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A dolceola is a musical instrument resembling a miniature piano, but which is in fact a zither with a keyboard. It is used in traditional holy blues and has an unusual, angelic, music-box sound. Dolceolas were made by the Toledo Symphony Company from 1903 to 1907.
Paul Mason Howard accompanied Lead Belly on dolceola on some of his 1944 Capitol Records sides. A listen to those recordings, collected under the title Grasshoppers In My Pillow, reveals the characteristic clatter of the dolceola's three-level keyboard action.
Although the gospel musician Washington Phillips was thought to have played the dolceola on several of his recordings, he was actually playing a compound instrument he fashioned out of two East Boston Phonoharp Company celestaphones.
- The Dolceola: a piano? A zither? Or what?. Miner Music
- A New Musical Instrument. Dunn's Review, Vol. 11, 1908
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