What’s the difference between a dulcimer and a zither?

Saturday, August 27, 2011
By admin

Question by scalisti: What’s the difference between a dulcimer and a zither?
Is a dulcimer a type of zither? I know that the hammered dulcimer is common in many cultures, and I’m unclear as to whether it’s a type of zither or it’s completely different and what are the differences.

Best answer:

Answer by justme
A zither is any instrument where the strings are stretched across a resonator, or sound box. In this respect a dulcimer is a form of zither. The main difference is that a dulcimer is played by hitting the strings with a spoon- shaped beater; while the zither is played by plucking the strings with a plectrum and the fingers

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One Response to “What’s the difference between a dulcimer and a zither?”

  1. 1
    CoachT Says:

    Think of it like this:
    A german shepherd is a dog. All dogs aren’t german shepherds.

    A dulcimer (both types) is a zither – all zithers aren’t a dulcimer.

    What makes an instrument a zither is that it has strings that pass over a sound box horizontally. A piano is a zither too as is a harpsichord. In fact, both descended from the dulcimer which descended from the psaltery.

    If the strings are over the soundbox perpendicularly, it’s a lyre (a harp for example)

    If we add a neck for the strings to go up – it’s a lute (a guitar and violin are lutes).

    As zithers go, there are a lot of different types. The hammered dulcimer is a simple box zither. The autoharp is also a box zither but has a mechanical method for blocking chords. It’s related to the fretless zither which looks about the same as an autoharp but has no mechanism. The Appalachian Dulcimer and the Concert Zither have fretboards (but no neck) and are also box zithers. The distinction that classifies most of these is how we set the strings to vibration (pluck, hammer, strum) and how the strings we want to hear are selected and layed out.

    The simplest and probably most ancient type is is often called a lap harp in the present market but is properly a plucked psaltery.

    In the same way that all dogs are canines – all zithers are chordophones.

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