The Three-String Dulcimer

One of the first bluegrass instruments was the one string dulcimer, said to be jointly invented by Harry Dulcimininni and Martin Herkimer, who named the instrument by combining their two last names; the first part after the first part of Harry’s last name, and the second part after the second part of Martin’s last name. This configuration lent a more melodious sounding name than the Herkimininni, had they reversed the process, although had they lived in Italy, the Herkiminni would have probably prevailed.

The early models were tuned to an open G, with variations of other letters of the alphabet. This instrument went through the obvious progression to the two string Dulcimer, to the three string model, and so on. It reached its ultimate iteration in 1932 with the forty-six string Dulcimer, but the great depression brought further development to a screeching halt. The metal shortage of World War II reversed the development and resulted in the three string Dulcimer, which soon lost favor among most blue grass bands of the era. Today, it is hardly used by anyone, and for good reason.

Steve Lipton

The Yard Sale Weasel is the alter ego of an anti-Trump administration agenda passive/activist super hero. He abhors minor key music, but will tolerate an occasional minor chord in the appropriate context, particularly in certain Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers or Emmylou Harris albums from 1968. He has spent many years scavenging flea markets and yard sales for musical instruments, guitar and bass amplifiers, vintage stereo equipment, and assorted related paraphernalia. His attic and basement contain a treasure trove of such equipment that would embarrass a clinically diagnosed hoarder.

2 Responses

  • There were two versions of this instrument; the Cosmopolitan, and the Backwoods. Each had its own specific application and musical uses. The Cosmopolitan could be found in upscale city speakeasy’s usually in a “F” hole design that was electrified. This version was played with the instrument lying across the lap which made it very convenient for the musician to use as coaster for his drink, and could double as an ashtray while playing but not for repetitive use. The Backwoods was of similar design, although it was an acoustic instrument (duh-of course), and was sometimes found hanging on the kitchen wall. This design frequently can be found with a round tone hole that allowed the instrument to be used as a cheese cutter when not being played.

  • Hello . My name is LB. I am interested in buying an hour glass dulcimer . Preferably an inexpensive one.
    Perhaps one for a child.
    I wold be interested in also learning how to play that lovely
    instrument. Hopefully someone near or around the bronx or Westchester county could or would give me a few inexpensive lessons. Thank you so much.

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