Appalachian Musical Instruments and Their Makers


Traditional music and handicrafts have been and continue to be a focal point of Appalachian Studies. Musical instruments, as examples of material culture, carry two levels of meaning: they are simultaneously products of a culture and implements for generating culture. The instruments of the Appalachian region, then, are powerful and unique cultural signifiers, both within Appalachian culture and in the popular culture of the United States. Watauga County, NC in particular, has received much attention for its traditional instrument makers, especially those of the Beech Mountain area. This pathfinder lists important sources relating to the manufacture of Appalachian musical instruments, the lives and methods of the makers themselves, and the use of these instruments in their natural context. No attempt has been made to define “traditional” or “non-traditional” makers or means of crafting; however, the sources listed below pertain to what would be generally considered “traditional” makers and instruments. Sources which deal exclusively with makers and instruments representing areas outside of the Southern Highlands are not included. Some sources may not be currently available within the Appalachian Collection.

Introductory Text: 

A good introduction to traditional Appalachian handcrafts, including instruments, is found in:

Joslin, Michael Highland Handcrafters: Appalachian Craftspeople. Boone, NC: Parkway Publishers, 2005. ASU APP COLL STACK TT 232. J 67, 2005.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Appalachian Dulcimer (--Construction, --Music)
  • Appalachian Region, Southern (--Folk Music, --Music, --Musical Instruments)
  • Banjo (--Appalachian Region)
  • Banjo Music (--Appalachian Region, Southern)
  • Fiddlers
  • Folk Music--Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Musical Instruments--Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Musical Instruments--Construction
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Beech Mountain, NC
  • Folk Music
  • Handicrafts
  • Hicks, Stanley
  • Music (Banjo, Dulcimer, Fiddle, Guitar, General Musicians, Appalachia)
  • Presnell, Ed
  • Proffitt, Frank
  • Ritchie, Edna and Jean
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • ML 128
  • ML 424
  • ML 460-462
  • ML 1015-1016

Alvey, R. Gerald. Dulcimer Maker: The Craft of Homer Ledford. Lexington: Kentucky UP, 2003. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 424 .L4 A75 2003.

Carlin, Bob. The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 419.S93 C37

Irwin, John Rice. Musical Instruments of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Norris, TN: Museum of Appalachia Press, 1979. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 476.I79.

Long, Lucy Margaret. Stanley Hicks, Appalachian Dulcimer Player: Individual Creativity and Community Tradition. Unpublished M.A.Thesis: University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 1985. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 419 .H52 L65 1985.

Smith, Ralph Lee. Leonard and Clifford Glenn: Old Time North Carolina Dulcimer and Banjo Makers. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 1015 .A6 S645 1995.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, ed. Encyclopedia of Appalachia. “Shape Note Singing/Singing Schools” Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, p.1174-1174, 2006. ASU APP COLL STACK F106.E53

Hitchcock, H. Wiley and Stanley Sadie, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. New York, NY: Grove’s Dictionaries of Music, 1986. ASU MUSIC REFERENCE ML101. U6 N48


Appalachian Bibliography. Morganton, West Virginia: West Virginia University Library, p. 741-746, 1980. ASU APP COLL STACK Z 1251 .A7 A6 1980.

Appalachian Outlook. Morganton, West Virginia: West Virginia University Library. A periodical bibliography. (October 1964 through October 2002); ASU APP COLL STACK Z 1251 .A7 A55

Music Reference Services Quarterly. Binghamton, NY: Hawthorne Press. V. 8/1 (2001). Metro, Voloshin “The Appalachian Dulcimer: An Essay and Bibliography.” ASU MUSIC JRNL/BND.

Miller, Terry E. Folk Music In America: A Reference Guide. New York: Garland, 1986. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 128 .F74 M5 1986.

Ross, Charlotte T., ed. Bibliography of Southern Appalachia. Boone, NC: Appalachian Consortium, 1976. ASU APP COLL OVSZ Z 1251 .A7 B5x.

Abstracts and Indices: 

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
MLA Bibliography


The Banjo Newsletter. Greensboro, MD: Banjo Newsletter. Vol. 1, 1973-present. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 1 .B35.

Bluegrass Unlimited. Broad Run, VAL Bluegrass Unlimited. 1967- Present. ASU APP COLL STACK ML1. B68.

Dulcimer Players News. Bangor, ME: P. Mason. 1970-2000. ASU APP COLL STACK ML1. D78.

Goldenseal. Charleston, WV: West Virginia State Department of Commerce. 1975-present. ASU APP COLL STACK F 241 .G64.

Old-Time Herald. Galax, VA; Durham: Old-Time Music Group. Vol.1, 1987-present. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 1 O.35.

Audio and Video Sources: 

It Still Lives: Old Time Blue Ridge Mountain Music by Traditional Instrument Makers. Rabun Gap, GA: Foxfire Fund, 1980. ASU APP COLL REC #455.

Instrument Maker Leonard Glenn of Spice Creek, N.C. Directed by Cecilia Conway. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 1993. ASU APP COLL VIDEO VC 526.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Lee Wright, 17 December 1997

Updated by: 

Updated: Meredith Doster, 04 December, 2008