DAA or DAD as primary tuning ?

Leo Kretzner
Leo Kretzner
@leo-kretzner
6 years ago
32 posts

Actually, a "dirty little secret" of lap dulcimer playing is that Old Joe Clark is "really" in the key of A in all bluegrass and old-time (non-dulcimer) circles. 

But it works so well for us in D! So we do it that way because we can.

Yes, one can play it in A, tuned DAD, with capo at the 4th fret, and then play 8 9 10 9 8 7 6.5... (flatted 7th, on 'Clark,' underlined). But notice that you need the 6.5.  Without that extra fret, capoing at 4 and playing 4 (open), 5, 6... 11 produces the A dorian minor scale.

The diatonic aspect of the dulcimer at once makes it both SIMPLER to play but HARDER to understand when and if keys or tunings change! 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,628 posts

Yes, Rob, Red-Haired Boy and Salt Creek are usually played in A in bluegrass circles, and in A, the note in question would be a G.  You are correct.  If you play in D, it is a C, though.  If you tune AEa, you will get that note on the 1-1/2 fret of the middle string, just as you get the C note there when you play it in D.  The dulcimer players I've seen who play Red-Haired Boy in A capo at the fourth fret, in which case they get the note on the middle string with the 6-1/2 fret. (If you play Salt Creek in A tuned DAA or DAd, there is another note at the end of the first line that you can't get, but you might be able to get Red-Haired Boy in A out of a D tuning.  I think Gary Gallier has some tab for that in what he calls his "cross-key" method.)  

But the point is that it the melody requires a note you can't find easily on a diatonic fretboard.  Can you play either of those tunes with no extra frets?  I'd be interested to hear it.  As I said, Red-Haired Boy might be possible but not Salt Creek.

I've never heard that Salt Creek is copyrighted and can point to plenty of resources that refer to Salt Creek as traditional.  It was known as Salt River until Bill Monroe recorded it as Salt Creek, but it's the same tune.  According to the Library of Congress , Monroe was taught the tune by his banjo player Bill Keith, who had learned it from a West Virginia banjo player named Don Stover.




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Dusty T., Northern California
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As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
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Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
6 years ago
419 posts

A "C" in the "traditional fiddle tune" "Red Haired Boy?" I never play a "C" when we play it. There is a "G" in the "traditional" way of playing "Red Haired Boy" because it's in the key of A.  I believe the same holds true for "Salt Creek" which is probably traditional but (and I could be wrong here) was copyrighted by Bill Monroe.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,628 posts

Don, a while back I wrote a short explanatory piece called " What are extra frets and do I need any? "  You might check it out.

The simple answer to why you would use an extra fret is to get the note produced there.  For example, there is no F natural on a diatonic dulcimer tuned DAA or DAd.  So if a song has that note, you have to skip it, bend a string, or use an extra fret.  If the song is modal you can retune to get an F natural, but not all music is modal, and as Lois says, "accidentals happen."  An "accidental" is simply a note that is not in the scale.  But not all songs are limited to the 7 notes of a diatonic scale.  I am learning a French Canadian tune right now called "La Galope de la Balbaie" that necessitates the use of the 1-1/2 and 6-1/2 frets on the middle (A) string. 

The original reason, supposedly, for the 6-1/2 fret was to be able to play songs in the ionian mode out of a mixolydian tuning. Those are the two most common modes, so the extra fret obviated the need to retune.  And the 1-1/2 fret offers other possibilities.  As Jan suggests, it makes playing a C chord easy to do down by the nut since the 1-1/2 fret on the middle string gives you a C natural (also found on fret 6 of a D string). When I play the B part of Old Joe Clark I play a C chord, which all guitarists and mandolin players do as well, whereas dulcimer players are unable to do that and play a much less dramatic A chord.  That C chord also shows up in other traditional fiddle tunes such as Red-Haired Boy and Salt Creek. And as Jan explains, having an easy C chord near the nut allows you to play chords in the key of G very easily.

