Got my dulcimer!

Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
4 weeks ago
16 posts

Thanks Ken, these are useful!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,484 posts

Pondoro -- did I give you copies of my articles for newcomers? I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?  is an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms so we all speak the same jargon, plus andswers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing,care and feeding of your new instrument.  Here they are 

pdf
Get Noterized.pdf  •  87KB

pdf
I Just Got A.pdf  •  1MB

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,542 posts

Pondoro, the way to describe your various notes in the different octaves would be:

D3 (bass string), A3 (middle string), d4/d4 for the double course of melody strings.  DAdd




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
4 weeks ago
16 posts
Or A3. The A is higher than the bass D string and lower than the double D3 strings.
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
4 weeks ago
16 posts
I cannot type not count! It is currently tuned D3, A4, D4,D4. Sorry for the confusion.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,542 posts

Strumelia:

....Then, you can tune it (from bass to melody) D3, A3, d4.  OR you could tune it D3, A3, A3. (the D3 being the lowest/bass string).

 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
4 weeks ago
16 posts
Home. Strings are swapped. D3 is farthest from me. A3 in the middle. D3 D3 closest. Strings measure 0.020, 0.010, 0.010, 0.010”. None broke during the process
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
539 posts

Thanks Pondoro for catching my mistake. It should be 1-5-5 or 1-5-8. That's what happens when I watch football and try to respond to posts on FOTMD. I've corrected my posts.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

Ok. I'm at my inlaws now but as soon as I get home I'll swap strings around and probably order a couple of new sets, these look a bit rusty. Then I'll have questions about chord melody.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,542 posts

Joy to the World is a good example showing the difference between DAA and DAd tuning.

The song 'sits' in a different place on the fret board with each of those two tunings.

In DAA (where the home/tonic note is on the 3rd fret) you would start those first 4 notes (Joy to the world) on these frets: 10, 9, 8, 7.  The next 4 notes will be on frets :  6, 5, 4, 3.  (the 10th fret is the highest note in the whole song)  You will be able to play the entire song on the melody string alone, with accompanying open drone strings. You will be using the 6 fret but not the 6.5 fret.

In DAd tuning (the home tonic note is on the open melody string) you would start those first 4 notes (Joy to the world) on these frets: 7, 6.5, 5, 4.  The next 4 notes will be on frets :  3, 2, 1, 0.  (the 7th fret is the highest note in the whole song)  You ALSO will be able to play the entire song on the melody string alone, with accompanying open drone strings. BUT if you want to make chords, you can fret all strings.  You will be using the 6.5 fret but not the 6 fret. 




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Skip
Skip
@skip
one month ago
215 posts

 

Ken, 158 and 155

@ Pondoro;

Playing on just the melody string is called noter drone or finger dancing. Playing across all three strings is chord/melody. Although the dulcimer is a stringed instrument it is, musically, more like the a standard harmonica [diatonic]. Because of this some things that apply to those other instruments don't work the same on the MD.

 

Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

Thanks! I've already learned that Joy to the World needs the 6-1/2 fret. So to drop below the bottom note on my melody strings I can jump to the middle string? (Once I switch the strings around to be right). Nice to know. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,542 posts

You can play by fretting the melody only on the melody string (or the double melody course) and leaving the other strings to sound open as DRONES.... OR you can fret all strings with your finger and make CHORDS that way, and maybe use flatpicking. That's called chord/melody style and it's the more modern style of playing.  If playing on only the melody string, many folks find DAA tuning more useful.  If chording, many folks find DAd more useful.  However, either tuning can be used for both styles of playing.  nod

A good way to start out (after you reverse those strings! haha) is to just pick a very simple tune to play, and get your tuning right and try to play it... either on the melody string with open drones, or by making simple chords by fretting all strings. Dont' try to understand everything at first-  it's too much to process mentally. Best way is to try a simple tune, maybe Jingle Bells, or I Saw Three Ships, or Good King Wencislas (did I spell that right?).  Remember what Ken said- if you're in DAA tuning, the key note/home note will be on your third fret.  If in DAd tuning, the home/key note will be on your Open melody string. (sometimes referred to as the "zero fret").




