I am SO in over my head!!!

Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
one week ago
14 posts

Thank you. Yes, that's exactly what I expect will happen with time and practice. My fingers were quite used to chording and playing melody on a piano, but even that was decades ago. Muscle training and memory are so important in so many things, as I have learned. :)

 

 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one week ago
874 posts

Laurel, some degree of finger cramping is probably normal as you begin to use muscles in your fingers that you have never used before. I've told this story before, but it seems appropriate.  (And old people like me get to tell stories over and over.)  When I was first starting out on the dulcimer about 7 years ago I bought some tablature for a song I really wanted to learn. But no matter how I tried, there were just some chords that I couldn't cram my fingers into.  My fingers actually hurt and I couldn't understand how anyone could get their fingers into those configurations.  In utter frustration I tossed the tablature into the air and forgot all about it. I kept playing, though not that song. I just moved onto stuff I could play more easily. Then about six months later I was cleaning up and moved a bookshelf off the wall to clean behind it. What did I find?  That old tablature.  I sat down trying to remember what it was that had frustrated me so, and lo and behold, I could play the song!  Oh, I wasn't phenomenal, but what had once seemed impossible was clearly do-able.  By continuing to play, I had developed the muscles in my fingers and was able to play the very same chords that had once caused all that pain and frustration.  

There is no reason you can't continue playing noter/drone.  But if you indeed want to learn fingerdancing or chording, take your time and know that little by little, the more you play, the better you'll get and music that had once seemed unattainable will be within your grasp.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
one week ago
14 posts

Thanks, Skip. Hopefully that will come, too, as I relax more. For now, my fingers still cramp if I use them for fretting ... and the melody doesn't sound nearly as nice (to me, anyway) as it does with the noter. (I have an awesome noter than Danny Cox made me!) dulcimer

Skip
@skip
one week ago
211 posts

It may help getting used to using your fingers by 'finger dancing' [fret notes using finger touches, not slides, on the melody string] instead of using a noter. 

Keep in mind that no matter which style you use, you are always playing chords of some type as you strum across the 3 strings.

Hint, press down just enough to make contact with the fret.


updated by @skip: 04/19/17 11:08:59AM
Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
one week ago
14 posts

I have the exact same problems -- fingers tensing up and trying to wrap my head around the concept of strumming! And for me, being a pianist, the whole idea of playing the melody with the left hand is novel ... I'm strongly right-handed and used to that being my primary melody hand in piano work.

But the more I strum, the more natural it is becoming. I definitely have to start out with noter/drone before I do any chording, but that's just what seems to work best for me. I know that in my festival classes they will probably start me chording.

Julia Gabriele
@jgabsalot
one week ago
2 posts

Thanks Laurel--you're so right. I'm being way too hard on myself. Just need to keep at it. And thanks to the resources and encouragement I'm finding here, I'm hoping that I just keep moving forward! I'll take a look at Larkin's book. I have a few I'm working with now. My biggest issue is trying to position my fingers for the chords. I feel so clumsy and I completely tense up. I think I just need to slow down and work with my noter for the time being--even work on my strumming which is so new to me....

 

Thanks everyone!

Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
one week ago
14 posts

Hi there! No need to despair. You have come to the right place!

I am a beginner, too -- my prior musical experience being limited to high school chorus and piano as a child (some 40-odd years ago)! I've begun by picking out melodies by ear with noter/drone. You would laugh if you knew how many times I "reach" for a flat or sharp key that isn't there! But every time I have a question, the FotMD hive is more than ready to help. :)

I highly suggest a book like "Larkin's Dulcimer Book" by Larkin Bryant Cohen, which comes with a companion CD (available from her Riverlark Music) for progressive self-lessons. I've also connected with another player locally and signed up for classes at a dulcimer festival here in Virginia. Plus ... YouTube! So there are many resources.