I also use the 1-1/2 fret to play the blues.  The most important "blue note" is the lowered third, which is an F natural in the key of D.  But importantly, that note gains its power from the fact that it is played over the major chord, so you still need an F# to play the blues. In other words, re-tuning won't help. But the 1-1/2 fret gives you the lowered third (F) on the melody string and the lowered 7th (C) on the middle string.  And since most pop, blues, and jazz melodies us the minor pentatonic scale, that comes easily with a 1-1/2 fret.  Starting on the bass string play 0, 1-1/2, 3 then on the middle 0, 1-1/2, 3, and you have your minor pentatonic scale to play over the major chords of a pop, blues, or jazz song.

My sense is that if you have to ask why anyone would want extra frets, you probably don't need them.  The 6-1/2 is pretty standard these days, so if you play with a dulcimer group, it will likely be expected that you have one.  Unless you specifically want to play non-diatonic music for which the dulcimer was never intended, you do not need a 1-1/2 fret.  Having said that, I love mine and won't give it up!




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 08/06/17 09:23:37PM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
And my daughter, the math teacher says all music is mathematics. Her dad the romantic tells her that to take the magic of music in to numbers is to spoil the magic.
I am kidding, just a bit. I am working hard to understand all I can about the dulcimer.
Thanks
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
411 posts

Don, I use my 1 1/2 fret (also written as 1+ or 1.5 ) so I can play in the key of G without retuning or putting a capo on.  The 3 main chords in the key of G are G (0 1 3), C ( 3  1.5  1), and D ( 0 0 2). Being able to play the chords without moving your hand up and down the fretboard is very helpful--for those who play with a lot of chords. (note that the 8.5 is one octave up from the 1.5 and the 13.5 is one octave up from a 6.5)

If you are playing melody/drone, the fact that the 1.5 gives you a C on the middle string might not matter at all to you.

I'll let those who play noter/drone or melody/drone chime in here.




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Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
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"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
When do people use the 1 1/2 , 8 1/2 and 13 1/2 frets?
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

To clarify, all MD's have the ionian scale, it starts on the 3rd fret. The scale name [key] is defined by the note on that fret. DAA is used to play songs in the key of D [D is on the 3rd fret]. MD's having a 6+ fret have 2 ionian scales, one starts on the open using the 6+ and one starts on the 3rd fret using the 6. So, in DAd, you have the notes for the key of G [starting on fret 3] and D [starting open] on the melody string.

Leo Kretzner
Leo Kretzner
@leo-kretzner
6 years ago
32 posts

"the vast majority of those Mixolydian tune book songs are not Mixolydian modal songs.  They are Ionian Mode songs being played in Mixolydian DAd using the 6+ fret."

This is correct - or you could play across the strings and use the 2nd fret of the middle string.

This shows the confusion created by calling tunings by mode/scale names. Think of the modes as scales and scale variations. Ionian mode is a fancy name for the major scale, the old do re mi...  Myxolydian is a fancy name for the major scale with the 7th note flatted. (Aeolian and Dorian are fancy names for two kinds of minor scales.)

On most modern dulcimers (w a 6.5 fret):

When tuned DAD you play an ionian/major scale from 0 (open) to the 7th fret using the 6.5 fret and skipping the 6th fret.

When tuned DAD you play a myxolydian/flat-7 scale from 0 to 7th fret using the 6th fret and skipping the 6.5 fret.

DAD tuning was called "myxolydian" because on the original dulcimers - with NO 6.5 fret - it is the only scale you could get going from open to the 7th. Also, that's how you MUST tune the dulcimer to play a song like Old Joe Clark that uses a flat 7th (on 'Clark': 4 - 5 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2...)

To play an ionian/major scale on a trad dulcimer - with no extra frets - you MUST tune to DAA, and the scale starts with the D that's now at the 3rd fret, and you play 3 - 10 on the frets. If you tune DAA on a modern dulcimer, you still play 3 - 10 for the major scale, but you have to make sure to skip the 6.5. 

That's why DAA tuning became called "Ionian" - b/c that's the way you have to tune to get a major/ionian scale on a traditionally fretted dulcimer. 

With the 6.5 fret (or playing across the strings) you can find the pure major scale songs even if you're in DAD tuning.

Bottom line: It's NOT really the tuning that is "myxolydian" - it's that that tuning allows you to play the myxolydian scale, in particular on a dulcimer with no extra frets. Same with all the other Greek names.

