Derik Palmer
Derik Palmer
@derik-palmer
one month ago
4 posts

Thank you guys for all your pointers. Ken, I downloaded that essay and its told me a lot - many thanks. I retuned my dulcimer to DAA and had a play which was instructive but for now I've put it back to DAD because most of the instructional material I've seen seems to be for that tuning; I'll explore other tunings once I've got the basics under my belt. Its certainly making some very pretty sounds!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,812 posts

Derek -- this essay I wrote years ago may help:   I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?

https://fotmd.com/comment/download/comment_file/151539/I%20Just%20Got%20A%20Dulcimer%202016.pdf

Skip
Skip
@skip
one month ago
281 posts

 Derik, you need to start at the third fret to get the scale you are expecting. The reason is the frets [excluding any half or plus frets] are laid out in mode patterns. In other words, each set of 8 consecutive frets [including the nut/0 fret] form a series of tones/semi tones [steps half steps]. This allows or supports. listing the eight notes in an octave to begin with each of the the notes in turn, eg., ABC#DEF#G [mixolydian pattern] or DEF#GABC#  [ionian pattern], etc, each series being a different tone/semi tone order. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,417 posts

If it sounds half as nice as it looks, you got a great deal on that dulcimer, Derik!  Michael Fluegge is a well respected luthier.




--
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
Derik Palmer
Derik Palmer
@derik-palmer
one month ago
4 posts

Thank you both! I never actually thought there was something 'wrong' with the dulcimer... much more likely that it's my lack of knowledge. Nevertheless I'm reassured that there's a workaround - this is all learning and thats what I want - I have a VERY low boredom threshold...

And its nice to know that I haven't wasted my money; after all, I parted with a hundred pounds for this lovely thing... including its polished wooden case... I think I got a bargain!

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,417 posts

Derik, this is not a problem, at least not in the sense that there is anything wrong. What you have is a traditional diatonic fretboard.  I have not seen the video by Brett Ridgway to which you refer, but he was surely playing a dulcimer to which a 6-1/2 (or 6+) fret had been added.  There is nothing wrong with your dulcimer. That is how traditional dulcimers were fretted.

To find the major scale, tune DAA and start on the third fret of the melody string.  Going up the fretboard, it will be obvious.  Don't skip any frets.

Alternatively, you could tune DAd and start on the open string (which is what I assume you were doing). But instead of playing the 6th fret, play the 9th fret on the middle string.  Then complete the scale on the 7th fret of the melody string.

The traditional method of playing the dulcimer involves leaving the bass and middle strings to drone and playing the melody on the (you guessed it!) melody string.  In that style of play, you re-tune the melody string to get the right mode for the song you are playing.  So a song that uses the major scale (ionian mode) you would tune 1-5-5 (or DAA in the key of D).  But for other songs, such as Old Joe Clark or Going to Boston, which use the lowered 7th (mixolydian mode), you would tune 1-5-8 (or DAd in the key of D), and for others that sound kind of "minor" such as Shady Grove you would tune 1-5-7 (aeolian mode or DAC in the key of D). And so forth.

A lot of modern players (such as myself) play dulcimers with the extra fret added, but many traditional players prefer the original diatonic fretboard such as the one you have.  Theoretically, you could have someone add that extra fret to your dulcimer, but please contemplate not doing that.  What you have looks to be a stunningly beautiful instrument (I love the purfling and the ebony overlay!), and you may want to keep it in its original form.

Even if you decide not to limit yourself to traditional modal music and the traditional melody/drone style of play, you do not need to add that extra fret. As I've suggested above, the note you get with the 6+ fret on the melody string is found elsewhere, so there are always workarounds.




--
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: 03/14/21 01:56:35PM
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
one month ago
1,163 posts

Your instrument is gorgeous and there is nothing wrong with it-- the fretting pattern is a pure diatonic pattern.  Tune the dulcimer this way:  the string farthest away from you (on the bass side) to D and the middle string and melody strings to the A above the bass string.  Then, begin playing the major scale at fret 3 on the melody string.   


updated by @robin-thompson: 03/14/21 01:44:37PM
Derik Palmer
Derik Palmer
@derik-palmer
one month ago
4 posts

So, following on from my post in the 'Introduce Yourself' forum here is the dulcimer I bought earlier this week. Its beautifully built and I know enough about other instruments to recognise real luthier crftsmanship when I see it. According to the label inside it was built by Michael Fluegge in April 1983 and is an H6 model, no, 83.

I have had a look at Brett Ridgway's introductory lessons on Youtube to get me started. In the very first lesson he demonstrates how to play the tonic scale by going up the fretboard fret by fret omitting only the sixth; there should be two short frets before the octave - but I've got only one! The tonic scale is fine up to the fifth degree, the sixth is flat before I reach the octave at the double-marked fret. Cn anybody tell me where I'm going wrong please?

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