But the main thing I've learned so far is not to be too hard on myself about form/style or learning things a certain way. The dulcimer is truly the people's instrument, and folks have taught themselves to play it any number of ways over the years -- all prior to books, videos and CDs on the subject. All our paths may be different, but I'm confident that beautiful music is waiting for us all along our journeys. :)

Julia Gabriele
@jgabsalot
one week ago
2 posts

Hi All--just getting started and I'm so grateful to find this thread because I too am feeling SO over my head. Grew up playing the French Horn-I feel like transitioning to a stringed instrument is like learning a new language and I've never been great at languages. I practiced last night for an hour and feel like I got worse as the hour progressed. I'm so frustrated I wanted to cry. Will I ever get this?!!!


updated by @jgabsalot: 04/19/17 10:20:32AM
Cindy Stammich
@cindy-stammich
3 weeks ago
47 posts

So - practice practice practice music

BUT practice is fun and gets more fun as things start to come together, as you learn new songs and new little tricks.

It's a beautiful thing - making music!

hugssandi
@hugssandi
3 weeks ago
211 posts

So I just played "Red River Valley" a few times and am thrilled!  I am still easy strumming, but I know that will build.  I know y'all have shared about chord drills/practice before~would anyone care to repeat a little about that here?  TIA!

Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
3 weeks ago
14 posts

Yes indeedy! dulcimer

hugssandi
@hugssandi
3 weeks ago
211 posts

Laurel K Scott:

Thank you, everyone, for being so willing to help. :)

 

 

Aren't dulcimer folks just the best in the whole, wide world?  inlove

Laurel K Scott
@laurel-k-scott
3 weeks ago
14 posts

Sandi, I'm just starting out in noter/drone and am even more lost than you when it comes to chords and such! Though I played piano for many years, I think the last time I tried to wrap my head around music theory was about 40 years ago.

So while I am happily trying to pick out basic melodies by ear at the moment, I really appreciate this thread and will definitely be printing it out for future reference.

Thank you, everyone, for being so willing to help. :)

Laurel

 

hugssandi
@hugssandi
3 weeks ago
211 posts

So, my heart is FULL to OVERFLOWING because of ALL OF YOU right now!  THANK YOU 1,000,000 times for all of your thoughtful responses~and then Dusty Turtle makes a video while sick!  ~I love y'all so very much~  Just know that I am drinking it ALL in and am grateful and BLESSED!!!  flower


updated by @hugssandi: 04/07/17 07:52:31PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
874 posts

This discussion has meandered past the original question, but in very good ways. Dana's comment is evidence of that fact as she is beginning to understand chords and keys in ways she never did before.  Thanks to everyone who has posted on this stuff!  I have some material I can contribute to that discussion and will add that to the end of this post.  But first . . . 

Right now I want to address the original question, which is what you do with those lyrics sheets that include chord charts.  I put together this short video to explain.  And please excuse my appearance and voice; I've been sick with the flu all week.  What I am playing is approximately what you find in the two pdf attachments. The first is tablature for the song.  The second is the lyrics with chords indicated above.

https://youtu.be/XFqGodB5HFw

Hopefully that helps with the original question.

 

As I mentioned, I also want to present some material for those interested in chords and transposition.  The chart below shows the main chords in each of the 4 main keys used in folk music.  What do you do if you are used to playing a song in one key and your song circle suddenly plays it in another key.  It's not hard to transpose, but while you learn to do that, this little chart might be helpful.

transposition chart for basic keys.jpg

I've indicated 6 chords for each key, but notice that half are minor, representing the relative minors of the three major chords.  So there are really three chords involved, each of which has a major and minor version.

Finally, let's take a look at the Circle of Fifths.  This is a remarkably useful device, but right now I only want to point out one thing.  Check out the outer ring and notice that when you pick any chord, you can find the IV and V chords by moving to either side of that chord.  Let's say we pick A.  Move one spot counterclockwise and you see D, the 4th, and one spot clockwise and you see E, the fifth.  G-d forbid you ever have to play in Bb, but if so, just move one spot counterclockwise to find the IV chord, or Eb, and one spot clockwise to find the V chord, or F.   The same pattern works for every chord there.  And notice the green relative minors for each chord as well.  Maybe someday we can collaborate on a discussion of the many other pieces of information embedded in this pictorial demonstration of the relationships between the notes and chords in western music, but this bit about identifying the IV and V chords in any key is all I wanted to show for this discussion.

