Is a Dulcimer a Zither or Lute?


When it comes to musical instruments, there are many different types and classifications. One instrument that often confuses people is the dulcimer. Is it a zither or a lute? The answer is neither, and both. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between these instruments and the dulcimer.

Is a Dulcimer a Zither or Lute?

Firstly, let’s define what a zither is. A zither is a stringed instrument that does not have a neck or fingerboard. The strings are stretched over a flat wooden soundboard and the player plucks or strums the strings while holding the instrument on their lap or table. Some examples of zithers include the Chinese guzheng, the Japanese koto, and the German concert zither.

On the other hand, a lute is a stringed instrument that has a neck and a rounded back. The strings are stretched over the soundboard and are plucked by the player. The lute has been around for centuries and has been used in many different types of music, including medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque.

So where does the dulcimer fit into this? The dulcimer is a stringed instrument that is played on the lap or table like a zither, but it has a fretted fingerboard like a lute. The strings are stretched over a soundboard and are struck or plucked by the player. The dulcimer has a long history, dating back to ancient times, and is still played today in many different styles and genres of music.

One reason why people often confuse the dulcimer with the zither or lute is that they all share similarities in terms of how they are played. They are all plucked or strummed by the player, and they are all played on the lap or table. However, the differences lie in the structure of the instruments themselves.

Another factor that can lead to confusion is that there are different types of dulcimers. The most common types are the Appalachian dulcimer and the hammered dulcimer. The Appalachian dulcimer is typically played with a pick or a noter, while the hammered dulcimer is played with small hammers. Both types of dulcimers have a unique sound and are popular in folk and traditional music.

In conclusion, the dulcimer is neither a zither nor a lute, but it shares similarities with both. It is a unique and versatile instrument that has been enjoyed by musicians for centuries. Whether you are a fan of folk music or are just curious about different types of instruments, the dulcimer is definitely worth exploring.

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