Ionian tuning question

jost
@jost
2 weeks ago
66 posts

Well I couldn read music notation either when I started with the dulcimer since I also started with cowboy chords on the guitar.
The good thing is that you don't need this since dulcimer tabulature is so easy to read (just press the noter or finger on the fret number of the indicated string). 

I'm pleased to hear that you are making progress now, happy playing


updated by @jost: 08/02/22 10:43:35PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks for ALL of that, jost.  I have been playing more (my wife finally noticed, so that's a telltale sign right there).  The disadvantage I have with notation, music theory, tabs, etc. is my inability to read music.  I can pick out notes on a scale if you give me enough time, and I can see Jean Ritchie's indications of how to tune the dulcimer in her book on each song, but I can't read music well enough to make sense of anything else.  I've learned guitar ("cowboy chords"), ukulele and Native American flute mainly by ear, and am old enough to have picked up the guitar during the folk scare of the early sixties, giving me a wealth of tunes in my head that I'm beginning to be able to pick out by ear.

As I'm finally beginning to master tuning with wooden pegs, and figuring out which strings and tuning sound good on my instrument, I'm "worrying" less and playing more, as has been suggested.  Thanks

jost
@jost
2 weeks ago
66 posts

In my college days in Germany some fellow students and I  used to have a proverb: "Everything has already been said, but not yet by me" ("Es wurde bereits alles gesagt, aber noch nicht von mir"). It was used to make fun of people who love to hear themselves talk. At the risk of being one here some further thoughts:

First: I agree totally with Ken that you should stop worrying and start playing. I too was quite confused at the beginning  from reading to much about modes/tunings etc pp until I started just playing in Ionian tuning (DAA / CGG). I used tabs from Jean Ritchies Dulcimer book and Gamses "Best dulcimer method yet", later from Strumelias excellent blog.
At some point I wanted to try to play songs in a minor key and just used the given tuning (after some help from this forum). 
Continuing this I ended up playing songs in different tunings for different modes and somehow the whole mode/music theory stuff started to make sense because I heard the musical relation between the different strings. I also started to hear when the tuning sound wrong (still not good enough to tune by ear). 

It just needs time, so stop worrying and start playing. Before I played dulcimer I already messed round with chords on my guitar so I was quite confused by all this theoretical stuff. Why couldn't I just have some chords and started playing?
It got better when I realised, that noter/drone doesn't need chords so is actually easier for beginners but the price is that you need to learn some tunings. 

Second: For actually doing this two other books might be helpful  (they definitively were for me!):
First Neal Hellman's dulcimer chord book. Although it's for chord playing it was a big help for me when I started playing noter/drone. Why? Because he also has a big introduction of the several tunings and modes, something most chord instruction books don't cover. He need to do this however since he also gives chords for different tunings to give his readers and students more options in their repertoire. 
https://gourd.com/Books.html
Another great one is Mark Nelsons collection of dulcimer tabs for old time songs:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34496115-favorite-old-time-american-songs-for-dulcimer 

He also gives a lot of differnet tunings without getting to theoretical. He just says something like: Use this tuning for this song or any other tuning for the mode. 
Although many of the tabs are for chord style there are one for noter/drone too (I learnt The Cuckoo and Wedding dress from his tab). And like Hellman he uses chords for different modes, to give his readers more options. 

Although I'm strictly a noter/drone player I would recommend both books to any beginner (with Jean Ritchies Dulcimer Book and Dulcimer People which you already have) no matter which style they actually want to approach.

Just my two cents.

Best regards, Jost.


updated by @jost: 08/02/22 02:08:47PM
Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
340 posts

Da book, da book!!

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

[quote="Strumelia"]

Of course, if you can't sing either of those songs, you're in trouble. lolol

Well then bim-bim-BOM wouldn't help either!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

Of course, if you can't sing either of those songs, you're in trouble. lolol




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,592 posts

"Do you hear what I hear" is "My dog has fleas" for the dulcimer!  Thanks for sharing that, @john-w-mckinstry.




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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.
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Stanley Adams
Stanley Adams
@stanley-adams
2 weeks ago
3 posts

Hey i like that Do you hear what i hear trick too! 

