Dulcimers 101

Whether you are just interested in finding out more about the different types of dulcimers or are learning to play a dulcimer, you have come to the right place. Find out more in the sections below.


What is a hammered dulcimer?

The hammered dulcimer is the ancestor of the piano, a stringed instrument with many strings; to get different pitches the player moves from one string course to another and strikes them with small wooden hammers, much as the felt-covered hammers inside a piano strike the strings when the pianist presses the keys.

The hammered dulcimer was probably invented in ancient India a few thousand years ago and spread to Persia and the Middle East as well as to East Asia; the word “psaltery” in the Psalms may well refer to it, and a tile picture of a man playing one was dug up from an Assyrian Empire site. Dulcimers were brought to Europe during the Crusades and from there to James City County, Virginia (where we live!) in the 1600’s and were quite popular in America for 300 years. They died away about a century ago, but have been in revival here in America for the past few decades.

What is a mountain dulcimer?

The mountain dulcimer is an instrument originally called the scheitholz, brought over to America by the German settlers who filled the Appalachian region. It has only a few strings, most commonly four, and frets like a guitar but in the do-re-mi scale. It is usually tuned to only a few different pitches, so it is often played with a droning sound reminiscent of the bagpipe, and has been applied often to folk music originally from the British Isles, much of which was brought over by the Scotch-Irish settlers.

About a hundred years ago a company wanted to mass market the scheitholz and wanted a more marketable name, but they unfortunately chose the name “dulcimer,” so now we have to use adjectives to designate which of the instruments we mean. (The same company may have made up the false myth that the mountain dulcimer is the only instrument invented in America --- it really is from Germany!)

Where can you find fine crafted dulcimers?

  • Dusty Strings Dulcimer Company (they made Timothy's), Seattle, WA
  • Song Bird Dulcimers by Chris Foss, Muscatine, IA
  • Song of the Wood, by Jerry Read Smith (he made Timothy's newer bowed psaltery), Black Mountain, NC
  • Master Works, by Russell Cook, Bennington, OK
  • David's Dulcimers, by David Lindsey, Bennington, OK
  • Cloud Nine, by Michael C. Allen, Ostrander, OH
  • James Jones (he made Timothy's plucked psaltery --"zither"-- and the bowed psaltery on all Timothy's CDs), Bedford, VA
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (he made Timothy's mountain dulcimer), Chesapeake, VA: 757/487-2734
  • Sam Rizzetta (he designed Timothy's hammered dulcimer in collaboration with Dusty Strings), Inwood, WV: 304/229-3166
  • Nicholas Blanton Instruments, Shepherdstown, WV

Does Timothy offer instrument and music lessons?

Yes. For more than two decades Timothy has given lessons on hammered dulcimer at his home in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, and for a decade in the past taught beginner to advanced beginner flute and folk guitar (and coaching advanced players in expression and improv); now he's offering lessons again on flute, whistle, and guitar, as well as mountain dulcimer and psaltery!

For more specifics, see Music Lessons.


end faq


A brief history of the hammered dulcimer, along with many of its international names, can be found here. Be sure to also check out the introductory videos Timothy has done about the hammered dulcimer. Many more videos can be found on Timothy's YouTube channel.


Music Ed

Upcoming Performances

Please Note: This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

Browser settings can be adjusted to control cookies. Failure to make adjustments constitutes your agreement to their usage. Learn more

I understand

Information about Cookies

A cookie is a small piece of data (usually a text file) that a website asks your browser to store on your computer or mobile device. It enables the website to remember your actions and preferences (such as login, language, font size and other display preferences) over a period of time, so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you come back to the site or browse from one page to another. Most browsers support cookies, but users can set their browsers to decline them and can delete them whenever they like. Cookies can be used to collect and store user data while connected to provide you with requested services. More information about cookies can be found at http://www.aboutcookies.org.

In addition to cookies that remember your preferences mentioned above, cookies are used for the purpose of purchasing items off this website, and for login and user profile details should you provide them by creating an account or signing up for the blog posts or newsletter.

Third party cookies are also used on this site. Specifically, Google Analytics is used on this site -- a popular web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics uses cookies to help us analyze how users use this site. It counts the number of visitors and tells us things about their behavior overall – such as the typical length of stay on the site or the average number of pages a user views.

The information generated by the cookie about your use of our website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of our website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage.

Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google undertakes not to associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

If you have Adobe Flash installed on your computer (most computers do) and utilize audio or video players, Google Analytics will try to store some additional data on your computer. This data is known as a Local Shared Object or Flash cookie. This helps us to analyze the popularity of our media files.

Finally, this website makes use of Google Maps. Google Maps is used to provide locations for Timothy Seaman's performances. In clicking on a performance location, you can allow or deny Google Maps knowledge of your location for purposes of getting directions from your location to the event site.

You can control and/or delete cookies as you wish – for details, see aboutcookies.org. You can delete all cookies that are already on your computer and you can set most browsers to prevent them from being placed. If you do this, however, you may have to manually adjust some preferences every time you visit a site and some services and functionalities may not work.

Your failure to control and/or delete cookies for this site constitutes your acceptance of cookies as outlined above.