Purpose of DAA tuning

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
6 days ago
99 posts

The good news is that the Key of "D" major and its various chords are the same regardless of which tuning you choose as your primary tuning.  If you play from tablature, the fret numbers will be different, but the musical notes won't be different.  Two people, one tuned D-A-d and the other tuned D-A-A, can play together rather easily.  However, if you play from tablature or chord diagrams, you are better off sticking to one tuning in your early stages of learning.  

If you decide to play without tablature or chord diagrams, you won't even have to change your tuning to match those with whom you play.  As long as you both are playing in the same key, you will sound just fine.  After all, guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, etc. can and do play together without being tuned exactly the same.  In each case, the musician is using his/her knowledge of their instrument to play in the specified key.

Just sit back and enjoy the tuning you have chosen.  If you decide to explore different tunings at some point in the future, your skills will easily transfer.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 days ago
996 posts

You know how in school knowledge in third grade built on knowledge from first grade?  That's how playing out of different tunings has been for me.  Perhaps your experiences will prove to be similar to my own.  Happy strumming! 




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Melanie Cook
Melanie Cook
@melanie-cook
6 days ago
10 posts

Thank you all so much for your responses. It does settle my mind a bit. I think I'm going to primarily stay in DAd but I do noodle a bit with my noter on DAA. Thanks again!

David Bennett
David Bennett
@david-bennett
6 days ago
67 posts

Strumelia said in part to Melanie, "What you learn at first will not be set in stone."

I've found out that is true. Like Melanie when I started playing the dulcimer I struggled with should I learn DAA or DAD (at the time I didn't think I had the musical ability to learn more than one). The traditional part of me wanted DAA but I knew everyone where I live played DAD so I went DAD since I thought I'd get more help playing. I did the DAD thing for several years, but since then have added DAA and it was quite easy to do. For me there were many advantages to DAA that I won't go into now other than to say for me noodling out a song I've never played before is easier (again, for me) in DAA.  So now with our dulcimer jam group I play DAD and for my own enjoyment at home mostly DAA/CGG. Point being is it really that hard to add some different tunings, just go slow if you need to.

Sam
Sam
@sam
6 days ago
177 posts

What a marvelous discussion. It touches on my dilemma as well. With all types of learning it has always been more difficult for me to 'unlearn' something than learn it so I've been hesitant to stray from DAA. I want to, probably need to but don't have the required gray matter to cope with a bad decision. This discussion is very encouraging. By the way, my dulicmer and I have an understanding ... mutual respect and I continue to gather kindling from outdoors. 




--
The Dulcimer. If you want to preserve it, jam it!
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 days ago
1,715 posts

One other point Melanie-  there's no law separating chord style completely from drone style playing.  Lots of tunes that are played in DAd tuning utilize playing the melody almost all on the melody string, with an occasional chord thrown in. So while doing that you are also developing some of the skills and understanding needed for noter drone playing anyhow.
And when you strum in drone style you may not realize it but you are sometimes producing 'chords' without fretting them, on the open drones strings.
Like I said, there are many ways to build on your skillset... so no need to get too apprehensive about learning lots of different things.  Much learning and understand just comes naturally as you play more, no matter what style you are currently playing in.   :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Melanie Cook
Melanie Cook
@melanie-cook
6 days ago
10 posts

Thank you, Strumella for the good advice. I have to admit that chord melody is what I want to master but I also love the noter drone style too. I think I'll work on the DAd tuning and get that going and then experiment with DAA. I think that was my issue - that if I learn the notes and chords for one tuning - then I had to unlearn it to play the other. Thanks again!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 days ago
1,715 posts

Melanie Cook:

I still struggle with playing either DAA or DAd. In my mind, I'm thinking that I need to learn both but my senior mind is just not comfortable with learning chords in DAA and in DAd. Since I primarily want to play chord melody, I'm thinking DAd is best for a beginner/novice. I want to play with tab but also to just pick out a melody and then figure out the chords to go with it. For some reason, this instrument just intimidates me and I'm very frustrated!  Any suggestions?