 

400pxCircle_of_fifths_deluxe_4.svg1.png

pdf

pdf




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger

updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/08/17 02:30:31PM
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
3 weeks ago
74 posts

D. Chitwood:

Lisa that was SO wonderful!!  If you had drawn a cartoon, you couldn't have made it easier!

 Yay!joyjoy

This has been driving me crazy for years.  The I-IV-V stuff is so simple once you wrap your brain around it.  Except it is wretchedly hard to grasp.  I think you have to see/read/hear it over and over, from several sources, until it finally sinks in.  I must have seen those roman numerals a hundred times in various books and websites before the light switched on and I thought OH! 

Then I felt indignant!  Why didn't anyone explain this to me!?  My brother-in-law, the singer-songwriter, would always bet 1-4-5 at jai-alai and said it had to do with guitar chords... how could he be so cruel as to keep the secret knowledge from me!?  ARRRGGGH!

So I've been trying to explain it to people ever since, with varying degrees of success.  It should be easy but I guess it's too far outside most peoples' experience and our brains don't open up that easy.  I remember another guitar-playing friend when I told her about my frustration with chords and how I could follow sheet music but didn't understand the whys and wheres, and she paused a moment and said "just keep at it.  It doesn't make sense yet but someday it will." 

D. Chitwood:

So my next step would be to practice different chordings to know what goes best with the song? Because there are choices for each of those, is that correct? 

Yep.  Chord charts usually show several different fingerings up and down the fretboard.  You might even be able to incorporate a melody without too much effort.  See this: http://www.davidbeede.com/simpledulcimerchords.htm

But I think MD players make it too hard on ourselves.  Lots of guitar players know just one version of each chord and they're happy.  Strum a D, sing, change to G, sing some more.  Sounds good, everybody sings along, don't worry be happy.  Which, incidentally, is a I-ii-IV-I progression.  [D] Here's a little song I wrote, you [Em] might want to sing it note for note, don't [G] worry, be [D] happy.  The chords keep repeating just like that through the entire song.

Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is the same progression.  D-Em-G-D  Clouds so swift, rain won't lift...

Now you know two more songs.   dulcimer

 


updated by @lisa-golladay: 04/07/17 05:11:46PM
D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
3 weeks ago
128 posts

Lisa that was SO wonderful!!  If you had drawn a cartoon, you couldn't have made it easier!

This has been a goal for me so I am going to print that off and sleep with it, eat with it, keep it with me every day.

I have ZERO music theory knowledge. None. Zip. Nada. Negative knowledge.

This really helps.  So my next step would be to practice different chordings to know what goes best with the song? Because there are choices for each of those, is that correct?


updated by @d-chitwood: 04/06/17 08:48:28AM
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
211 posts

Just a quick explanatory note to add to lisa-goliday's post. The B-minor [vi] chord, shown in her post is found [method described in my post below] using the notes of the D scale [key of D], with the B on the thumb, second note [D] on the middle finger and the third note [F#] of the triad on the little finger. So that B-Minor is BDF#. You always use the scale of the tune being played to figure out the chords [because those are the only notes you have to work with].

Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
3 weeks ago
74 posts

Arrgh, it's hard to talk about this stuff without drowning in music theory.krazyhair  Let's take it one key at a time and I'll try not to swim too far into the deep end.  Assuming your dulcimer is tuned to the key of D, get your chord chart and learn four chords:

D-Major  This is the "root" chord, built on the first note of the D major scale.  It is the "one" or I chord (we use Roman numerals because Arabic numerals get used for other things and music theory is confusing enough already).

G-Major  This is built on the fourth note of the scale (count up D-E-F#-G on your fingers).  It is the "four" or IV chord.