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
539 posts

Most folks today play in either DAAA or DAdd. Both work fine with American folk music. The advantage of using DAAA when beginning dulcimer is that the musical scale begins at the 3rd fret. In DAdd the scale starts on the open fret which means you need to play some of the melody on the middle string. Mountain dulcimers are usually strung with a melody string (often doubled), a middle string, and a bass string. It makes me think that the your bass string is not in the right place. From what you have told us so far you might be leaning toward chord/melody style playing which is more people play in DAdd also known as 1 - 5- 8 tuning or mixolydian mode. DAA is 1 -5-5 tuning or ionian mode. Old Joe Clark is a mixolydian tune which need the 6 1/2 fret to sound good. During the Christmas season I am playing many carols in DAA. When I play Silent Night, I go as high as the 13th fret. Today there seem to be more teaching resources available for DAd, but you can find some DAA books as well. Go to Folkcraft and click on the Books and Videos tab. You will find lots of resources there.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


updated by @ken-longfield: 12/21/18 09:10:59AM
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

I will switch the strings. The story I heard is that an old man bought it, never played it, and died. My wife and sister-in-law bought it for far less than the internet price. The first owner apparently got the strings switched.

So you fret the bass and A strings? I always thought only the two melody strings got fretted.

Your blog looks like a great resource! 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,542 posts

Pondoro, 99.99 % of all mtn dulcimers do not have their fattest 'bass' string in the middle position. I advise you to switch your fat bass string to the position of being farthest away from you when holding the dulcimer in your lap, with the tuning peghead on your left.  Then, you can tune it (from bass to melody) D3, A3, d4.  OR you could tune it D3, A3, A3. (the D3 being the lowest/bass string).

If you don't switch those strings, you are going to have a very confusing time of it and you will not be able to follow any Tabs written for DAd or DAA.  It's going to cause you a whole lot of headaches. Either intentionally or unintentionally, that dulcimer was strung in an 'experimental' manner that will prove to be incredibly frustrating. 

Think of it as though someone reversed two strings randomly on a guitar... imagine what a terrible time some guitar student would have trying to learn to make chords and play guitar when all teaching material and all other players had their strings normally laid out.  I strongly advise you to swap your middle and bass string so the bass/fattest string is the one furthest from your body when playing, and the medium thick string should be in the middle position.

Your dulcimer is not a tenor banjo, and my advise is to stop thinking in terms of your tenor banjo tuning. I mean, plenty of folks have experimentally tried tuning their dulcimers like guitars, or like banjos... but the problem with that is that they can't then use any of the wealth of dulcimer teaching material available, and they will have a hard time relating to anything dulcimer players are talking about with tunings, fingerings, chords, tab, etc. It all goes out the window because it can't apply to your dulcimer.

When you imitate the tuning of a different instrument, the immediate benefit of feeling you are already 'familiar' with how to play is pretty quickly outweighed by being 'stuck' in that tuning and string positioning that nobody else uses, and as a beginner dulcimer player you won't be able to get much help from others or from learning materials. 




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 12/20/18 08:32:20PM
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

Dulcimer is flat on my lap. Tuners to my left. The farthest string from me is not the bass string. It appears to be the same diameter as the two melody strings which are closest to me. The fat bass string is in between. I tuned it A3, D3 (lower than A3) and then, nearest me, d4. Fattest string is lowest     .

Now my tenor banjo is tuned (to my memory, it is not with me) D3 G3 B3 E4. The fourth string is nearest my nose and is D3. So my melody strings are not exactly the same as my tenor banjo D, but they are never the less open D. So all my Irish tunes in the key of D pretty much come naturally.

But my point was American folk. So please feel free to convince me that Some other tuning is better. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,542 posts

A couple of things: 

The usual way of writing/describing the tuning on a mtn dulcimer is to name the bass string first, melody string(s) last. Thus, DAd means the bass string is in the lower octave (thus it is capitalized)... the middle string is the A above that D.... and the melody string is the d an octave higher than the bass string (thus it's usually in lower case letter d).  In DAA tuning, the bass string is low D, the middle string is the A above that note, and the melody string is the exact same A note as the middle string.

There are some links with actual tuning aids here: https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-notes-do-i-tune-my-strings-to.html

As to your tenor banjo- do you mean your banjo lowest string when you say 4th string? If so, you may be tuning the dulcimer en entire octave too low. check the above tuning aids in the links.