John W. McKinstry
John W. McKinstry
@john-w-mckinstry
2 weeks ago
39 posts

Glad you liked it.  It sort of comforting in a day when otherwise we are dependent on electronics to harken back to simpler times. Speaking of which, I just found out that you can dial an app. on your Smartphone called, Cleartune. You then place the phone on your dulcimer to tune it.  Needless to say, I am not a techie and will stick with my Korg Tuner or the old reliable, "Do you hear what I hear?"

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

John, that is so coooool!!! I'll remember that one and use it. music




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

John W. McKinstry:

Responding to Royb and others looking for a simple way to tune to DAa or DAd, I found the suggestion of Joe Collins, a noted dulcimer teacher, very helpful. In his book: "Dulcimer Basics, A Mt. Dulcimer Primer",he suggests that in the sung phrase, "Do you hear what I hear.." in the Christmas carol, are the notes or intervals needed for DAd or DAa.

"Do you"=D (bass string);  "hear what"=A (middle string); "I"=d (melody string for DAd) and "hear"=(a)meldody string) DAa.  Used with permission from Joe.  Hope this is helpful. John

Thanks John.  An interesting alternative to bim-bim-BOM!

John W. McKinstry
John W. McKinstry
@john-w-mckinstry
2 weeks ago
39 posts

Responding to Royb and others looking for a simple way to tune to DAa or DAd, I found the suggestion of Joe Collins, a noted dulcimer teacher, very helpful. In his book: "Dulcimer Basics, A Mt. Dulcimer Primer",he suggests that in the sung phrase, "Do you hear what I hear.." in the Christmas carol, are the notes or intervals needed for DAd or DAa.

"Do you"=D (bass string);  "hear what"=A (middle string); "I"=d (melody string for DAd) and "hear"=(a)meldody string) DAa.  Used with permission from Joe.  Hope this is helpful. John

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks Robin. Interesting. I have Kevin Roth's two record instructional but not the booklet that would have come with it.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
2 weeks ago
1,314 posts

Roy B, I have this book, put out by Homespun, and it came with a recording:

https://folkways.si.edu/jean-ritchie/traditional-mountain-dulcimer-taught/book/smithsonian

I am a straight by-ear player and have listened to Jean's instruction (which accompanies the Homespun book) many many times.  There is also an older instructional recording Jean did and it is offered by Smithsonian/Folkways.  If I were only going to have one of them, I'd go with the Homespun.  I only include the link so you can see what it looks like-- I'm thinking I purchased my copy straight from Homespun.      

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Robin, Homespun Instruction? Are you talking about a book or recording?

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
2 weeks ago
1,314 posts

@lisa-golladay Beethoven and Jean Ritchie (from her Homespun instruction tuning description-- not the early Folkways version)!  

@royb I'm not a great player yet have been at it since '05.  Though modes haven't sunk in all the way for me, it hasn't stopped me from making music one bit.  Still enjoying the journey!  Happy strumming to you!  

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks Lisa. I agree with everything you wrote!

Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
2 weeks ago
108 posts

Ironically, the reason I recommend "In Search of..." to beginners is because it gets them tuned up and making music right away. No tab, hardly any theory -- just strum and listen while you play. Not until Chapter 6 do alternate modal tunings show up. So this is a point on which Force and d'Ossche agree with our own Ken H (and also me). Put down the book and play dulcimer

I speak from experience, since I am another person who likes to gobble up information. It's fun to plunge into the deep end, but the only way to really grasp how a dulcimer works is to play it. The modes will make sense eventually, but not until you've been playing for a while. This is especially true for guitarists, most of whom need to let go of their prior training and allow the dulcimer to lead them down some winding roads that don't seem to be going anywhere... yet.

A lot of the old books have "creative" ways to describe tunings. We didn't have electronic tuners and you couldn't always count on having a piano, tuning fork or pitchpipe when you needed it. The "X+3" stuff is confusing and I'm glad we don't need it nowadays. CFCC is a reverse Ionian tuning that puts you in the key of F.

The Beethoven version of the t-shirt would be Bim Bim Bim BOM, wouldn't it?

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
340 posts

I agree with with Ken H.

