Basic Tuning Question

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Dusty - Great information. Thank you. I've been playing around with DAD and DGD and I've found I prefer DGD. For me the chord shapes seem easier to finger for the most part, through the first five frets anyway, and the melody string integrates easier. But I'm a rank newbie so it may change in time. Thanks for the help.

Brad

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
4 months ago
1,712 posts

Brad Richard: Just out of curiosity, why is DAD tuning so popular?
 


I think there are two questions there, Brad. The first is why tuning to D became standard and the second is why DAd (or 1-5-8 or the mixolydian tuning) is so common.


I'm pretty sure that once upon a time, people would tune a dulcimer to whatever tone resonated most saliently in that given dulcimer.  They would "hoo in the hole," literally hum into the soundhole, find a tone that sounded really special, and tune to that.  Later on, I think tuning to C was most common, and to be honest, I wish we still tuned to C because it would make explaining music theory so much easier.  But I think around the time of the dulcimer renaissance in the late 60s or early 70s, people began tuning to D to play with fiddles, since there are so many fiddle tunes in D (and A -- It's those pesky guitar and banjo players who like playing in G).


In traditional drone play, you have to change the tuning of your melody string depending on the mode or scale of the melody you are playing.  In the key of D, the four most common tunings are DAA, DAd, DAC, and DAG.  The first two sound major and the latter two sound kind of minor.


When the 6+ fret became common--and it's pretty standard these days--a player could play in the mixolydian (DAd) or ionian (DAA) modes without re-tuning. How convenient!


You will often hear that chording is easier in DAd than in DAA.  I do not believe that the simple act of playing a chord is easier in one tuning than the other. And I actually prefer the sound of chords in DAA better than in DAd. They are more compact and more coherent.


This is only a theory, but I think playing melody & chords together is easier in DAd because out of one chord position you can reach a greater range of notes, basically three frets' worth.  The whole trick to chord/melody style is to be able to capture the melody out of chord positions with a minimum of hand movement.  And DAd simply gives us a greater tonal range out of any one hand position.  Anyway, that's my theory.


I happen to play in DAd 90 percent of the time because that was the most common tuning when I first started playing and I want to be able to play by instinct as much as possible, so that a musical idea goes from my head (or my heart) to my fingers with no hesitation, something that is much easier if you stick to one tuning. I also have a 1+ fret on my main playing dulcimers and find that with the 1+ and 6+, there is rarely a melody I can't get.


But I would never say that one tuning is superior to another.  DAd happens to be the most common these days, and that's why I started with it.  Now it's comfortable.  When I tune to other tunings, I have to think about what I'm doing, and who wants to do that?!dancecool




--
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: 11/04/23 02:35:53PM
Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Dusty, I see what you mean about the chromatic template. Thanks for the help. 

Just out of curiosity, why is DAD tuning so popular?

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
4 months ago
1,712 posts

Brad, I would suggest not using a chromatic template to map chords for the diatonic fretboard.  It might suffice for now as a quick reference to find a specific chord, but it will hinder your long-term understanding of the fretboard.  As I mentioned early on in this discussion, one of the challenges with chord shapes on the dulcimer is that they change from major chords to minor chords as you move up and down the fretboard. In order to begin understanding why that happens, you have to see where those fat and skinny frets are.  Using a chromatic template will make it harder to learn the layout of the fretboard and how those chord shapes work more generally.




--
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: 12/16/23 11:57:21AM
Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Nate, I like your attitude! I'm always putzing around with different projects and I enjoy the process of coming up with a solution (oftentimes not real elegant, but.....). I actually bought a couple of screws to make one, but decided it's easier to just buy one.

You've inspired me to think a little more outside the box so it's off to the workbench to see what I can come up with.

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Dusty - I know the frets look chromatic, but pretend they're diatonic and it will work. I didn't name each note, I'm just showing the note placement for each chord at each fret. I made it up for my use so it's probably less confusing for me, but I thought I'd just put it out there. If I'd found the Strumbly chart I probably wouldn't have bothered. But then I wouldn't have posted and wouldn't have gotten your pun!smiler

Brad

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
4 months ago
229 posts

Brad Richard:

Dusty - Thank you! That works for me. Off to pick up a capo.

 

Hey Brad, don't forget that dulcimer capos work a bit differently than guitar capos. Plenty of folks make nice dulcimer capos, but you can also use a pencil/chopstick/crochet hook fastened to the fretboard with a piece of string tied around the box of the dulcimer. I personally use a C clamp with a wine bottle cork super glued to the side of it

Nate

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
4 months ago
1,712 posts

Brad, I'm having trouble with your chord chart since you appear to be using a guitar template.  I can get past the 6 strings, but that chart shows chromatic frets.  Are you playing a dulcimer with chromatic frets?  That changes everything.

You might just Google "dulcimer chord chart DGd" and see what you get.  Here is one chart and here is another. I'm sure there are others out there.

And remember that the easiest way to get your I - IV - V chords on a dulcimer in an open tuning is to use the bar chords.  So if you are tuned DGD, then 000 is G,  333 is C and 444 is D.  Of course, those are only partial chords, but they can help when you're in a jam. (Like that pun?nerd2 )




--
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
Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Haven't gotten a capo yet, but I made myself some basic chord diagrams in D-G-D tuning. Thought I'd attach it. Please let me know of any mistakes, suggestion, etc.

Brad

Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

Dusty - Thank you! That works for me. Off to pick up a capo.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
4 months ago
1,712 posts

Brad, if you are tuned DGD, you are in what is basically an open G tuning.  It will be pretty easy to play common tunes in G.

You can also play common tunes in G in a DAd tuning, but you have to pay attention.  If you don't have a 1+ fret, you can't play a C chord down by the nut and will have to play 3-4-6 or 6-6-8 or something like that.

However, I regularly play in G out of a DAd tuning with a capo on the 3rd fret.  You can also put the capo at the 4th fret to play in A. And if you have to play in C, you can quickly tune down to CGc (another reason to play with 3 strings and not 6 is the ease of tuning!)  This approach allows you to play in the 4 common keys (C, D, G, A) at folk, old timey, and bluegrass jams.

A few years ago I made this video demonstrating how to play in G and A with a capo tuned DAd.




--
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
Brad Richard
Brad Richard
@brad-richard
4 months ago
13 posts

The jams I play at do mostly songs in the key of G. Would a D-G-D tuning be better that a D-A-D or some other? Or does it matter?