Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

So what exactly is this strange hybrid instrument?  Give your ideas and opinions on what they are and how they may be useful (or not) here.     


Remember- everyone has their own opinions and preferences.  No brawling!


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Well, I used to call them "Diatonic Sticks"... or anything but "dulcimer".  I still can't use the D word - they aren't designed for lap playing, and by international musical instrument definition dulcimers (zithers) do not have necks.


But recently I was researching something else and came upon the German Waldzithers, Zisterns, and the related renissance Citterns.  I think American Cittern or Mountain Cittern, or something similar (Dulcittern ??) may be the most appropriate name.  Citterns came in both diatonic and chromatic fret patterns, were necked, and came in a variety of body and head shapes.


Check out the instruments here.

Use the free Babblefish page translator if you don't read German.


The McNally Strumstick people are very protective of their name, so some of us call them strummers.  Or pickin' stick.


And if you put frets at the blues scale notes instead of the diatonic notes, you get something else:  blues-stick, blues-cimer, blues-box. I've made one or two and they are a lot of fun to play.

I don't have a problem with folks calling them what they want..... although it could be confusing years down the road when we're dead and gone, and folks are calling the little things dulcimers, when as Ken states, they don't historically fall in the category of dulcimers.

I usually call them strum sticks. But I have to say, that American Cittern is kinda catchy. I think American Zistern would be catchy too. Problem is they're so widespread now that it would be hard to change what others are calling them. But, We Could Do It! LOL!

Wish I could read the article Ken posted above. I'm using google chrome and it won't translate it. I may have to switch over to IE to view it.

How about calling them the American Cistern?  I can just see people saying that by accident.

Good point!

Strumelia said:

How about calling them the American Cistern?  I can just see people saying that by accident.

Bobby - try this site:    Paste in the German URL, then select German-to-English.

Thanks Ken!

My project version is going to be the "Dulcicaster" in honor of Fender's Stratocaster who's design the cheap electric guitar I nabbed at a pawn shop ripped off and upon which I'm doing serious musical instrument surgery.


I hadn't thought about fretting it for blues though.  hmmmmm Might have to do that with the next one that gets taken apart.  Or, maybe, a Dobrocimer (Dulcinator?) for blues.


For now: frets are being removed, two of the tuners are going and the holes filled, a new nut is being grooved, the bridge is being taken a apart and reconfigured, and some string experiments are going to be done.  It's probably going to range an octave below our usual DAdd which I suppose would make it a bass dulcicaster.


I'm thinking though, no matter what you do to the fret arrangement - it has a body and a neck;  It's a "lute" and not a zither at all.  Specifically, it's a "guitar".  I don't believe that either has a necessary condition that demands chromatic fretting (or frets at all) nor a certain count of strings to be worthy of the nomenclature.  Yep, "three (or four) string, diatonic guitar" by any other name is still a duck. 


If I knew anything at all about luthiery, this might be an easier project for me.

i call em fiddlesticks . first off the best way to learn to play them is keep fiddlen around with it.

second ,, so many of the favorite tunes on them are fiddle tunes. third you can actually play them with a bow, like a fiddle, and lastly cause i just think it sounds cool.

My opinion is that this creature needs to be called something people will understand, like tissues being called kleenex. I am calling them stick dulcimers, and then say, held like a guitar, same strings and notes as a dulcimer. Then people get it - the DAd diatonic tuning held like a guitar. Several people around here are now pursuing buying or making them and joining a group I'm starting, which is what I'm really interested in - getting people playing the things.

I'm pretty sure if I put a sign up announcing a new club for American Cittern, there wouldn't be much response. After the purists get it figured out, and can teach it to enough people that it is a name as common as guitar and dulcimer, I'll change the name to the known name. Until then I'm calling them stick dulcimers. I'd rather call them strumsticks, and think McNally, like Kleenex, should be honored that their brand became the standard! Just my opinion.

If everyone who joins can afford a Strumstick, rather than homemade sticks or Zither Heaven sticks at a third the price, I'll call it a Strumstick club. Is McNally interested in donating 10 of them to start up our club? I doubt it.

If everyone who joins can afford a Roosebeck Wildwood Dulcimer, and can throw one in for me, I'll call it the Wildwood Dulcimer club.

Get it? Anyone who wants to donate 10 of these things, whatever you call them, we'll call the club whatever you call your thing. No takers, I didn't think so. Guess we're back to the stick dulcimer club then. 


Gotta watch the comparison to kleenex and tissue.  The company lost the right to the term kleenex because they did not pursue copyright violation/intellectual property theft.  They regret the lost income to this day.  They were not "honored" to have the name taken away from them.  McNally should NOT be honored that his name has become a standard -- unless he gets a royalty for each instrument sold under than name.

I would build you ten American Citterns, for the cost of materials.  But to totally give away a thousand dollars worth of my time and effort -- not only no --- HECK NO.  

You seem to think that luthiers owe you something for playing and promoting instruments they build. Wrong!!!   What makes you think you're THAT important???

Skip -- I think "dulcitar" is used by another builder.


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