Ralph Lee Smith

Traditional Appalachian Music


Welcome to my web site.  I'm delighted you stopped by to visit.

I have developed a love for and a personal bond to the Appalachian dulcimer and Appalachian folk music.  I play traditional songs of the Appalachian Mountains, on the dulcimer, in easy and simple styles.  You can too!  Welcome to this wonderful heritage!

The Appalachian dulcimer comes to us out of the mountain mists.  The instrument evolved from an instrument called the scheitholt, which was brought to America by 18th and 19th Century German settlers.  The scheitholt traveled down the wagon roads with these settlers, and entered the English and Scotch-Irish cultures along the way and on the mountain frontier.  There it underwent design modifications and acquired a new name, dulcimer.  Dulcimers began to turn up in estate listings and auction sales in Southwestern Virginia, as early as 1818.  The Virginia style featured a “boat-shaped” design.  Hourglass-shaped dulcimers, often with heart-shaped sound holes not usually found in Virginia-style dulcimers, developed in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, after the Civil War.

Dulcimers spread west of the mountains to Ohio and Indiana before the Civil War, but the Appalachian Mountains remained the dulcimer’s principal home until the coming of the post-World-War-II Folk Revival.  Young urban folk singers throughout the country discovered the instrument and happily adapted it for modern play.

The dulcimer’s story is told in my two books, The Story of the Dulcimer and Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, listed on the "Books & CDs" page on this web site.  I have also published a number of books of field-collected Appalachian folk songs, with historical information and dulcimer tablature.  These are also listed on the "Books & CDs" page.

Enjoy your visit to my site.