A-Major (or A7) This is built on the fifth note of the scale.  It is the "five" or V chord.  You can play it as a "five-seven" or V7 if you like the sound better. 

B-minor  This is built on the sixth note of the scale.  It is the "six minor" or vi chord (the Roman numeral is lowercase when the chord is minor).  Why is it minor and not major?  It has to do with the notes in the D major scale.

With these four chords you can play thousands of folk, country, rock and pop songs.  Here's a short list of 3- and 2-chord songs. Adding the vi chord earns you rock progressions like this one.  Also this one for aging Boomers like me.  Go to chordie.com and find songs to play. 

Why are these the chords you need to know?  Which notes go into each chord?  What's the deal with root (I), subdominant (IV) and dominant (V)?  How do you add melody?  These are all fascinating topics but they take weeks... months... years to digest.  Meanwhile you should be playing music.  The more you play, the more you'll start hearing when to change chords and which chord comes next.  Until you can do it by ear, find chord sheets online or buy fakebooks.  Unlike dulcimer tab which is hard to come by, guitar/uke/mandolin chord sheets are widely available and work perfectly well because a D-Major chord is a D-Major chord no matter what instrument you play it on.  You can transpose any song to the key of D and have at it.

Now then.  When you're bored with the key of D, here is the Big Secret that makes you a genius: 

Everything you just learned about Roman numerals works exactly the same way in each of the 12 keys.  Use your fingers to count while reciting the scale.  For example, the key of G has a root chord of (guess what?) G-Major and the scale goes G-A-B-C-D-E-F#.  Therefore the chords you need are:

I   - The root is G-Major

IV - C-Major

V  - D-Major (or D7)

vi  - E-minor

In the key of C you play the chords C-Major, F-Major, G-Major (or G7) and A-minor. 

In the key of A it's A-Major, D-Major, E-Major (or E7) and F#-minor. 

If you can count to six, you know the chords for (almost) any song in any key.  The only trick is sharps and flats.  If the song is in a key I'm not familiar with and I don't have sheet music, then I Google "notes key e-flat" and it gives me the notes I need.  Or I make my best guess (is the next chord a B or a B-flat?).  If I guess wrong it sounds terrible and I have my answer.    

Are the I, IV, V and vi the only chords that might possibly appear in a song?  Of course not.  For one thing, we skipped the ii, iii and VII(dim) chords!  But even those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Still, you can often take a more complicated song and strip it down to just the I, IV and V and still have it work because those chords provide the basic structure of modern Western music.  Which puts us way out in the deep end. 

TL;DR:  Learn four chords and sing a bunch of songs.  Learn more later.

hugssandi
@hugssandi
3 weeks ago
211 posts

OH Sheryl, that class sounds SO WONDERFUL!!!!!

Sheryl St. Clare
@sheryl-st-clare
3 weeks ago
336 posts

Skip:

The easy way to determine the 3 major chords of many keys using the left hand and contiguous letters [DEFGA for example] . This method does not indicate #/b but can get you there. You will need to learn the notes in a key to get the most from this.

1 - Thumb is represents the 1st chord, which is the name of the key and the chord; eg., D[F#A] or C[EG] or A[C#E] . This is also called 'I' when using the I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii system. The bold caps are the major chords.

2 - Ring finger is represents the 2nd chord; eg., G[BD] or F[AC] or D[F#A] . This is also called IV.

3 - The little finger represents the 3rd  major chord eg., A[C#E] or G[BD] or E[G#B] . This is also called V.

These, and any other chord, consist of the same notes regardless of the key of the tune being played, a D chord is always DF#A, even if the tune is in the key of C or Bb.

Just as a note, using the thumb, middle finger and little finger to represent notes in the same manner will give the notes of any chord, minus sharps/flats

Skip, I just had a workshop with Ehukai Teves Saturday, where he taught us how to accompany music in many keys with the dulcimer (without using a capo). It's a great system, and it cleared up a lot of confusion for me. Thanks for sharing. 

hugssandi
@hugssandi
3 weeks ago
211 posts

D, we are kindred spirits!  I know how to read music (singing, clarinet, keyboard~melody only) but started my dulcimer playing dependent upon TAB.