I do have one last thing to point out, He bases all his tunings as starting on the melody string [being D for example]. The current concept is to base tunings on the bass string. This difference seems to affect the results in various ways.


updated by @skip: 07/31/22 11:51:01AM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

The Cripple Creek dulcimer book instructs one to tune to the key of G for ionian mode, but without using a reverse tuning.

They instruct to tune the bass string to the G below middle C for bass string (G3 in octave labeling), then to the D (D4) right above middle C for the middle and melody strings. (Gddd for ionian key-of-G, as opposed to our typical key-of-D ionian tuning DAAA which has all strings below middle C). 

(Note that this Gddd 'might' strain your bass and middle strings if they are heavy gauge or if you have a long vsl.)




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Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

ocean-daughter:

I do second Dusty's recommendation for reading Jean Ritchie's Dulcimer Book.  She starts from the standpoint of playing traditional melody-drone style.  Not that it's wrong to gobble up all the information you can, I tend to do that as well! 

Another good starting-out book is Cripple Creek Dulcimer, by Bud and Donna Ford.  That's another "somewhat older" book, and it teaches about the various modes and how to tune to them.  As I remember it's less focused on chords. 

Those are some of the books I cut my dulcimer teeth on when I was learning in the mid-90's.  I love the modal tunings.  One thing I like about the 6+ fret is that it gives me two modes in one tuning. 

(By the way, I want a bim-bim-BOM button too!  Or maybe a T-shirt...)

Thanks.  I've probably read Jean Ritchie's book about 4 times now, emphasizing different aspects each time.  I've also enjoyed her "Dulcimer People".  I'll check out Cripple Creek Dulcimer (but don't tell Ken Hulme - he wants me to put down the books and play more ; )

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,974 posts

Roy -- it's your journey -- enjoy.

ocean-daughter
@ocean-daughter
2 weeks ago
37 posts

I do second Dusty's recommendation for reading Jean Ritchie's Dulcimer Book.  She starts from the standpoint of playing traditional melody-drone style.  Not that it's wrong to gobble up all the information you can, I tend to do that as well! 

Another good starting-out book is Cripple Creek Dulcimer, by Bud and Donna Ford.  That's another "somewhat older" book, and it teaches about the various modes and how to tune to them.  As I remember it's less focused on chords. 

Those are some of the books I cut my dulcimer teeth on when I was learning in the mid-90's.  I love the modal tunings.  One thing I like about the 6+ fret is that it gives me two modes in one tuning. 

(By the way, I want a bim-bim-BOM button too!  Or maybe a T-shirt...)

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Dusty, thanks for your very clear explanation.  I may get around to switching string gauge order at some point.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks for your advice, Ken.  I am playing a lot, experimenting with tunings, getting frustrated with my old, wood peg tuners and my (continuously) sharp melody string, both of which I've mentioned elsewhere.  I do have a few songs down in Ionian, and a couple in Mixolydian (although without the 6+ fret that's a bit harder).  I switch back and forth between the 1969 model and my smaller Apple Creek, and am trying different string gauges on both.

However, I am who I am, so when I get into a new hobby or subject, I try to gobble up as much as I can on its history, background, methods, etc.  I am grateful that the dulcimer lends itself to initially sounding decent and playing tunes without much if any instruction or theory, except for YouTube videos (kudos again to Strumelia, and to Bing Futch, among others).

Thanks again. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,592 posts

@RoyB, when I first picked up the dulcimer, I found discussions about modal tunings to be confusing and maddening.  I had a reasonable (though certainly not expert) understanding of music theory but it made no sense to me.  And today, I usually leave discussions about modes to others. I only joined here because your initial question was about an open chord tuning and not really about modes per se.

Why do I find the concept of modal tuning so confusing?  A given tuning is only limited to a single mode if you 1) have no extra frets; and 2) only play the melody on the melody string.  And even then, many folks songs are based on pentatonic (5-note scales) rather than modes, so they still don't correspond to the mode that gives a tuning its name.

Similarly, I found the concept of "reverse" tunings to be wholly unnecessary and confusing.  But the logic is not complicated.  

