We play an assortment of traditional instruments, some you may recognize and other unique instruments you may not be familiar with. Below is a little background information on the instruments we play.
- Appalacian Mountain Dulcimer
- The Appalacian Mountain Dulcimer is a relatively new instrument and is uniquely American. It was born in the Appalachian Mountains in the early 1800's and appears to be related to German, Scandinavian and French folk instruments. A German folk instrument called the scheitholt is very similar to the Mountain Dulcimer and early examples of both instruments have been found in the mountain communities of southwest Pennsylvania and other Appalachian Mountain states. Mountain Dulcimers are also known as “lap” or “fretted” Dulcimers because they are played resting in the player’s lap, and the three or four strings have frets like a modern guitar. Bob, Norm an Carol play the Mountain Dulcimer and Bob and Norm are the co-founders of the Pocono Dulcimer Club.
- Hammered Dulcimer
- The Hammered Dulcimer is an ancestor of the piano. It is a trapezoidal instrument with many courses of strings that the player strikes with small hammers. It may have originated in the Middle East during the first millennium AD, and versions are found throughout Europe and Asia. The hammered dulcimer became popular in England during the reign of King James I (1566-1625), and British colonists brought it to America prior to the Revolution. Bob plays the Hammered Dulcimer and teaches at dulcimer festivals.
- The Fiddle is the main stay of old-time music, and often accompanied by a piano, guitar, banjo or dulcimer. John, who has won several fiddle competitions, learned to play from Ron Nauman, a long-time Pocono fiddle player.
- Norm, Bob and John play the guitar, providing rhythm, back-up and lead for both vocal and instrumental songs.
- Perhaps the oldest known stringed instrument, the harp simply means: to pluck. Carol’s harp playing is featured on several songs on Vacant Chair.
- While Amanda is primarily our lead female vocalist, she often adds melody and harmony on her flute. It is particularly striking on Celtic tunes such as Shepherd’s Wife’s Waltz and when she harmonizes with John’s fiddle playing.
- The Mandolin is a descendent of the lute, one of the earliest known string instruments. The mandolin was popular in the 1850’s where it was played with parlor music, and it reached prominence thanks to Bill Monroe. Today, it is present in both country and blue-grass music and old-time music as well. John adds the chops on the mandolin in many of our songs.
- Bob and Norm play open-back banjos in the old-time style known as clawhammer banjo. The melody string is picked downwards with the nail of the index or middle finger and followed by a strum, after which the shorter 5th string is plucked with the thumb. The open-back banjo is often heard in old-time music accompanying a fiddle player.