Melanie, everyone has to start somewhere. It's almost impossible to learn all methods and styles and tunings at the same time. But i also kinda hear that you are fearful of making the 'wrong' decision on what stuff to learn. I just want to say that it's perfectly ok to pick one kind of way of playing to try out for a while, and then to explore other ways of playing later on.

What you learn at first will not be set in stone.  In fact anything you learn in one method will actually help you understand things when you later try out a different playing style or approach. That's because in music, our knowledge base builds on what we have learned so far, it accumulates... so rather than thinking you'll have to UNlearn your prior stuff if you decide to explore a different playing style later, I think you'll find that learning new stuff comes more easily with time.  Hopefully, knowing that can help you relax a little about making decisions about playing styles, tunings, and techniques you are thinking about trying out.  It also makes sense to focus on one style or method at a time, rather than thinking you have to learn everything simultaneously... such as leanring the chords for Dad and DAA and DAC tunings all at the same time... No need to learn them all at the same time- pick your favorite tuning and stick with it until you get a hankering to try another!  :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Melanie Cook
Melanie Cook
@melanie-cook
6 days ago
10 posts

Thank you, Dusty. Now I understand. I should have realized that before, having played guitar in the past. I think it is helpful to put the chord name above the tab as you say you do on some out your tablature. That way, you see the finger fret placement and at the same time see what chord you are playing. Thank so much for your help!

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 days ago
1,164 posts

Melanie, if you are following the tab of a song and a chord name is indicated on top, you are not supposed to stop playing the tab and play the chord.  The chord is for another instrument (like a guitar or another dulcimer) to accompany you.  The chances are, you are already playing that chord.  For example, if you are stumming across the strings in DAd, and you move from the open melody string up to the second fret, and then to the fourth fret, you are already playing D chords.  If you want to sing the song and play chords, by all means follow those chordal indications. But if you are playing tab, just play the tab.

For a long time I did not put chords in my tablature.  But over time I got frustrated that people in my local dulcimer group could play 3-1-0 if it were in the tablature, but if I asked them to play a G chord, they had no idea how to do it!  So I started putting the chord names in so that they would understand what chords they were playing when they followed the tab. 




--
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
Melanie Cook
Melanie Cook
@melanie-cook
6 days ago
10 posts

Thank you, Dusty!! Yes, so far my dulcimer has been fairly respectful! :)  I think what throws me is to see tab with the chord symbol written on top. When I played guitar and sang with it, I played the chord at the proper time and all was good. But to play the melody note - sometimes the chord on top is impossible. I like your idea of experimenting. I think I'm going to give my ducimer (the one tuned in DAd) a name so we can be friends. Thanks again.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 days ago
1,164 posts

@Melanie-Cook, if you are playing across all the strings and have a 6+ fret, neither DAA nor DAd is better.  They are basically the same in the sense that you have exactly the same notes at your disposal.  It is true, however, that these days more dulcimer tab and instruction is created for DAd, so you will have more support if you learn that tuning.

Drone style players need to get used to re-tuning to be able play tunes in different modes, but those of us who fret across the strings can usually get those modes without retuning.

Unless your dulcimer points its fingers at you and laughs whenever you make a mistake, there is no reason to be intimidated. Frustrated, yes, we all get frustrated.  But not intimidated.  I think your plan is fine.  Learn some tunes by following tab written by others.  But also take time to just find melodies by ear on your own.  As you learn the chord shapes (there aren't that many of them) you will know what your options are for finding the right chord to play with a note.  But you should also experiment.  Once you find a melody note, try to find a note on another string that sounds good with it.  You don't have too many options since your hand can't reach that far.  Once you have found that one harmony note, see if you can find another on the third string.  And remember that in DAA, the middle and the melody strings are tuned the same, so you can always use the same fret, and in DAd, the bass and middle are an octave apart, so you can always use the same fret.