In the traditional style of drone play, the drones must be the first and fifth notes of the scale. That is why when we tune to the key of D, our bass and middle strings are always D and A respectively, and when we retune, we only change the melody string.  Similarly, in the key of C, the drones must be C and G.

But what if you wanted to play in the key of G?  Your drones would be G and D.  On a standard dulcimer, it would be really hard to tune your bass string to G.  It would either be too floppy to make any noise or you'd break it tuning up.  But what if you switched the order of the drones?  You could easily keep your bass string tuned to D and tune your middle string down from A to G.  Then you tune your melody string to d (an octave above the bass) and instead of a normal GDD tuning, you have a "reversed" DGd tuning.

That's all it is.  A "reverse" tuning just means the drones are reversed.  It's that simple.




--
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
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,974 posts

Roy --- I think you're suffering from information overload!   You're reading In Search of The Wild Dulcimer, which is about as far from Noter & Drone as you can possibly get!  I know.  When I started there was only Jean Ritchie's first book.  Then along came In Search Of... and it just confused the heck out of me.  What Robert does, and what traditional Noter & Drone players do are not quite opposite poles of a magnet.  I've known Robert for years, and am amazed by his skills as a singer-player-songwriter.  But I'm never gonna get within a lightyear of what he does, and decided long ago it wasn't worth bashing my head against the wall in frustration.

I respectfully suggest that you put down the books, forget the theory, and just play.  Spend time getting to know the diatonic fretboard and where the notes are on it and how to move that noter fluidly from place to place. Get half a dozen songs in your repertoire in Ionian and half a dozen more in Mixolydian.  

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Just to beat a dead horse, I've confirmed that Jean Ritchie's book did originally come out in 1963, and John Pearse published a like titled instruction book in 1970.  I am enjoying the 'folksy', personalized writing of Robert Force's book, however.

And Skip, I do understand that the note order doesn't change with the VSL being longer, but his string gauge recommendations and low and high chart for each don't work for me, I don't think.  Thanks

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
340 posts

I think there's a proofing error there. In his description on page 66-67 he writes"~~where the mode's most major-sounding tonality is found. The Ionian mode originally began at the note C on the third fret." Then in the chart on page 109, in the Ionian row, he has C  under 'original tonality' but in the last column does not have a tuning showing the GCgg  [X  X+3 XX] tuning. Instead he has the CFCC tuning. Further down on page 67, he shows X+3 X XX as a newer tuning [what we expect for this mode].

So if he actually strums CFCC expecting a C Chord???

The VSL doesn't affect the note order, the notes remain the same, they just cover more length.  

 C D E F G A B C

  1  2  3 4 5 6  7 8

  C  G  G

   1  5   5


updated by @skip: 07/30/22 10:56:06PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

My poor beginner brain is exploding!  I've hardly learned to tune and play in Ionian and Mixolydian, and still can't wrap my head around the 1-5-5 etc. system, and now you're talking about reverse tunings? :)  I did notice that the book bases everything on a 24" VSL (which concept I was able to transfer from guitar scale length).  My large, older dulcimer is 28.5", as I've mentioned, so it's almost a baritone in VSL, if not build.  I've had to translate some concepts in the book to this longer, larger instrument.

I've been reading the book online, but sometimes you just need to hold a book in your hands, so I ordered a used copy.

Lastly, I was curious about the authors' comment about a lack of instruction books partially motivating them to write theirs.  I haven't read the whole book yet, but didn't they read Jean Ritchie's Dulcimer Book when they started on their journey?  I believe it first came out in 1963 (?), so it should have been readily available when they were writing theirs.  Maybe I should read the site that Strumelia suggested, about the writing of the book.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

Dusty you correctly surmised the reverse tunings in the chart while I was typing my endless novel. yak




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

It's worth reading Robert Force's story about the book:
https://robertforce.com/SongsAndInstruction/InSearchOfTheWildDulcimer.html

And you can read the book itself online here:
https://robertforce.com/SongsAndInstruction/InSearchOfTheWildDulcimer-PDFs.html

NOTES:  in the "Tuning chart" page, at bottom he states the string length as being 24"... quite a short vsl.