I tend to stay in DAD because I can play either mode with no retuning. However, you can't play a D-myxolydian scale on a dulcimer tuned DAA - unless you use the bass string. 

I think of the DAD tuning as 'containing' the DAA within it - on that middle, A, string - but not vice versa. 

Hope that makes sense. It can be a little confusing!

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Thank you! That will be great fun!
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Don, you are using tunings on your short scale dulcimers which mean you will be playing in the key of G (not D, so don't get confused by anyone talking about D).  It's simple: both the guitar and the uke should be able to play in the key of G along with you without anyone having to use capos.

For simple common folk tunes there are usually only three essential chords the guitar and uke will need to know when playing along with you in the key of G:  G, C, and D chords.  They should already know how to play those very basic standard chords.  They won't need to use a capo or learn new chords or fingerings to play in G.... they just have to know when the chords change in the tune.  Most players can sense that and will catch on when doing simple chord accompaniment.  You will most likely be playing the simple melody and they most likely will be playing accompaniment chords... at least as you get started playing together.




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Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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updated by @strumelia: 08/04/17 01:38:46PM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
May I use a capo to adjust for them?
Jim Yates
Jim Yates
@jim-yates
6 years ago
48 posts

Don Grundy: Mowing break. My daughter plays the ukulele. My son plays the guitar. Is there a tuning best to play with them?

The guitar can play in any key, especially if he has a capo.

Ukulele players seldom use capos and (almost) never above the 2nd fret. 
If she's strumming chords, in the key of D, simple D-2220 or 2225, A-2100 or A7-0100 or 2130, and G-0232 will accommodate most dulcimer folk songs.

 

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
6 years ago
199 posts

Somewhere in my Getting Reacquainted prowling yesterday I found the comment (by Dusty Turtle?) that could be the maxim for this site and all our musical questions: The dulcimer takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.

As for "Mixolydian tune book songs are not Mixolydian modal songs.  They are Ionian Mode songs being played in Mixolydian DAd using the 6+ fret" , that's because I guess we could take another saying and turn it into a call for da da da dum: Music Theory!  Accidentals happen.

Just did a print out of the chart, to keep with my music.  Think I'll do a download on my tablet, too.

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

Since they have 'chromatic' instruments [all notes/keys available], they play with you or play in the 'keys' [note ranges] you have available. Otherwise you could be retuning for some tunes or adlibbing some notes.

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Mowing break. My daughter plays the ukulele. My son plays the guitar. Is there a tuning best to play with them?
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

Don;

Tunings are a physical thing, they are nothing more than the 'open' notes of the strings. The different tunings are used to facilitate physical access to various ranges/arrangements of notes. Most all the rest is music theory, which you can find on the net, in libraries or via classes and will pickup over time.  

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Thank you, I don't understand but would like to understand. I'll read when I have time. Now to mow the lawn.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Don, I have the sense that you don't want to delve too far into music theory (i don't blame you!)- that you really only want to know enough to not be confused when playing simple tunes at home.  Because you have instruments with shorter-than-usual lengths of scale, you can't get around the fact that your tunings will need to be higher than the usual D-based dulcimer tunings...in this case you go up the alphabet from D tuning to a higher G tuning.  But because you play alone, you can use your G tunings that are almost just like the usual D tunings and you'll be able to 'pretend' you are in D and use the tabs written for the D tuning equivilent of your G tuning.  (i hope you're not lost here)

There is no definition page here on FOTMD, but there are plenty of those on other sites if you google.  I have written a guide to the four most common dulcimer modes and tunings -written for beginners and in plain language with videos, charts, and simple explanations.  My posts on modes/tunings are intended for people who just want a simple basic understanding  so they can play and tune more easily.  Most of what I've written on my Noter Blog is geared towards the key of D tunings, but you can just 'translate' that for your G tunings by substituting G for D (use GDd when you see DAA).  Or in the case of your new dulcimer,  GDGg ...which you should know is also similar to an ionian DAA.