Ken, thanks for that article link!!!!!  Downloading now and will read again and again until I get it.  Sadly, since starting this thread we've been sick, so I've not gotten started on the learnin' yet.

Skip, thank you.  That is food for thought, and I will need some time to digest.

Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
211 posts

The easy way to determine the 3 major chords of many keys using the left hand and contiguous letters [DEFGA for example]. This method does not indicate #/b but can get you there. You will need to learn the notes in a key to get the most from this.

1 - Thumb represents the 1st chord, which is the name of the key and the chord; eg., D[F#A] or C[EG] or A[C#E]. This is also called 'I' when using the I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii system. The bold caps are the major chords.

2 - Ring finger represents the 2nd chord; eg., G[BD] or F[AC] or D[F#A]. This is also called IV.

3 - The little finger represents the 3rd  major chord eg., A[C#E] or G[BD] or E[G#B]. This is also called V.

These, and any other chord, consist of the same notes regardless of the key of the tune being played, a D chord is always DF#A, even if the tune is in the key of C or Bb.

Just as a note, using the thumb, middle finger and little finger to represent notes in the same manner will give the notes of any chord, minus sharps/flats


updated by @skip: 04/05/17 01:55:49PM
D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
3 weeks ago
128 posts

You got me there...See? this is how music theory illiterate I am, haha! Thank you so much!

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,433 posts

First of all you seem to be confusing Chords with Keys -- "I don't know what chords are what keys" -- you said A

Chords are associated with a particular Note -- a C chord, a G chord, and A chord, etc.  Playing the three individual notes of the chord produces the overall sound associated with that note.

Your dulcimer is tuned to a particular key  -- D, C, G etc  That is the bass string is (usually) that note and the drone strings are tuned relative to that - DAA/DAd,  CGG/CGc.  When you put a capo on at a given fret, you change the notes to which all the strings are tuned -- with DAd capoed at the 4th fret, the D becomes A, the A becomes E and the d becomes a.  From that point on the shape of the chord (which fingers go where) stays the same but that chords location on the fretboard changes

This article by the sadly deceased Merv Rowley is one of the best I've ever seen on learning Chord-Melody style, and includes Chord Charts for both DAA and DAd tunings

http://www.everythingdulcimer.com/files/articles/31/Learning_Chord_Melody_Style.pdf

 

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
3 weeks ago
128 posts

This thread has been so helpful to me too. I don't read music and have been tied to tab. I don't know what chords are what keys. I'm looking at a song I like and it is in the key of A (4th capo? ) but all the chords for D, G etc are below 4th capo. I'll start on the easy songs below but does someone have a chart of the choices for keys so I'm not held to 002, or 013 etc? Thank you!

hugssandi
@hugssandi
one month ago
211 posts

Ellen, here is a link to Margaret Wright's 12 Tune Song Books.  I wish there was an example of her style of TAB on the page~it is three lines with numbers for fingerings, no music notes.  There are a lot of melodies, but there are chords sometimes, too.  I just know I sound fairly good easily when I play her TAB and just wish she'd do nothing but write TAB to everything there is all the time!  LOL!  

 

Lisa, that is a good word.  May we all persevere!

 

Strumelia, I only have the opportunity to play by myself, and why would one play without singing along?  nahnah

Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,733 posts

Every once in a while this happens to me-  somebody on some instrument (banjo, dulcimer, guitar, uke, whatever) will play a tune for me and they're dismayed when i can't recognize the tune.  Interestingly, they don't realize that they are playing only the chords and are perhaps hearing the melody in their head... but I'm not a mind reader. confusey   

I'm just mentioning this because sometimes people can emphasize the chords so much that the melody is hidden- which is fine if one is accompanying someone singing the melody, or if jamming in a group where others are playing melody.  But if playing solo without singing, the melody probably should be in there 'somewhere' unless one is playing stream-of-consciousness mood meanderings.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 03/28/17 03:11:26PM
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
one month ago
74 posts

Ain't it the truth.  A chord chart is just a skeleton, nothing like a full arrangement.  But I figure it like this: guitar players manage to make music from chord charts all the time.  Now I know a bunch of guitar players and in general they are swell people... but I would not say they are all rocket scientists.  You know what I mean?  If they can manage this, so can we.

