Capo positions, tunings, chords and other wonderful things

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
900 posts
Yes, Dulcinina, I am playing a Blue Lion dulcimer on that video. It has Cherry for the back and sides, and Western red cedar on the top.


--
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
dulcinina
@dulcinina
4 months ago
30 posts

Just watched your you tube demo of the capo.  What a great educational video for novices like me.  And I loved the sound of the dulcimer you are playing.  What is the wood and is it by any chance a Blue Lion? Dulcinina

Cindy Stammich
@cindy-stammich
4 months ago
54 posts
Dusty Turtle - what a great quote!!! I think we need a tshirt with that on it!
hugssandi
@hugssandi
4 months ago
216 posts

Dusty Turtle: The dulcimer takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.

Such a great quote!!!!

 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
900 posts
Yes, the dulcimer takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.


--
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
hugssandi
@hugssandi
4 months ago
216 posts

This is one of the things I love about the dulcimer.  It can be simple, and yet I know I will also be learning new things and advancing my whole life!!!!

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
4 months ago
141 posts

This thread is great! I can't wait to dig in!

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
4 months ago
36 posts

 Bing Futch also has a short you-tube video on using a capo to change keys.  

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
4 months ago
36 posts

Let me try that again with the link.

 

http://www.jcdulcimer.com/CapoesInstructions.pdf

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
4 months ago
36 posts

Joe Collins has the following handout available for free online.  It may help you in understanding which keys are available with a capo.  I hope it is helpful.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
900 posts

Dana, instead of trying to read and understand, just play and feel.  Play a simple song on your dulcimer. Then put the capo at the third fret and try to play it again. It will work, but you will be in a higher register.  Then, perhaps put the capo at the first fret and try again. It won't work.

In the same way that you need different fingering when you switch tunings, you need different fingerings when you use a capo, with the (partial) exceptions of the third and fourth frets.

Sometimes this stuff makes more sense when you play and get a feel for it rather than try to understand it first. And even if you decide you don't like playing with a capo, you should still have a feel for how it works.

 

Why would you want to know this?  

reason 1: Dulcimer players almost always play in D, but other folk musicians often play in C, G, and A as well.  If you are in a multi-instrument jam, you will want to know how to play in those keys as well. What if you're in a playing circle and someone calls out "Angelina Baker" in the key of G.  You could try to figure it out in your regular tuning, you could retune to DGD and try to figure it out there, or you could slap on the capo at the third fret and play the song exactly the way you played it before, but you will now be in the key of G, just like everyone else.

reason 2: Do you sing?  Despite what some people say about certain keys rather than others working for their voices, it is the tonal range of the melody that determines whether a tune fits your voice.  I can sing some songs in D.  Other's I can't for the life of me.  But if a song doesn't work for my voice in D, it probably will in G or A.  Truth be told, I have a baritone dulcimer that I tune to G or A, but if I'm not home and want to sing one of those songs, I just put the capo on 3 for G or 4 for A and I can sing the song.  Again, the fingering for the chords is the same that I would have used in D, but the capo puts me in a different key.  If I get a chance I'll put a video together to demonstrate this.

A while back I wrote this piece that I've attached called "Strumming in Various Keys out of a DAd Tuning."  I'm sure it was in response to a question here or one posed by my local dulcimer group, but I can't remember.  Maybe you'll find it helpful.




--
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
D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
4 months ago
141 posts

Oh dear, now my head hurts. wasntme

But....I do get what you are saying. It's just a lot to take in for someone who has never been taught this.

I printed off some of what we have talked about....and i intend to study it. But just a little at a time, as to not overwhelm.

I'll go back and reread what you are saying. I guess my initial question in the midst of my confusion (not utter, but mildly)...would be, so the reason I would want to know this is to somewhat play a song, with just the music and chords? 

 

 


updated by @d-chitwood: 04/09/17 12:56:55PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
900 posts

You're close, Dana.  Before we get to capos, let me explain something that didn't occur to me until I had been playing a year or two.  

First, we call the open DAd (or DAA, but when we get to chords I'll be referring to DAd) as a D chord.  Technically, it is missing the 3rd, so it can be D major or D minor.  But if 0-0-0 is a D, then 1-1-1 is an E, 2-2-2 is an F#, 3-3-3 is a G, 4-4-4 is an A, 5-5-5 is a B, and so forth.  And again, those "chords" can be major or minor, so a 1-1-1 will be an E in one harmonic context and an Em in another.  The listeners' ears will fill in either the major or minor 3rd. But that principle alone will allow you to play all kinds of chords that you might not have thought possible.

Second, once we see that pattern, we can say that yes, when you put your capo at the first fret your open strings are in an E chord.  And if we were playing a guitar or banjo, that would be enough. We could move the capo to any position and play as though the capo weren't there, making wonderful music in any key.  But the dulcimer's diatonic fretboard means that even if our open strum is a given chord, we may nor may not be able to play a song we want because the frets are in different places.

However, there are two places the capo (mostly) works: the third fret for the key of G and the fourth fret for the key of A.  Play a simple song you know toward the nut.  Now put a capo on the third fret and play it again, using exactly the fingerings you are used to.  You will see that you are now playing the same song, but in a higher register and in a different key (G instead of D).  This will also work if you put the capo at the 4th fret, but you will have to be aware of the 6+ fret, which is now playing the role of the 1+ fret.  It is also fun to put the capo at other frets and see the sounds you get. For example, many songs that are played in a DAC tuning can be played instead with a capo at the first fret (I am not suggesting a capo is preferable here, just pointing out the similarity).

For another discussion here recently I made the following video to demonstrate how I use the capo: https://youtu.be/MR-T9l7KiEg.

Again, what makes this complicated, Dana, is that on a dulcimer with a diatonic fretboard, a capo not only changes the key but also the mode, so when the capo moves to different frets you cannot necessarily play the same song in  a different key.  You have to find a different song that fits the mode created by the new fret spacing.

As for chords, please refer to that transposition chart I posted in the other discussion.  IN the key of D, we use mainly the D, G, and A chords. When you put the capo at the third fret to play in G, you will be using the G, C, and D chords. However--and this is the beauty of the capo--you don't have to change fingerings. Just pretend you are playing in D, and your chords will magically be transformed (or transposed) to G, C, and D.  That is what my video linked to above tries to demonstrate.




--
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

updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/09/17 12:25:14PM
D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
4 months ago
141 posts

In light of the recent fantastic conversation we just had about the chords, I wanted to speak about capos.

(Preface: I am 2 years in, play like a crazy woman time-wise, but have zero music theory knowledge so grace grace if this question makes you laugh.)

I was lying in bed early this morn, when suddenly I had an epiphany. If the  1 0 1 is an A chord, then if you place a capo on the 1st fret, are you now tuned to A? And if 0 1 3 is a G chord, when you place a capo on the third fret, are you now tuned to G?

Again, please don't laugh...I'm just now getting into this. If this is correct, then it would explain all the choices of chord for each A, G, D etc because you might be tuned into something where you need a higher fret. (Am I embarrassed at this point? Yes, yes as a matter of fact I am. But I feel safe here so yall go easy on me if this is not right. ) sun

And...does anyone have a capo tuning chart that showed what key each capo creates?