Melanie -- send me a PM with your email address, I can't seem to get you 'friended' for some reason. I have PDFs of two of your songs so far -- Star of County Down and Wayfaring Stranger.
Actually, all four of those tunes can be played from DAA. Although I admit Shady Grove and Wayfaring Stranger sound much better played in Aeolian DAC (first note of the scale starts on fret 1) which (as minor tunes) is where they are intended to be played. I play primarily by ear, and don't collect tab, but I'll put those four tunes together in DAA for you.
Danny Boy is almost the perfect Ionian tune fitting between the 1st and 12th frets, ending on fret 3. I learned Star of County Down from an old Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brother's album.
One of the "things" about Noter & Drone [layers is that we're not afraid to change tunings to fit the song. We know it's only a matter of changing the pitch of 1 string! Chord-Melody players try to play virtually everything from DAd.
The noter certainly adds a certain 'flavor' to the dulcimer sound, like nothing else.
Fingerdance is much the same as Noter & Drone -- in that you play the melody on the melody string(s) only while the drones hummmm along. The sound is different because your finger absorbs sound differently than a noter does. FWIW you can't play "Noter & Drone style" by fretting with your finger. A Noter is a separate object held in the hand; not part of the hand itself. It's not just a matter of semantics but also the performance of certain techniques like slides, pull-offs, hammer-ones etc..
Thanks, Ken . My very favorite Celtic-type song is Star of the County Down. I'd love to learn Danny Boy (Londonderry). As far as Americana-type, Shady Grove and Poor Wayfaring Stranger. Is it even possible to play them with DAA? I'm guessing I can with Shady Grove maybe. Thanks for the link. I'll be checking that out. Dusty has sent me Sweet Hour of Prayer for DAD. I'm fascinated with noter drone and I think I'm going to tune to DAA for a while and see how it goes. Fingerdance style sounds interesting! I appreciate any help you can give me!
Melanie -- Sorry to hear about your information overload. When I started there wasn't much more than Jean Ritchie's first book. No internet. No overload! I had to make my first dulcimer so I could learn to play it. I taught myself Noter & Drone and have stayed with it ever since. I play primarily Scottish Celtic and Americana type music.
As Dusty suggests, put down the books, pick up your dulcimer, and play. Since you want to go with N&D and Celtic and simple (yes the dulcimer really is "simple" to learn if you want to play Noter & Drone or Fingerdance style); then tune to DAA and between you and Dusty and I and a couple others we'll get you well on your way.
Don't worry about Dorian Mode or capos or anything right now. The majority of the music you want to play can be played right from DAA. Dorian and Aeolian and Mixolydian mode are "special case" tunings for a limited number of songs in the world of English and Scottish Popular Ballads as Francis James Child called them in the 1880s when he collected over 300 of them with their American variations.
If you tell us a couple of your favorite Celtic or Americana songs we'll have something to work together with you. Feel free to send me a PM here so I can help you most efficiently.
PS. I know I said put down the books, but there is a little booklet/essay I wrote a number of years back called Get Noterized -- all about how to choose and use a stick to make beautiful music. You can find it here:
Ken Hulme's "Get Noterized!" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com
Thanks, Dusty. Yes, I can tune my dulcimer and read tabs. I can play some basic chords - D, A, G. One of my dulcimers has a 6+ fret and the other a 1+. I love the traditional tunes and some Celtic which seems to be needing a different mode like Dorian or a capo. I appreciate your wisdom and any help you have!
Melanie, you deserve credit for trying to learn as much as you can about the dulcimer. Kudos to you. But you should also know that you don't have to know anything about modes or about hammer-ons or about chords to play music on the dulcimer.
Don't even worry about tunings. If you want to eventually play chord/melody and your dulcimer has a 6+ fret, then tune DAd. Don't even think about other tunings until you are comfortable playing a half dozen songs or more. If you want to play in a drone style, then tune DAA and don't think about other tunings for a while.
I just have two questions for you. Can you tune your dulcimer? Do you know how to read tablature. If the answer to both of those questions is "yes," then send me a personal message and I'll give you tab that will teach you a few simple tunes in an easy, step-by-step manner. It starts with one note per beat, only strumming out, and only fretting the melody string. Then each version adds just one extra step until eventually you are playing a song with varied rhythm and chords.
If you don't know how to read tablature, let me know that, too. I can share something that will explain it.
I strongly recommend that you think less and play more. I know it's not that simple, but my guess is that if you just start playing some of the information you've tried to learn now will eventually make sense.
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Perhaps it's my senior brain but I'm getting so frustrated with learning to play my dulcimer. I began learning, wanting to know everything about this wonderful instrument, all the theory, the modes, chord progressions etc). But it just isn't clicking. I thought I wanted to play chord/melody style but I'm finding that my short fingers and slightly arthritic hands make chords difficult. I have a 26" VSL and don't want to go smaller. Then there are hammer-ons, pull-offs etc. The modes and tuning totally throw me. I've begun to think that I'm on information overload. I follow several very good dulcimer instructors, but each has their own way of doing things and seem to teach above my head at the moment. I've come to the conclusion that noter style may be a better fit for me. I've been reading up and listening to Jean Ritchie lately and I think that the traditional and Celtic style songs are what draw me in.
Does anyone have any suggestions for me to learn? I found Strumelia's blog with her suggestion to begin at the beginning of the blog (2009). That looks helpful. I really think that getting comfortable with the different tunings may be important, even if I stayed with noter drone.
I read when I first started that the mountain dulcimer was one of the easiest instruments to learn to play. I can pick out a tune by ear but I want to do so much more. What am I doing to make ti seem so difficult?