Folk guitarists get started by learning basic chords and strums to accompany voices and other instruments.  They do not attempt to play instrumental solos right off the bat.  I think MD players get so accustomed to playing melody, we forget that an instrument can be valuable in an ensemble even if you "just stroke four beats of 000/000/000/000."  In fact, that can sound great in an ensemble. 

Creating a full chord/melody solo instrumental from a chord chart is a daunting task.  But optional.  Strum the chords and sing.  Play around with the chord voicings and make the song your own.  But don't get frustrated with it.  There is no right or wrong way to play the dulcimer... and there is no single right or wrong way to play a song! 

Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
one month ago
46 posts

So where does one find Margaret Wright's pieces? Do tell!

hugssandi
@hugssandi
one month ago
211 posts

Ellen, you are so right!  Just in trying to figure out that first song while looking at chord charts there were chord fingerings that sounded better than others, and I think that further frustrated me.  Color me grateful with you!  Margaret Wright is that magical TAB writer for me...  I am just lost sometimes~LOL.

Ellen Rice
@ellen-rice
one month ago
46 posts

I think an important part of the "Secret Sauce" hasn't been discussed here. Take "Twinkle, Twinkle, little Star.  It's in 4/4 time and the first measure is all marked "D" -- but if you just stroke four beats of 000/000/000/000 or 002/002/002/002 you don't get much magic.  It turns out it sounds way cooler if you find the "Right" D chord, so try two beats of 000/000 followed by two beats of 234/234 D Chord.  

Now we've done "Twinkle, Twinkle"  and the second measure shows us two beats marked "G" followed by two beats of a "D" chord. You might think, Aha! I know a G chord! I'll do 013/013 and then switch to the D chord with two beats of 002/002.  Sounds "bleah."  For this second measure try two beats of the 335 G Chord followed by two beats of the 234/234 D Chord  (So the second measure is 335/335 then 234/234).  Sounds much, much nicer. 

So part of the trick is sorting out which version you make a particular D or G chord (When you get to "How I wonder" try 013, 013, 002,002). 

We have the wonderful folk song book "Rise up Singing" and I have found the chord markings to be consistently infuriating and mystifying. The chord indications are sort of a casual travel guide, as in "the viewpoint may be breezy in the morning" which could mean "take a light sweater" or "pack a Maine parka" -- it can be really be a challenge when you don't get it right. 

I am deeply grateful to those folks who post sheet music that "has it all" -- the written music, the lyrics set against the correct notes, the chords with indications of which version of the chord and . . . everything else indicated so my ability to go down the wrong road is limited. Bless you complete writers!

hugssandi
@hugssandi
one month ago
211 posts

Y'ALL ARE ALL SO AMAZING!!!!!  All of your advice is a definite plan to learn and build upon~I AM SO EXCITED!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

RobbScott, I would love to link you but am not sure it won't violate the rules.  The song is "Fast From, Feast On" from Page CXVI's Lent to Maundy Thursday album.  The chord chart for the album is available online.

WOW y'all make it seem so easy, and I will laugh if it actually is, and I've been tiptoeing around it for years....  giggle2

Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
one month ago
74 posts

First things first: Do Not Panic!  This is new and it will take a while to figure out, so relax.

Pick one song that you know so well, you've been singing it in the shower for years.  If it's not already in the key of D (assuming your dulcimer is tuned to D) then transpose it.  Pick a three-chord song to start.  Here's one:

You are my [D] sunshine, my only sunshine

You make me [G] happy when skies are [D] gray

You'll never [G] know, dear, how much I [D] love you

Please don't take my [A] sunshine a-[D]way

Don't play the dulcimer yet.  Sing the song and clap your hands or tap your foot to the rhythm.  Just like in pre-K :-) 
1, 2, 3, you 4are my 1sun 2shine 3 my 4only 1sun 2shine 3 you 4make me 1hap 2py 3 -when 4skies are 1gray 2 3...