He also states the strings as being listed 'from low to high', therefore he writes his mixolydian tuning in the chart from top to bottom: DADD meaning the top D is the low bass string and the two bottom d's are the pair of melody strings. He refers to the melody string s , plural. He lists the gauges as 22(low bass), 12, and 10 (0.22, 0.12, and 0.10)

He's giving DGdd as the tuning for Ionian mode. That's a 'reverse Ionian' tuning for the key of G.

Why that somewhat unusual tuning for playing in ionian mode? I figure this came about because when he tuned to DAAA on a 24" scale with the melody strings being 0.10, they were just too floppy for him to think playable. The third fret on the melody strings in DGdd is a G note, so that's the tonic/key he indicated. But if you tried to tune typically (1-5-5) for ionian in the key of G, you'd tune Gddd. The Bass string would break long before hitting that higher G, and it'd likely be too loose and jangly if tuned to the G below the usual D.  To avoid breaking the bass or middle string is the reason some folks use a 'reverse tuning'- where the tonic low note is instead on the middle string and the heavy string is tuned instead to a fifth below the tonic. The bass and middle string notes get swapped. It saves strings from breaking or from being too low to play.
For the key of G that reverse tuning would then be DGdd as in the chart, with the middle string taking over the job of the tonic low note, the melody strings playing high g tonic on the 3rd fret, and the bass string tuned to a fifth from the tonic (the 5th note in the key of G being a D) but in the lower octave. The bass and middle strings have exchanged duties, and you don't break any strings.

If the scale length of the person mapping out the tuning chart had been a more typical 26-28" length, then the normal key of D ionian tuning of DAAA would have worked fine. OR, it also would have also worked fine in DAAA on a 24" scale if he had put heavier strings on.
It's little wonder folks tuned up from the key of C to the key of D if they were making or playing 24" scale dulcimers. I also notice he has the chart use the key of E for aeolian mode. I think a lot of this was to accommodate that short 24" scale whoever wrote the chart was working with, assuming they didn't want to try changing to heavier strings for whatever reasons.

Robert's intro clearly states that he (and others he was working with) didn't really know much of anything about dulcimers or how they were traditionally played when they started having fun with them. They experimented, improvised, adapted, and learned as they went along.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,592 posts

I think those tunings listed in the back of the book would be considered "reverse" ionian tunings, correct? CFCC, for example, is an Ionian tuning in the key of F.  What is reversed are the drones, with the 5th on the bass sting and the root on the middle string.




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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.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

That's wild!




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Dan
Dan
@dan
2 weeks ago
164 posts

Bravo @royb!!!

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

To return to my original question, concerning Ionian tuning and In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, I just found my answer, as to why Robert Force said Ionian doesn't sound good in open tuning.  At the back of the book he's got a "Range and Tuning Guide".  Under Ionian, he lists the notes as CFCC, DGDD or EAEE (with doubled melody strings).  My understanding from every other source is that Ionian would be CGGG, DAAA, etc..  None of his other named modes matches my understanding of the Ionian intervals.  Don't know where he got this one, but it would explain his opinion about open tuning in his version of this mode.  Now we can all sleep tonight :)

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
2 weeks ago
1,314 posts

To complicate matters, as I recall, one of Jean Ritchie's instructional recordings has Jean telling how her dad, Balis, told to tune the dulcimer "Bim, bim, bom," and on another recording, she has him saying to tune "Bim, bim, bim , bom."  Both mean the bass is tuned then the other strings (whether 2 strings or 3) are tuned to the 5th above the bass.  Love me some Jean Ritchie! sun

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

You know, I have to tell all of you - I also belong to the Acoustic Guitar Forum, and this group is a lot better, with way more enjoyable interaction.  Maybe dulcimer players do actually have more fun! And I am enjoying how my original Ionian tuning question has morphed into selling buttons at zero profit and building dulcimers for the experience, with "meager" return.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 weeks ago
315 posts

Lisa, that's the very secret of success in dulcimer-building!   Spend lots on tools, equipment and lumber, and you'll get a guaranteed meager return!  It's the (modern) American way!

Dan
Dan
@dan
2 weeks ago
164 posts

Strumelia:


Dan:


You aint' got none posted for sale yet? I'll take one....