When you say 'near to far'- do you mean your Bass string is tuned to a low A and middle string to the even LOWER D3 ? if so, then that tuning is not right.  If you are going for DAA, the bass string will be low D.  If you want DAd (or DAdd), the bass string is low D and the melody string(s) will be the d an octave higher.  Most folks talk in terms of bass, middle, and melody strings, rather than near to far. And tunings are usually described in the sequence of from Bass to melody. That way we can all be on the same page and avoid broken strings!  ;)

Are you holding your dulcimer flat on your lap?  Just asking, since not everyone does.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

Whoa! I'm tuned DAd. Just realized that the melody strings are the same note (d) as the fourth string of my Chicago tuned tenor banjo. After playing Oh Susanna I entertained my wife with Raglan Road. Strings (far to near) are tuned A3, D3, D4, D4. Like I said the thick string is in the middle. 

Using my index finger and a pick but I plan to make a noter from a dowel. 


updated by @pondoro: 12/20/18 05:51:52PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
1,542 posts

Pondoro, that is terrific!  Sounds like you and your dulcimer are going to have a grand adventure for sure.

Old time folk tunes and carols are a wonderful choice to start out playing- the dulcimer can play all kinds of music including classical, blues, jazz, etc... but its an old folk instrument that was originally mostly used in playing American folk/fiddle/dance music, ballads, and hymns, which includes many carols. Mountain dulcimers are like ducks in water when it comes to that particular playing repertoire.

You'll get lots of good advice here on FOTMD.  I'm a little biased myself, but I'll go ahead and recommend that you start with DAA tuning and playing the melody only on the melody strings (or the double melody course).  You can try out playing in the real old traditional style using a noter stick, or your finger. Once you get your bearings you can also try out chord playing and/or fingerpicking styles, and other cool tunings like chord-friendly DAd and lonesome-sounding DAC. There are different styles of playing and each one has its own special charm and sound. 
For beginner melody-only style playing with open drone strings, may I suggest you explore my noter-drone BLOG for traditional ducimer playing style- it has many beginner tabs and videos to help with strumming patterns and other general playing tips for beginners:  https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/   Be sure to start reading from the oldest posts first, the ones from 2009.

If you find a local dulcimer club or jam to play with, you might find that they play in chord style in DAd tuning, and usually play only from TAB together.  If you like what you observe there, you can join them in learning that way of playing, but you should know that you can also play along with them in DAA or with a noter... or in fingerpicking style. The point is, as long as you are all playing in the same key, there are ways that different playing styles can play together harmoniously. Never lose sight of having FUN and never get discouraged!  The mountain dulcimer is an amazing and forgiving friend- it truly allows you to find great joy in playing music- no matter how simple or how complex your playing level or your chosen approach is, and no matter what your musical background and taste is.  inlove

P.S. I think you needn't worry about anything beyond that 10th fret for a good while yet. You may very well encounter tunes you want to use second octave frets for, but... some folks never play up there, ever!  lolol  In other words, you don't 'have to know' how to play above the 10th fret... you could literally spend a lifetime exploring wonderful tunes that never go above it. If and when you're ready to play up there, you'll know it and it won't be a big deal.




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 12/20/18 05:26:50PM
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

By the way it has 19 frets, not counting the zero fret. 1-10 are labeled and there is an unlabeled 6-1/2 fret. After 10 you tell me. I'll figure them out with an electronic tuner. 

The middle string is wound, the two coursed strings and the far string seem to be the same size. When I get home I can measure the diameters. 


updated by @pondoro: 12/20/18 03:40:30PM
Pondoro
Pondoro
@pondoro
one month ago
16 posts

A few months ago I joined this site. My wife and her sister had bought me a dulcimer for Christmas. I just got it. It is a Cedar Creek, plywood top, looks undamaged and very serviceable. I'll state here that I play ukulele, tenor banjo, bodhrán, and harmonica. So I understand instruments but have never tried a dulcimer. I've built a few ukuleles, two cigar box and two with actual bodies from bent wood.

I plan to play old time folk tunes and Christmas carols. I'm pretty excited to finally have a real Appalachian instrument, since I love old time American music. Playing it on the uke is fun but a bit out of the proper era. I'd like to try it on the dulcimer!

I'm open to tuning suggestions- it has four strings, two are in a single course, the double course is near me when the tuners are to the left. One thing I've learned from years of ukulele - telling a newcomer that, "You can tune it any way you want" is theoretically true but not much help. I'd like suggestions for a tuning that fits American folk tunes and has plentiful teaching resources. I'm ok if I get conflicting advice! Hand in hand I'd love suggestions for learning resources- free is awesome but I'm not too cheap to buy a book. 

Thanks!