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Kentucky State Musical Instrument

Appalachian Dulcimer

Appalachian Dulcimer

Adopted on June 21, 2001

The Appalachian dulcimer was designated as the official state musical Instrument of Kentucky in 2001. Eastern Kentucky lies in the heart of the region known as Appalachia

Kentucky's official musical instrument, the Appalachian dulcimer, is a modern adaptation of stringed instruments used by German, French, and Scandinavian immigrants.

Kentucky State Musical Instrument:
Appalachian Dulcimer

Appalachian Dulcimer

The word dulcimer is believed to have originated centuries ago. It was derived, it is thought, from the greek word "dulce" (which means sweet) and the latin word "melos" (which means song). The Appalachian Dulcimer is not to be confused with its biblical counterpart, the hammered dulcimer, rather in its current incarnation, it is believed to have evolved from a northern European instrument, the German, "scheitholt" which like the Appalachian Dulcimer is played with a bow and plucked or strummed as well. The instrument is found in many European cultures, Sweden, Holland, in various forms. In each of these countries the instrument took on local characteristics . It is believed that this "scheitholt" made it to Appalachia toward the end of the 18th century, and once again it evolved and was modified to suit the needs of the local players.

It is commonly thought that the Appalachian dulcimer was widely used throughout the mountains and hollows of the Appalachian area. But, technically the experts believe that in its heyday and prior to its recent reintroduction to folk music, there were perhaps as few as 1,000 dulcimers throughout the whole region. There are as many shapes and styles of dulcimers as there are players and mountain craftsmen. Except for adhering to a few basic conventions, the builder was free to explore options and possibilities in the creation of the dulcimer.

Known as the "mountain", "lap" or "fretted" dulcimer is a more modern instrument which was born in the Appalachian mountains with some ancestral ties to earlier German, French and Scandinavian instruments. Appalachian dulcimers typically contain 3 to 5 strings tuned to the 1st and 5th notes on the diatonic scale of a particular key. Thus, dulcimers produce a characteristic soft-sounding but bright droning sound. The dulcimer is played typically by picking or strumming the the strings with the fingers or with a flat pick while a slide is used to depress the stings up and down different frets to create melodic accompaniment in a diatonic scale.

Kentucky Law

The law designating the Appalachian dulcimer as the official Kentucky state musical instrument is found in the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 2.103.


2.103 State musical instrument.
The Appalachian dulcimer is named and designated as the official musical instrument of Kentucky.
Effective: June 21, 2001
History: Created 2001 Ky. Acts ch. 160, sec. 1, effective June 21, 2001.

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