Obviously, the dulcimer can be tuned up or down to play in alternate keys, but what about adjusting string tension for comfort?
I've been noticing lately that I have a preference for less string tension. Both my left hand and my right hand seem to be more comfortable when the strings are more flexible and have more give. In practice, this means I frequently lower the tuning as much as a whole step to create the fingering sensation that I prefer.
Instead of the standard D-A-A or D-A-d tunings, I find myself lowering the tuning to C-G-G or C-G-c. Obviously, I have to tune back up if I plan to play music with others or attend a dulcimer workshop where D tunings are the norm, but when practicing or playing for myself I prefer the feel I get with the lower tuning.
The advantage of the lower tuning is a more flexible string that is less resistant to fretting, hammering, or plucking with the left hand and more easily strummed or fingerpicked with the right hand. In short, I am more relaxed when the strings play more easily.
Obviously, there is a limit to how much the strings can be lowered, but I have found that the tuning of most dulcimers can be lowered a full step without creating any problems with loose or rattling strings.
Does anyone else experiment with tunings higher or lower than standard D tunings by adjusting string tension to achieve a more comfortable and relaxed feeling in the fingers making contact with the strings?
updated by @greg-gunner: 04/28/19 12:55:48PM