I understand you don't want to get far into theory, but since you ask for definitions, I'm going to give you a link to my blog post that tries to explain modes and tunings to beginners who only want to get a quick and practical understanding :

https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2010/09/few-of-my-posts-about-modes.html

Anytime someone asks for a 'definition' of modes and tunings, they should understand that reading one or two sentences in a 'definition' is never going to give instant understanding.  But if you go through and explore the post I've linked to above, it might take an hour or two but you will then have a basic grasp that will get you feeling a little less frustrated than you are now.  That feeling will be very reassuring as you go forward in your home enjoyment playing.  nod




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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updated by @strumelia: 08/04/17 09:35:49AM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Is ther a definition site on the forum? Ionian, Mixolydian, Modal?
My new GDGg dulcimer will have 1 1/2 and 6 1/2 frets.
Mostly I play by ear. I get started with the tabs and lose my place and then play out the tune as I hear it.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Ken Hulme:

Lois -- remember that the vast majority of those Mixolydian tune book songs are not Mixolydian modal songs.  They are Ionian Mode songs being played in Mixolydian DAd using the 6+ fret.


I was going to say that!  nod


 




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Ken's right Don-   Just think of your GDDd tuning as a higher version of DAA.  It needs to be higher because of the short scale/length of your Wren dulcimer.   BUT you can follow all TAB written for DAA on your GDDd dulcimer.  (you will be playing in the key of G)

As to your coming GDGg dulcimer-  when it comes you can either retune it to GDDd and see if it feels right, OR you can stay in GDGd and think of it as similar to DAdd (DAd) tuning... and then if you are playing noter style you can follow all TABS written for DAd.  (again, you will be playing in the key of G)

If strings feel too 'heavy' or tight when playing, you can buy strings one number smaller and often it will feel better for your fingers.  However, keep in mind that the shorter the instrument (and the Wren is quite short) the stiffer the strings will feel by default.  My epinettes tend to be stiffer feeling than my (longer) dulcimers.

Don't worry too much- you can find your fave one or two tunings and stick with them if you like!  Some folks like to experiment, others not so much.  bananawave




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,025 posts

Lois -- remember that the vast majority of those Mixolydian tune book songs are not Mixolydian modal songs.  They are Ionian Mode songs being played in Mixolydian DAd using the 6+ fret.

Don -- Play what works for you, GDD, GDg, QRS, TUV, WXYZ....  Nothing wrong with the key of G, especially on those smaller instruments.  Just remember that your GDD dulcimer can play DAA tabulature, and your GDg dulcimer can play DAd tabulature, as written.  No need to change to the key of D.


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/04/17 07:21:22AM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
I have never been good at following directions. We live in a small home we built for retirement. I fell in love with a small dulcimer tuned GDDd and have another on order with 1 1/2 fret tuned GDGg. The likelihood I'll get to play with others is slim to none. Besides all of these tunings are confusing.
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
411 posts

Don: Tune your dulcimer to DAd.  Use music that's tabbed out for DAd tuning.  Find other people who enjoy playing  with this tuning.  Enjoy!

I believe this answers your original question.




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Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
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Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
6 years ago
199 posts

Thanks, Ken!  That's so quick!  I am on my tablet now, but am eager to print it out when back on my desktop.  Similarly I have found YouTube recommendations about strumming I am looking forward to trying.  It's good to be back here.

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
SO MANY TUNINGS!!!!! SO CONFUSING!!!!! ARGH!!!!!
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
6 years ago
943 posts

Lois, here is a link to chord chart in DAA from EverythingDulcimer.com:  http://everythingdulcimer.com/files/tab/chord_chart_daa_major.pdf

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
6 years ago
199 posts

CGG seems to fit my voice better, although I am definitely not wedded to it.  I have found so many books in Mixolydian that I have found myself playing it more and more.  I would really like to find chords in Ionian.

Care to share, Jim?  I am not worried about transposing.  As long as I allow for the 6 1/2 fret that is not a problem.

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
I have a Feather Wren tuned GDG to begin to play the DAD tabs. I took it last week to Rocky Mountain National Park on our fishing trip. I enjoy it, but the strings seem "heavy".
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
John Gribble:

As a noter player I like DAA best. I like the low melody note. I will sometimes set the noter aside and play harmonies of 6ths on the outside strings. Then the 6+ fret is a real asset, because the correct low harmony note is available. If I want lots of chords, I play guitar. giggle2


I have a Feather Wren which I keep tuned in GDG for a couple reasons. I tried it in GDD (DAA up three frets) but it buzzed. It needs either heavier strings, higher action, or a little touch-up to the frets. Also the fretboard is too thin to easily allow noter-style playing. So I play it fingerdance/chord style for a change of pace. It is an excellent travel instrument, small (fits in my carry-on or backpack), lightweight, and quiet enough I don't worry about annoying people on the other side of sometimes-thin walls. In fact, my wife and I are planning a little trip in a couple weeks and I will take it with us.


Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Thanks, good to know the nomenclature.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,025 posts

Don-- it's fine to use your thumb, but you can't really call it "Noter" since there is no separate stick -- it's called Melody & Drone rather than Noter & Drone


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/02/17 09:15:32AM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
DAA or DAD/ GDD or GDG. I think this is an exciting instrument! I spend hours during my retirement days, just making up tunes on a noter. I actually "note" with my thumb and strum with my thumb and first finger. Probably not the right way, but what I have found I like.
John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
6 years ago
123 posts

As a noter player I like DAA best. I like the low melody note. I will sometimes set the noter aside and play harmonies of 6ths on the outside strings. Then the 6+ fret is a real asset, because the correct low harmony note is available. If I want lots of chords, I play guitar. giggle2

I have a Feather Wren which I keep tuned in GDG for a couple reasons. I tried it in GDD (DAA up three frets) but it buzzed. It needs either heavier strings, higher action, or a little touch-up to the frets. Also the fretboard is too thin to easily allow noter-style playing. So I play it fingerdance/chord style for a change of pace. It is an excellent travel instrument, small (fits in my carry-on or backpack), lightweight, and quiet enough I don't worry about annoying people on the other side of sometimes-thin walls. In fact, my wife and I are planning a little trip in a couple weeks and I will take it with us.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
2,025 posts

Jim -- glad to hear of someone who isn't 'stuck' in DAd for chords.  Merv Rowley (R.I.P.) always said there were many easier to form chords there, and more chords available overall.

Jim Yates
Jim Yates
@jim-yates
6 years ago
48 posts

I have used DAA as my primary tuning.  Since dulcimer is not my primary instrument, I like to stick to one tuning.  I have tried DAD, but find DAA better for chords and double stops and I really miss those lower notes on the melody string.
I have talked to those who feel that DAD is better for chording, but since I started on DAA, I have many patterns and shapes memorized. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Don, feel free to also join our Beginner's Group  ...and ask all the questions you like!   Your questions there and the answers you get will help other beginners as well!   jive




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Dan Goad
Dan Goad
@dan-goad
6 years ago
156 posts

The search function is at the top of the page beside your name (looking glass icon) and everythingdulocimer.com has a listing of teachers for MO and KS.  By the way, we are not bothered by a lot of questions, we are here to answer any and all.

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Two final questions and I'll quit----for a while.

1. Is ther a search mechanism so I don't bother you guys too much?

2. Is there a mountain dulcimer instructor in the Clay/Platte county area of Kansas City, MO?
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
I grab my backpacker to go to the jam. Should I have it retuned to DADD?
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Don, you might want to bring your dulcimer with the 6.5 fret to any dulcimer club/jam you go to.  Many dulcimer clubs play mostly in chord/melody style rather than noter style, and play from DAd tab that uses the 6.5 fret a lot.  If you bring your backpacker you won't be stuck trying to adapt on the fly to what they are doing.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

I'm not sure that there's more options, just different ones. DAA is probably more useful to noter drone players because of the 'extra' notes below the 'D' on the 3rd fret but there's a lot more written data available for DAd. I imagine everyone starts by playing ND [noter/drone] style at first, it feels natural, and easy to do. Many folks never change to the chord style. It's one of the advantages of taking up this instrument, being able to play how, and what, you want and like.

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
1. On my dulcimers tuned DAAA and GDDD I have been playing noter style. The backpacker has a 6 1/2 fret. I don't have much information on chords.

2. I purchased the little GDG tuned dulcimer to begin to learn DAD fingering. DAD tuning seemed to offer more options.

3. I use tabs. On the noter style I seem to play and find the notes....because of the dulcimer...not any innate talent of mine.
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

VSL = vibrating string length. You can get the gauge from the builder or use a micrometer or vernier calipers. The gauge is the measured reading, ie., .011 [typical for melody strings]. Your string are probably close to; .018, .012, .009, so you can probably go down to DAd but the strings may be a bit slack.

