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Dulcimer is the name given to two types of stringed musical instrument, which either struck or plucked:

The instruments are quite different, but are both members of the zither family of instruments.

This article deals with the Appalachian dulcimer; for the other instrument, see hammered dulcimer.

The Appalachian dulcimer

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument with three or four strings. The body extends the length of the fingerboard and traditionally has an hourglass shape. A traditional way to play the instrument is to lay it flat on the lap and pluck or strum the strings with one hand, while fretting with the other. In practice, a wide variety of playing styles are used.

When four strings are used, the first 2 strings are placed close together and tuned the same. This can be used to emphasize the melody, while the other two strings are used as drone strings.

The frets of the Appalachian dulcimer are arranged in a diatonic scale.

It is widely used in the American Bluegrass music tradition. This instrument first appeared in the early 1800s in the southern Appalachian Mountains, and is thus also called a mountain dulcimer.