Do you feel limited by the diatonic scale?
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
AndiBear, most people who have played the dulcimer for any length of time will tell you that the diatonic fretboard is a challenge, not a limitation. When I first started out it seemed like a puzzle to figure out. I would have a melody in my mind and try to figure out where it might fit on the diatonic fretboard. Figuring out that puzzle was part of the fun in the beginning, although it also got frustrating at times.
And remember that if you pick across all the strings and/or have a 6+ fret, you are not limited to the diatonic scale. There are some accidentals available to you. You can get that G#, for example, on the 6+ fret of the middle string (or the melody string, too, in DAA).
Over time, that puzzle disappeared as I listened more and more to music that works on the dulcimer. The reason so much old timey and Celtic music is played on the MD is that the music simply fits. So little by little I stopped trying to fit Beatles tunes onto the dulcimer and I started playing more and more diatonic music. I stopped trying to play Norwegian Wood and started playing Southwind. (By the way, you can play Norwegian Wood, but you need either a capo or a 1+ fret.)
And remember that if you play with your fingers you can always bend strings, and if you play with a noter you can get those "in-between" notes by touching the edge of the noter against the fretboard while it also grabs a string at the right spot. So for the occasional accidental, you can always make due.
In general, as you play the dulcimer, your ear will develop a sense of what tunes can fit on the fretboard, and you'll concentrate on those. There are a lot of them. You won't get bored.
P.S. I have to admit, in the interests of full disclosure, that I also play the guitar and some mandolin as well, so when I really want to play a chromatic tune, I just pick up one of those instruments. And I didn't want to add this to my post, but after a few years I started playing dulcimers with a 1+ fret in addition to the 6+. I find with those two extra frets I can play 90 percent of the tunes that interest me. I wouldn't recommend that right away, though. Get to know the diatonic fretboard before you decide if that's a good option for you.
updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/20/21 04:06:40PM