 




--
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
Melanie Cook
Melanie Cook
@melanie-cook
one week ago
10 posts

Thanks for these answers! I have been working with my dulcimer for a couple years and I still struggle with playing either DAA or DAd. In my mind, I'm thinking that I need to learn both but my senior mind is just not comfortable with learning chords in DAA and in DAd. Since I primarily want to play chord melody, I'm thinking DAd is best for a beginner/novice. I want to play with tab but also to just pick out a melody and then figure out the chords to go with it. For some reason, this instrument just intimidates me and I'm very frustrated!  Any suggestions?

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
one month ago
111 posts
BRAVO! Between Dusty and Ken you have great answers!
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,164 posts

Ronald, you are actually asking two questions here.  The first has to do with traditional dulcimer styles and the second about modern, chord style players.

As Ken has explained, traditionally, the dulcimer was only fretted on the melody string and the bass and middle strings were left to drone. Many fine players still play in that style and achieve the haunting, ancient sound of traditional folk music.  In that style of play, the tuning of the melody string has to change depending on the mode or scale on which the melody of a particular song is based.  DAA and DAd are the two "major-sounding" tunings. Before the addition of the 6+ fret, DAA was the only tuning that could be used to play songs in what we call the major scale, so it was more common.  The addition of the 6+ fret allows us to play that same scale in DAd, but as Ken mentions, if you only play on the melody string, DAA allows three notes below the starting note of the scale. 

But if you play in the traditional drone style, you don't just keep one tuning all the time. The tuning is determined by the melody.  In the key of D, Angelina Baker can only be played in DAA.  Going to Boston can only be played in DAd.  Shady Grove can only be played in DAC, and so forth.

Modern chord players who fret across all the strings and also have a 6+ fret can often (though not always) get those different melodies without retuning.  But both DAA and DAd have exactly the same notes, so neither one has an advantage in that light. Rather the difference between the two has to do with chord voicings.  Chords in DAA are more compact and chords in DAd have greater range, meaning the notes might come from two different octaves.  But one is not better than the other.

At some point a few decades ago, dulcimers tuned DAd with a 6+ fret became a kind of standard for modern dulcimer players.  That is how I play, but there is admittedly something rather arbitrary about it. Had most people tuned DAA when I started playing, that would probably be my main tuning.




--
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
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
one month ago
111 posts
Thank you, Ken Longfield. Great answer.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,647 posts

As my friend Ken says, the major advantage of DAA (Ionian Mode key of D), where the scale starts at the 3rd fret, is to provide the player with three notes below the 'low do' of the scale -- a feature found in many many folk songs from around the world.  

Not everyone wants to have different notes on the same fret, so there's no "robbing" of notes.  More traditional players use the unfretted middle and bass drones -- as drones -- to provide a background for the melody being played on the Melody string(s).  The Unison tuning -- ddd -- has all string tuned to the same high d of DAd, which give a sort of "bee buzz" effect.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
627 posts

In DAA you have three notes below the starting note of the scale. In DAd you have to grab those notes on the middle string. Although no one know who originated the double melody string, we suppose it was to increase the melody line of a tune. DAd makes it easy to play tunes across the fretboard rather than in the linear pattern of DAA. If you play noter/drone style you still have the same drone notes in both tunings.

We don't have dumb questions here. We ask questions to learn and grow. There is nothing dumb about that. Please feel to ask questions for which you do not have answers. We do our best to answer them.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

RonD
RonD
@rond
one month ago
10 posts

Hello, what is the purpose of having two strings ( or three if double melody)  in DAA as oppose to DAD.

Doesn't having these two strings  at the same pitch rob the instrument of the possibility of different notes on the same fret unlike DAD.  If this is a dumb question let me know as I am starting and trying to learn as much as I can.

Ronald


updated by @rond: 11/11/19 08:29:01PM