Now pick up the dulcimer.  Make a D chord (easy!) and strum on the count.  1, 2, 3, 4.  Start singing (if you're not sure what note to sing, just recite the lyrics for now).  When you are about to say the first syllable of "HAPpy" move your fingers to play a G chord and strum it as you say "HAP."  Now keep strumming the G chord on the beat until you get to "gray" where you change back to the D chord.

That's all there is to it.  Keep strumming the same chord, on the same steady rhythm, until the chord sheet tells you to change to a different chord.  This is what a rhythm guitarist does.  The chord sheet doesn't tell you anything about the melody: you'll have to learn the melody elsewhere... or team up with somebody else who can play or sing the melody. 

Do you have to strum all 4 beats?  Nope.  Does it matter if you strum in, out, or in-and-out?  Nope.  You can strum whenever you want to.  1-and-2-and-3-and-4 is a good rhythm.  So is bum-diddy.  Sometimes it sounds nice to strum once each measure.  Or once every time the chord changes.  It depends on the song and how you want it to sound.

Remember that it takes practice until it sounds like music.  You'll get there if you're patient and keep it simple for a while.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
874 posts

If you just have chords and lyrics, you can indeed sing or whistle the song and just strum the chords.  I have my beginning chorders do just that. You will not be playing the melody initially on your dulcimer but just getting used to chord positions.  Just strum out once per beat to start with and sing the song.  Down the line you can start strumming in as well, but for now just strum out once per beat.

However, you will have to make sure that you are able to play the chords you need on your diatonic dulcimer.  If you are tuned to D (as in DAd or DAA) then songs in the key of D are easily do-able.  G and A take a little work.  And beyond that you will have some difficulty.

Start with some easy songs. How about Hank Williams' Jambalaya? It only has two chords: D and A. So start strumming D (002) and then at the end of the vocal line (the "my" in "me oh my oh"), switch to A (101).  Then at the end of the next vocal line (the "bay" in 'Bayou", switch back to D (002).  The song goes back and forth like that with the chord change always coming at the end of the vocal line.  

Down in the Valley is another two-chord song with the chord changes occurring at the end of each vocal line, but it is in 3/4 time, like a waltz.  Why not start with those two songs and get used to strumming to back up your singing?  You will probably start to hear when the chord change is coming, and since there are only two chords, you just switch to the other one at the end of each vocal line.

Once you have those songs mastered, add your G chord (012) and your ready for about 75 percent of all the folk songs that exist.  But first you just have to get comfortable playing chords and switching chords while staying in rhythm. 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger

updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/25/17 02:44:40AM
RobbScott
@robbscott
one month ago
6 posts

Your chord chart--is it like a "Fake Book" where they have the lyrics with the chords over the words? Take a picture and attach the file so I can see what you are dealing with.

hugssandi
@hugssandi
one month ago
211 posts

It's like guitar accompaniment, and I don't know why I've never been able to wrap my head around this kind of playing!  I'm dying to learn it.  LOL~it feels like rocket science to me....


updated by @hugssandi: 03/25/17 01:01:56AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,433 posts

It depends on the "chord chart" you have.  Is it showing one or two chords per measure of music like most guitar "accompaniment?  Or one chord for each note of the melody like most dulcimer chord tab?

hugssandi
@hugssandi
one month ago
211 posts

I am used to playing melody, but lately I'm interested in some songs that don't sound very good playing the melody~I think chords would be much better.  UGH I have NO IDEA what I'm doing!  Even with a chord chart~where do they go/start?  How do I strum?  I have a chord chart for the song I'm working on (guitar, I guess?) but am just lost.  Any advice?  Break it down Pre-K style, please.... krazyhair