Yep, or you can play one string at a time [finger pick or flat pick with a pick]. These can be done in any tuning. 

 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

VSL= vibrating string length.  (the part of the string that vibrates freely, i.e. between the nut and bridge)




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Don Grundy: Way too many questions .... Do you play DAD strumming like DAA?

Up til now, have you been playing any chords on your dulicmer by fretting all the strings?  Or have you only been fretting the melody string so far?

The answer to your question depends on two things- the tune and arrangement (or maybe the TAB) of the piece you want to play or follow along with, ..and also the style of playing you aim to play in.  These two things (rather than just the tuning) are more what determine how you'll be strumming/playing with your right hand.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Way too many questions ....

Do you play DAD strumming like DAA?
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
The VSL (what's VSL?)---string distance is 22.5 inches.
I don't know string gauge.
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

Maybe. What is the VSL [distance between the nut and bridge] and what is the string gauge [thickness]. You can try loosening them to DAd. The strings may be too small [thin] which will allow the to be too loose or floppy.

This site can give you a starting point for your string gauges, they will be a bit on the light size.

http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Can I retune my backpack dulcimer from GDG to DAD?
Same strings?
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Skip
@skip
6 years ago
356 posts

Changing to these different tunings is pretty easy. Starting with your present tuning of DAA:

1- to tune to DAdd, tighten the melody string(s) to the same note as the 7th fret on the bass string.

2- to tune to the other tunings, loosen the melody strings from DAdd to the note desired.

3- to tune to other tunings, such as CGc, etc, you usually loosen the strings [there are a few exceptions]. Keep in mind that the DAdd tuning tightens the strings to very close to their maximum strength, about 2-3 notes below breaking point. 

For reference; a standard MD, bass D is D3, A is A3, melody D is D4, and it is written as DAd(d). Bass dulcimers are tuned an octave lower, D2, A2, D3.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

Usually when a dulcimer is 3 or 4 strings, it simply means there is a low Bass string, a medium Middle string, and either 1 or 2 identical Melody strings which are tuned the same and played close together as if they are 1 string.  (there are less commonly "4-string dulcimers" with equidistant strings, often used for fingerpicking, but I'm not referring to that)

So you can have a 3 string or a 4 string dulcimer (with 1 or a pair of melody strings)- that you can tune to different common dulcimer tunings such as DAd or DAA or DAC.  

I suspect the dulcimer club you'll be attending will most often be tuned to DAd, and it does not matter whether your melody string is single or is a pair.

Here's a little video I put together showing tuning back and forth between DAd, DAC, DAA, and DAG... perhaps you'll see that it's not something to fear too much:

https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2010/02/video-re-tuning-between-four-common.html




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts
Do DAD players use 3 strings? I hope to go to the Prairie Dulcimer Club next month. So they will probably be tuned DAD?
Do you just readjust your strings to different tuning?
I do apologize for the really most basic questions.
Thank you.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,129 posts

I'm sure you'll get lots of good responses to this question Don!

I can only answer for myself, but here an explanation of why, as a noter/drone style player, I tend to like playing in DAA:

https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-i-like-daa-tuning.html

But DAd is a great tuning as well!  With the addition of the 6.5 fret DAd becomes quite versatile.  And there is certainly more teaching material for beginners available in DAd, much of it in chord style playing methods.  Most dulcimer 'clubs' and workshop settings currently lean towards DAd tuning and chord/melody playing style.  It's convenient to have everyone starting out the same with the same tuning and books, etc.

But you can really do whatever you like!  pimento

I think DAC is my second favorite tuning after DAA- it's in Aeolian mode which has got the 'lonesome' sound.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
6 years ago
191 posts

My first dulcimer is DAA. To have near me; I got a backpack dulcimer... the gentleman said let me tune this GDD...okay. I got a feather dulcimer for trips...the gentleman said you'll like this tuned GDG. Soooo, if DAA and DAD are primary, why was the novice steered to other tuning. They both sound terrific....although the feather is a stinker to keep tuned. Explanation?