Thanks for your shared stories Dusty, Robert ,Wout, Jennifer, Cheryl.
Transition from Dulcimer to guitar
I played guitar for most of my life (not always very seriously) before discovering the dulcimer in my mid-40s. The diatonic fretboard was very hard to understand coming from a chromatic instrument (and I still find it maddening) in ways that it wouldn't if the dulcimer were your first instrument. But what did carry over and made me an intermediate player within an hour of holding a dulcimer was technique. My right hand was already very advanced, and even my left hand understood fully how to fret strings, how to employ slides and hammer-ons and pull-offs and that stuff. So a lot of the technique carries over between the two instruments. In terms of understanding the fretboard, well that's a different question.
If I get frustrated with the dulcimer (my main instrument now), I will take a break and play another one (guitar, ukulele, etc). Sometimes I'll play something on one of those instruments and try to find it on the dulcimer, thus reinvigorating my dulcimer playing, even if that lick or that song has to be altered to fit on the dulcimer.
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
First of all there are 3/4 and 1/2 sized guitars to be used by people with small hands, like children. Some have a rather good sound. Also there are four and three string guitars, but those are hard to find.
To compare the dulcimer and the guitar is easy, special for the left hand (if you are right handed). The dulcimer has five fingers available to stop three strings, where the guitar has only four to six strings. Special when playing chords the later can be painfull, even when you have large hands like me. Playing the barré grip Eb on the third position is a disaster, so never play the guitar in a big band with all those brass instruments or use the sixth position.
On the guitar the force of stopping the string is delivered by the thumb muscle (beware of the string action), where on the dulcimer the force is produced by the whole arm and your thigh or the table. You can check this feeling the muscles in your left arm when playing: on the dulcimer you can feel the triceps working, at least, I can :-)
Chord grips on the dulcimer are much more ergonomic to the hand, special when the tuning is DAA.
Dulcimer players are used to 'scordatura', retuning the strings to fit the song better on the instrument, where most guitar players stick to the standard of EADGBE. BTW anyone ever tried a noter&drone guitar: EAE BB and using a slide?
Other differences between the two instruments are the volume - to get more sound out of a dulcimer the kitchen table is used as an extra resonator - and the fact the player can use the guitar standing or walking, which is rather difficult for a dulcimer. For a serenade under the window of your lovers room beter bring your guitar. Although the dulcimer is cheaper and easier to build, those two last arguments made the guitar more successful in the beginning of the twentieth century, which also could result in a beter love life or a wet suit...
updated by @wout-blommers: 08/04/15 09:20:15PM
Over the years I have played around a bit on the guitar, but I never found it easy to wrap my fingers around the fret board or to produce a nice sound. With the dulcimer It all comes more naturally and playing is done with more ease and I can produce a pleasing tone to my ears.
I am curious to know if any one has found the transition from Dulcimer to Guitar easy. If experience and mastery of the mountain dulcimer facilitated in making guitar palying easier?
updated by @monica: 08/01/23 02:50:07PM