guitar or a sweet fiddle and I am content to play tunes I learned long ago. When my sons were in junior high they each had a class in wood working. The teacher was a man who was born and reared right here in the Blue Ridge and almost each year in the shop class he taught, he helped his student make a dulcimer, Under his watchful eye the boys sanded each piece of wood they had chosen to make their dulcimer. The woods varied from cherry, Walnut , pine and maple. the fret wire, tuning machines, and strings were paid for by the school.

The instruments when completed had been designed almost entirely by the student with ornamental sound holes of their own choosing. Some had the f holes as you might see on a violin or mandolin while others had sound holes cut in the shape of a heart and I know of at least one that had the shape of a coon hound carved into the top.

It is interesting to me to know the dulcimer is unique to the Appalachian mountains and was introduced by Scott-Irish immigrants to the Southern mountains. The zither is a comparable instrument. The dulcimer gained popularity during the folk revival of the 1950's and 60's. Dulcimers today are the four string variety but still have one octave. The three string dulcimer is what my sons made in shop at school.

Each week my sons would tell me the progress they made with their dulcimers and my oldest even learned to play his before ever bringing it home. Evidently, Jason, our oldest has an ear for music, and enough talent in his genes he surprised the shop teacher when he tuned the instrument and was soon playing a Hank Williams Junior song, There's a Tear in My Beer.

The dulcimer is a nice lap instrument with soft tones. The drone strings provide the harmony notes for the melody string folks with little music aptitudes can soon play simple melodies. Today kits to build a dulcimer can be purchased by those who have a desire to make their own instruments.

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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hey Cousin - Nice job! Enjoyed both your workmanship on the dulcimer and the hub. My son is a Luthier - builds upright basses. Thanks and voted up!

    • PADDYBOY60 profile image

      PADDYBOY60 5 years ago from Centreville Michigan

      Howdy. This was a very nice hub. It brought back the memory of an old friend of mine, who used to build and play these instruments. Thanks.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      HELL YEAH COUSIN FUDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      My old grandpa made some ...that looks like you dun stole em' from looking at the pictures!!!

      LOL!

      Got one around here somewhere that my grandpa made - wish I knew how to rattle them strings on it like that person in that video up there!

    • Cousin Fudd profile image
      Author

      RobertElias Ballard 5 years ago from From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina

      Thanks Danette for reading and for your commnents.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      As a reporter for my local paper, I have covered various reenactments and heritage days festivals over the years. Usually there is at least one person there with a dulcimer and I have seen one man at various events who makes them and will have them there for sale.

      Very nice hub and very interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

    • twilanelson profile image

      Twila Nelson 5 years ago from Carmichael, California

      Nice Hub with some history on a very interesting musical instrument, and the opportunity to make something absolutely beautiful and unique to many readers today. Thank you !