Stick Dulcimers Secure a Niche, but They’re Still the Guitar’s Little-Known Sibling
Thursday at 8:54 pm
BY SANDRA GUY
As much as we love the sounds of the Appalachian dulcimer, and admire people who can play it, the hammered instrument has a baby brother of sorts that’s carved out its own niche.
It’s the stick dulcimer, a simple stringed board that resembles the Turkish Saz, the Russian Balalaika, long-necked lutes from Egypt, and even the medieval Italian colascione, according to the Michael J. King website.
Players tap the stick dulcimer with both hands, rather than hammering. They strike the string against the fret.
The stick dulcimer can be outfitted with eight, 10 or 12 strings.
Though the stick dulcimer never caught on widely, it has its die-hard fans, said George Gruhn, a world-renowned guitar, banjo and mandolin dealer, author and historian who runs his eponymous guitar store in Nashville, Tenn.
Gruhn credited Emmett Chapman for bringing the stick dulcimer to a wide audience.
Chapman appeared on the television show “What’s My Line?” in 1974, where a panel of celebrity guests failed to guess that he came up with the instrument, according to an article in the April 1, 2005, issue of JazzTimes.
Now, the stick dulcimer is marketed as an instrument that takes only an hour to learn to play. Now that the coronavirus pandemic lockdown has sent guitar and ukulele sales soaring, perhaps the stick dulcimer’s time has come, too.
Retail analysts say home-ensconced workers with extra time and discretionary income are scooping up acoustic instruments such as keyboards, guitars and ukuleles, paying for lessons and spending time practicing.