How to make $20 by selling dulcimer buttons:
Start by spending $70 to make and mail a dozen of them.


biglaugh



Well, maybe I could invest the tens of dollars I make with Dulcimore making and start me a button making empire? lol

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

Dan:

You aint' got none posted for sale yet? I'll take one....



How to make $20 by selling dulcimer buttons:
Start by spending $70 to make and mail a dozen of them.


biglaugh




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dan
Dan
@dan
2 weeks ago
164 posts

Strumelia:

I really think there should be a button one could wear that just says: bim bim BOM.

You aint' got none posted for sale yet? I'll take one....

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
340 posts

Two buttons, bim Bim Bom and bim bim Bom.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

[quote="Strumelia"]

I really think there should be a button one could wear that just says: bim bim BOM.

I'd wear one!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

I really think there should be a button one could wear that just says: bim bim BOM.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dan
Dan
@dan
2 weeks ago
164 posts

[quote="RoyB"]

[quote="ocean-daughter"]

I think some of the dulcimer renaissance pioneers developed their own ways of thinking and talking about theory and dulcimer playing.  For instance Force and d'Ossche playing the dulcimer with it "sideways" on a strap, though they still fretted and strummed "overhand" like lap players would.  And I've heard people refer to tunings as "AAD" or "CAD", treble to bass.

Thanks, I'm starting to figure that out, as I read more about the dulcimer, especially from older sources.  I did note that Jean Ritchie, for one, would indicate GGC, where today we'd say CGG.

[/quote]

And Jeans daddy Balis, "you tune her like this: Bim - bim - BOM."

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

[quote="ocean-daughter"]

I think some of the dulcimer renaissance pioneers developed their own ways of thinking and talking about theory and dulcimer playing.  For instance Force and d'Ossche playing the dulcimer with it "sideways" on a strap, though they still fretted and strummed "overhand" like lap players would.  And I've heard people refer to tunings as "AAD" or "CAD", treble to bass.

Thanks, I'm starting to figure that out, as I read more about the dulcimer, especially from older sources.  I did note that Jean Ritchie, for one, would indicate GGC, where today we'd say CGG.

ocean-daughter
@ocean-daughter
2 weeks ago
37 posts

I think some of the dulcimer renaissance pioneers developed their own ways of thinking and talking about theory and dulcimer playing.  For instance Force and d'Ossche playing the dulcimer with it "sideways" on a strap, though they still fretted and strummed "overhand" like lap players would.  And I've heard people refer to tunings as "AAD" or "CAD", treble to bass.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Strumelia, I think the Seagull Merlin was developed for guitar players who wanted to try playing dulcimer.  I've tried them in the past, but never got comfortable with one, despite my years on guitar.  Somehow, I've taken pretty easily to noter dulcimer playing, with the instrument on my lap, Jean Ritchie style (and many thanks for your YouTube videos for tutorials).

I actually have two instruments - the 1969 28" VSL and an Apple Creek ACD100 24".  The latter has the 6+ fret, which, mainly tuning in Ionian and playing songs from Pete Seeger's American Favorite Ballads, I haven't had much use for as yet.  That book guided me through my first years on guitar, so I'm back to it now for dulcimer.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
2 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks, Skip.  No need to hide.  "The confusion I'm feeling, ain't no time can tell".  That's exactly why I started the thread in the first place.  I did write to Bob Force, and await his response.

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 weeks ago
340 posts

I've read his chapters on tuning, Mixolydian mode, and other modes and I'm uncomfortable with his approach to "music theory", which is what this thread is about, what's in his book. It seems to be a mixed bag of concepts and, maybe, opinions. 

This feeling is based on everything y'all have taught me along with a lot of time researching and thinking.

