Tuning a dulcimer to itself

Jan Potts
@jan-potts
3 years ago
434 posts

Dusty--Thanks for mentioning scale positions. Since I am most comfortable playing by ear, I think in terms of scale positions and then transpose to the correct fret positions based on how my instrument is tuned (and possibly by what mode I'm playing in, but I don't actually think about modes!).

I also usually do a "tuning check" in addition to tuning individual strings with a Snark or Korg tuner. Since I'm using a 1-5-8 tuning, Icompare the open bass and melody strings with the middle string at the 3rd fret. I thencompare the open middle string with the bass and melody strings fretted on the 4th fret.

Tuned DAd, that means I first listen to eachstring playing a D, followed by each string playing an A.

If I'm playing alone, though, and don't have a tuner handy, this is a good way to tune the dulcimer to itself.

It's also a quick way to check the tuning after apiece using a vigorous strum or periodically during a long jam session.




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Marc Mathieu
@marc-mathieu
3 years ago
17 posts

Those Snark Tuners sure have gained popularity over the past few years on account of their compactness and ease of use. They are pretty decent tuners for the price (I've seen the red one for as low as $10.99) and they bring you to an "almost" perfect tuning in most cases.

I own about 10 of them (3 different models), and I must say that my 20 yr old and bulkier ZenonChromatina with the analog needle is hard to beat for dead-on accuracy. Just wish they'd make them a little more compact...

Regardless, I still keep a Snark or two in my travel bag.

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

Heavens Wayne- that would make too much sense for me! (down the road, I just might cave and get a tuner..)

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
3 years ago
111 posts

I love my snark... great for the dulcimer, and the harp!!!

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

Cool- thanks Guy- as always you are a big help.

I think I am getting/remembering it now: 7 frets; hence the first open is C, then D; E; F; G; A; B ?

( Crazy question from a dormant dulcimer builder and knock-about-player huh!?)

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
3 years ago
111 posts

Start out with C in the bass and then tune the middle to the 4th fret of the bass string, and the melody to the 3rd fret of the middle string. Or just use an electronic tuner.

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

How would I tune my dulcimer to C-G-C ? (using this tuning-to-itself style) It is the tuning for a song I love. She did capo on 1st fret to play "Rights of Man", and I MUST learn that tune!

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

Now this I can do! Thanks!! 36.gif

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 years ago
921 posts

Another way of envisioning the relationships among strings is by scale positions.

Ionian tuning (DAA or CGG, for example) is also referred to as 1-5-5, meaning the middle and melody strings are tuned to the fifth scale position starting with the bass string. Then all you need to know to tune your dulcimer is how to count to 5.

open = 1

1st fret = 2

2nd fret = 3

3rd fret = 4

4th fret = 5

Since the middle and melody strings are tuned to the fifth, you tune them to the bass string at the 4th fret.

Mixolydian tuning (DAd or CGc, for example) can also be referred to as 1-5-8, meaning the middle string is tuned to the fifth and the melody string is tuned to the octave (the 8th). Again, all you have to do is count.

open = 1

1st fret = 2

2nd fret = 3

3rd fret = 4

4th fret = 5

5th fret = 6

6th fret = 7

7th fret = 8

So for a 1-5-8 tuning, tune your middle string to the bass string at the 4th fret and your melody string to bass string at the 7th fret.

[You can also tune the melody string to middle string. Since the open string is the 5th, the first fret is the 6th, the second fret is the 7th, and the third fret is the 8th or octave. So once you tune the middle string to the fifth tone of the bass string (the bass string at the fourth fret), you can tune the melody string to the middle string on the third fret. Now you can double check it all, since the bass string at the 7th fret, the middle string at the 3rd fret, and the open melody string should all be the same note in any 1-5-8 tuning.]

I won't bother going through this for other tunings such as the 1-5-7 tuning, but hopefully you can see the advantage to thinking in terms of scale positions. The scale positions themselves tell you how to tune your dulcimer. The counting you learned from Sesame Street is all you need to know.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

Ain't no money in poetry; that's what sets the poet free.
I've had all the freedom I can stand.
-- Guy Clark
Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

Thanks- I am just playing notes on the melody sting, with the others as drones.

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
3 years ago
111 posts

It really depends on whether you are using drones or not. If you are using drones on the middle and bass strings, then you need to retune to get the proper mode, or use a capo. If you are using chords then there are more possibilities of playing in various modes within each tuning.

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
3 years ago
111 posts

For Aeolian tuning... for Dorian tuning it's tuned to the base string at the 3rd fret.

In Mixolydian tuning, you can play in the Dorian mode starting at the 1st fret if you use the 6.5 fret... it's an easy way to play in that mode...

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

oh--- the melody string is at the 6th fret of the Base String? I will try that one! Thanks :)

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
3 years ago
111 posts

It's good to remember that the names of the tunings and the modes use the same words but don't always mean the same things. You can play in different modes in different tunings... I have an arrangement of Greensleeves that uses the Mixolydian tuning, and also one that uses the Aeolian tuning. First two strings are the same as the Mixolydian tuning, but for the melody string you fret the base string at 6 and tune the melody string to it.

For Dorian tuning you can tune the melody string to the 3rd fret of the base string.... Then your Dorian mode starts on the melody string at fret number 4 and skip your 6.5 fret.

Guy

Bob
@bob
3 years ago
129 posts

Hi friends,

It has been ages since I have played my dulcimer, and I have since forgotten how I used to tune it to itself! I had learned some modes from a Jean Richie book I read years ago, and forgot almost everything!

The common tuning I use now is:

Press Bass String (4th) behind the 4th fret = 1st & 2nd strings open

Treble (thinnest) String (next to bass string)= 1 octave above open 4th String

-What is this mode called(Mixolydian?) is it CcG?

There was another fun tuning I used, which was great for playing "Greensleves" because it was in minor tuning (Dorian?). Does anyone know how to tune the dulcimer for that (tuning to itself?)

Hopefully this question is not too confusing!

Thanks for any help :)


updated by @bob: 03/12/17 11:02:47PM