In a jam about a jam session with ukuleles, guitars & banjos
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
I will give you a simple way to play in 4 different keys with two dulcimers and a capo.
First, tune the first dulcimer to D-A-A. Your basic chords in the Key of D are:
I Chord = D, 2-0-3 (where 2 represents the bass string fingered at 2nd fret, 0 represents the middle string left open, and 3 represents the melody strings fingered at 3rd fret)
IV Chord = G, 3-1-3 (where 3 represents the bass string fingered at the 3rd fret, 1 represents middle string fingered at the 1st fret, and the final 3 represents the melody strings fingered at the 3rd fret)
V Chord = A, 1-0-2 (where 1 represents the bass string fingered at the 1st fret, the 0 represents the middle string left open, and the 2 represents the melody strings fingered at the 2nd fret)
You can transpose the whole thing up to the Key of G by capoing at the 3rd fret and thinking of the capo as the new nut.
I Chord = G, 2-0-3 from capo (the actual frets fingered are 5-0-6)
IV Chord = C, 3-1-3 from capo (the actual frets fingered are 6-4-6)
V Chord = D, 1-0-2 from capo (the actual frets fingered are 4-0-5)
Second , tune the second dulcimer to C-G-G. The basic chords in the Key of C are:
I Chord = C
IV Chord = F
V Chord = G
The chord shapes remain the same as before: 2-0-3, 3-1-3, and 1-0-2.
Once again transpose up, by placing the capo at the 3rd fret. You can now play in the Key of F with the same chord shapes:
I Chord = F
IV chord = Bb
V Chord = C
In conclusion, the three chord shapes remain the same for all four keys: I chord = 2-0-3, IV Chord = 3-1-3, and V Chord = 1-0-2.
The capo is nothing more than a temporary nut. If you had a chromatic dulcimer you could capo at every fret on the dulcimer. Since most dulcimers do not have chromatic fretting, you just need to be sure that you have a comparable spacing of frets. Without the capo you have a large space, large space, and short space to the right of the nut. If you capo at the 3rd fret, you once again have a large space, large space, and small space to the right of the capo (temporary nut).
Finally, if you have a 6 1/2 fret you can place the capo at the 4th fret and in D-A-A tuning play in the Key of A. However, you must ignore the 6th fret when playing. You will have a large space from fret 4 to fret 5, a large space from fret 5 to fret 6 1/2, and a small space from fret 6 1/2 to fret 7.
I Chord = A
IV Chord = D
V Chord = E
Likewise, you can place the capo at the 4th fret in C-C-G tuning and play in the Key of G. Remember to ignore the 6th fret and use the 6 1/2 fret instead.
I Chord = G
IV Chord = C
V Chord = D
The easy part is that the basic chord shapes remain the same (2-0-3, 3-1-3, and 1-0-2) for all of the above. Just think of the capo as a movable nut that allows you to move the chord shapes up the fretboard to play in different keys.
So with two dulcimers, one tuned D-A-A and the other tuned C-G-G, you can play chords (or melodies for that matter) in five different keys: D, G, C, F, and A. These keys will handle nearly every key you will face on a regular basis.