Hammered Dulcimers, Mountain Dulcimers and Santoors
Dulcimers. Page 1 of 2. Dulcimers may have originated in the Middle East, probably during the first millennium A.D. If so, the instrument could have been brought to Europe from the Middle East during the Crusades or into Spain with the Moors, or both. Other research puts the origin near the end of the Middle Ages, in Europe, holding that the earlier medieval paintings and statues probably depict psalteries or dulcimer-like instruments without a central bridge.
The name "dulcimer" is derived from Latin, meaning "sweet sound". Hammered dulcimers were popular in England during the reign of James I, when the Bible was translated into English as the King James Bible.
Mountain dulcimers, also known as "Appalachian ", "lap" or "fretted" dulcimers are a more modern instrument born in the Appalachian mountains. They appear to have ancestral ties to earlier German and Scandinavian instruments, and to the French epinette de Vosges. The most likely explanation for the application of the name "dulcimer" to the mountain dulcimer is that the name for the mountain instrument was taken from the Biblical reference to the hammered dulcimer in Daniel 3:5, King James Version.
Dulcimer makers often indicate the size and range of their dulcimers by the number of "courses" or string groups found on each bridge. The first number is usually for the treble (center) bridge, the second for the bass (right side) bridge; and if a third number is given it means there is a third bridge on the far left of the instrument. As a general rule, the following is true: 9/8 = two octave, 12/11 = two 1/2 octave, and 15/14 = three octave range.
SPECIAL NOTE - No Warranty on Strings: Whether you purchase an instrument on-line or in a neighborhood store, manufacturers recommend that you change the strings on your instrument as soon as you receive it. Your instrument has completed a long journey to your home. During this time the strings WILL oxidize and this may shorten their life expectancy and may reduce their sound quality. On occasion instruments may arrive with a broken string, therefore, it is recommended that you purchase a replacement set of strings and consider changing your strings as soon as it arrives. Learning to change strings should be the first lesson learned when embarking on the journey of playing a new instrument.