While its origins are traced back to the European Zither, the Appalachian or Mountain (lap) Dulcimer is considered to be one of the two authentic American instruments (the other being the 5-string banjo). It was developed in the Southern Appalachian Mountains by the Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled there in the eighteenth century. This strummed and fretted instrument is so easy to play that it is often the first strummed instrument for a new player.
Despite its ease of playing at the initial level, it would be most difficult to outgrow this versatile instrument as the addition of new techniques, such as cording, picking, etc. allows the player to expand his / her repertoire as skill develops. In other words, you can begin to play the dulcimer at a very simple level, and make good music, and then develop your playing technique as far as you wish, for this is a simple and personal instrument that is most often played for one’s own benefit.
The traditional method of playing the mountain dulcimer is to fret the melody strings while strumming; the remaing strings are drones, meaning that they are not fretted, only strummed. This may remind you of the droning sound produced by the bagpipe.
As this is a traditional instrument of the Appalachian Mountains, fine native woods are normally used for its construction such as walnut, butternut, cherry, chestnut, birch, various maples, etc., but exotic woods are available. Only solid woods are used, no plywood. My dulcimers are 4-string with double melody strings and wooden friction pegs. If you prefer a 3-string with a single melody string you can simply remove one of the melody strings. This gives you the option of 3 or 4 strings.
All dulcimers come with a pick, a noter and a hanger for displaying as an art piece. All of the dulcimers are made with the same quality. The difference in price reflects the rarity and expense of the woods as well as time and materials involved with the inlaying process. Be sure to read the post of May 21 regarding Dulcimers and Wooden Pegs. I am now including a set of Grover mechanical tuning pegs with each dulcimer.