Now I'm gonna go hide. duck  


updated by @skip: 07/28/22 03:53:18PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,073 posts

I agree with Dusty's thoughts in his last post below. As a banjo player, and as I'm sure many guitar players also know, there are 'open tunings' that create a satisfying tonic-note-heavy resolved sound when strummed across all open strings. Fiddlers sometimes use open tunings as well, in order to play tunes heavy on paired drone bowing- they call them cross tunings. In the dulcimer, DAd is such an open tuning, while DAA (for playing in ionian mode) is less so... until you fret the melody string on 3rd fret to create that high D note... and then it's not an 'open strum'.
Many of the young people during the 1960s folk revival who were discovering playing the mountain dulcimer started playing folk music on guitar. The use of a tuning like DAd that both facilitated making chords, playing barr chords, and which had an open/unfretted tonic chord... I imagine was naturally appealing to them.
They added the 6+ fret so they could play popular American folk songs from the newly favored 1-5-8 open string tuning. They also enjoyed turning their dulcimers up on the side to play them in guitar fashion, sometimes hanging them on straps and playing while standing up performing or jamming, and some even played them 'underhand' with their left hand wrapped around to the fretboard from underneath like guitar players do as well. They adjusted the dulcimer and its playing traditions to serve more modern needs.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
340 posts

I can't explain why, but I think the first 4 pages of chapter 4 have a big impact on this subject. It's a whole new way of looking at modes [for me, at least]. It's going to take awhile to digest.

I haven't figured out how the Ionian comment fits yet, probably never will. I don't think the current mode applications [theory?] apply though. He's coming at it from a different angle.

X X+3 XX is his take on DAd tuning. He starts on the melody string[s] [XX] then middle [X+3], then X an octave lower.

I downloaded the book from his site.


updated by @skip: 07/27/22 05:02:41PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
3 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks, Ken.  Although I've been singing and playing guitar for many years, music theory in any form has always alluded me, for some reason.  I did see the book is on Robert Force's website, but I've been reading it on Open Library, which I found a bit more reader friendly.  I may contact him about my question, though.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,974 posts

CGG and DAA are both Ionian Modal Tunings.  Instead of letters some folks use numbers to indicate the Modes generically -- rather than saying "CGG and DAA" the say  1-5-5 to indicate that 1 is 'whatever' bass note, and the Middle drone and Melody strings are both tuning "a fifth above" -- that is 5 note higher than the Bass note.  

Likewise DAd and CGc are both Mixolydian Modal tunes designated numerically 1-5-8.  The Middle drone is "a fifth above" and the Melody string is "an octave above" the Bass string. 

The other two commonly used Modal Tunings are Dorian -- numbered 1-5-4, and Aeolian -- numbered 1-5-7.  In Dorian tunings the Melody string is tuned "four notes higher" than the Bass.  In Aeolian the Melody string is tuned "7 notes higher" than the Bass string.

As an aside, you can always ask Robert Force what he meant directly.  He's still around and doing at least some Festivals.  In Search of... is available free online at www.robertforce.com.  Use the Contact to reach him directly.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
3 weeks ago
49 posts

In reading and rereading their x x+4 x x notation method, I'm not positive that their Ionian is my Ionian. CGG would not be notated the way they've written it, I don't think. In any event, you've confirmed what my ears heard - Ionian and Mixolydian sound fine when played open.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,592 posts

By the way, I just found that comment in the book and am still not sure what they mean by it.  Perhaps the idea is that the open strum in an ionian tuning does not include a "do" on the melody string. As someone who usually tunes to a 1-5-8 or mixolydian tuning, I can attest to how how nice it is to be able finish most songs by lifting up your fretting hand entirely and just resolving to an open strum.  The open strum in an ionian tuning sounds just fine as a chord but doesn't resolve the melody to the root or do the way our modern ears prefer.




--
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
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
3 weeks ago
49 posts

Thanks Dusty. After years of guitar playing I can hear a dissonant chord.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,592 posts

I'm not sure what Force and d'Ossché intend with that comment, but both CGG (ionian) or CGc (mixolydian) tunings give us "partial" chords with the open strings.  Both have the root (do) and the fifth (sol) but not the third (mi).

In short, strumming your open CGG strings should sound just fine.




--
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: 07/27/22 12:23:42PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
3 weeks ago
49 posts

I've been reading In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, and under the tuning mode section it says a disadvantage of Ionian is the lack of an open strum. Is that right? I know that do is on the third fret, but I thought CGG as open tuning sounded ok? Thanks


updated by @royb: 07/31/22 11:10:22AM