Playing dulcimer with a ukelele

katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
Lisa, thank u ūüėÄ
Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
3 months ago
95 posts

katiemac225: And now I'm lost again. I can play all those chords u mentioned tuned in DAD. So if it's in a different key, those chords I know are in a different place. And if I use a capo, they're not the same. And that's where it becomes difficult. The idea I get but not the skill to make it happen.

No matter what the key of the song is, the chords stay in the same place as long as you do not re-tune. 

Beginning dulcimer players are often told to re-tune every time they want to play in a different key.  But this is not necessary and it's simply not practical if you're spending an evening playing with chromatic instruments like ukes.  The better answer is to pick ONE tuning and stay there.

Most chord players choose DAD tuning and this is good for the keys of D and G, but less convenient for the uke-friendly keys of C and G.  If you intend to play with ukes often, you might consider abandoning DAD and concentrate on learning the chords for CGC or GDG instead.

Or... stay in DAD and add a 1-1/2 fret, which makes it feasible to play chords for the keys of D, G, C, F and their relative minor keys.  

As for the capo, it actually does not change where notes are located.  If you play a G chord at 3-3-5, you still play a G chord on those same frets even when there's a capo on the first fret. 

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
579 posts

Dusty, thanks for the more complete reply. I was just heading out this morning when I saw this post and offered a quick reply. I put new strings on my uke and use a D tuning. It is much easier to play to with the dulcimers that way.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
And that's when beginners say thanks, but no thanks. I'm going to take it slowly and do what I can.
katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts

Dusty Turtle:
katiemac225: And now I'm lost again. I can play all those chords u mentioned tuned in DAD. So if it's in a different key, those chords I know are in a different place. And if I use a capo, they're not the same. And that's where it becomes difficult. The idea I get but not the skill to make it happen.

Katie, there is one correction I have to make to a comment below.  In a DAd or DAA tuning on a diatonic dulcimer, you cannot play an F chord.  There is no F natural on the fretboard.  (You can get an F chord if you tune to C (CGG or CGc) and then using the same fingering you are used to for a G chord. More on that below.)  Perhaps this transposition chart will help.


transposition chart for basic keys.jpg

So how to use that chart?  The key issue is the relationship of a note or a chord to the other notes and chords of the same key. In the key of D, D is I chord, G is the IV chord, and A is the V chord.  If you want to play that same song in the key of G, you use the same numbered chords, so whenever you had used a D chord, you now use a G chord, whenever you had used a G chord, you now use a C chord, and whenever you had used an A chord, you use a D chord.  You can also refer to chords by their names as indicated, but I find that unnecessarily confusing.  I put that information on the chart because you will sometimes hear people refer to some of those names.

That chart can also tell you how to use a capo.  If you are tuned DAd, you know that 002 is a D chord, 013 is a G chord, and 101 is an A chord.  If you put the capo at the 3rd fret, you are now in G, but you can use that same fingering, pretending the capo is the nut, and 002 (really 335) is a G chord, 013 (really 346) is a C chord, and 101 (really 434) is an D chord.

I would suggest playing around with a capo by playing a song you know, then putting the capo on the 3rd fret and playing the same song the same way you did before. You will see that everything works the same way but you are now in a higher register and a different key. You can also put the capo at 4 to play in A, though you have to watch out for that 6+ fret.

So with a capo, you can play in the keys of D, G, and A.  To get the key of C, I would suggest tuning down a note to CGc.  Then the same thing applies. If you play 002, you are playing the I chord, meaning C chord, if you play 013 your are playing the IV chord, meaning an F chord, and if you play 101 you are playing the V chord, meaning a G chord.

That's how I would approach playing in the main keys of C, D, G, and A in a multi-instrument jam.

And these same principles can get you funkier keys.  What if a singer comes in and wants to play in F?  You don't have an F on the dulcimer in DAD or DAA, but F is the IV in the key of C, just as G is the IV in the key of D.  When we tuned DAd, we got the key of G by using the capo at the 3rd fret, so we can just tune CGc, put the capo a the 3rd fret, and we are now in the key of F.  In other words, whatever key you are tuned to, you get the IV by capoing at 3 and the V by capoing at 4.

If all of this makes you dizzy, just know that if you know the alphabet from A to G, and you can count to 8, you can figure all of this out yourself.  


Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,107 posts

katiemac225: And now I'm lost again. I can play all those chords u mentioned tuned in DAD. So if it's in a different key, those chords I know are in a different place. And if I use a capo, they're not the same. And that's where it becomes difficult. The idea I get but not the skill to make it happen.

Katie, there is one correction I have to make to a comment below.  In a DAd or DAA tuning on a diatonic dulcimer, you cannot play an F chord.  There is no F natural on the fretboard.  (You can get an F chord if you tune to C (CGG or CGc) and then using the same fingering you are used to for a G chord. More on that below.)  Perhaps this transposition chart will help.


transposition chart for basic keys.jpg

So how to use that chart?  The key issue is the relationship of a note or a chord to the other notes and chords of the same key. In the key of D, D is I chord, G is the IV chord, and A is the V chord.  If you want to play that same song in the key of G, you use the same numbered chords, so whenever you had used a D chord, you now use a G chord, whenever you had used a G chord, you now use a C chord, and whenever you had used an A chord, you use a D chord.  You can also refer to chords by their names as indicated, but I find that unnecessarily confusing.  I put that information on the chart because you will sometimes hear people refer to some of those names.

That chart can also tell you how to use a capo.  If you are tuned DAd, you know that 002 is a D chord, 013 is a G chord, and 101 is an A chord.  If you put the capo at the 3rd fret, you are now in G, but you can use that same fingering, pretending the capo is the nut, and 002 (really 335) is a G chord, 013 (really 346) is a C chord, and 101 (really 434) is an D chord.

I would suggest playing around with a capo by playing a song you know, then putting the capo on the 3rd fret and playing the same song the same way you did before. You will see that everything works the same way but you are now in a higher register and a different key. You can also put the capo at 4 to play in A, though you have to watch out for that 6+ fret.

So with a capo, you can play in the keys of D, G, and A.  To get the key of C, I would suggest tuning down a note to CGc.  Then the same thing applies. If you play 002, you are playing the I chord, meaning C chord, if you play 013 your are playing the IV chord, meaning an F chord, and if you play 101 you are playing the V chord, meaning a G chord.

That's how I would approach playing in the main keys of C, D, G, and A in a multi-instrument jam.

And these same principles can get you funkier keys.  What if a singer comes in and wants to play in F?  You don't have an F on the dulcimer in DAD or DAA, but F is the IV in the key of C, just as G is the IV in the key of D.  When we tuned DAd, we got the key of G by using the capo at the 3rd fret, so we can just tune CGc, put the capo a the 3rd fret, and we are now in the key of F.  In other words, whatever key you are tuned to, you get the IV by capoing at 3 and the V by capoing at 4.

If all of this makes you dizzy, just know that if you know the alphabet from A to G, and you can count to 8, you can figure all of this out yourself.  




--
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
katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
Lisa, thank u for the info, the encouragement, and the laugh at the end!
Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
3 months ago
95 posts

Contact the club and ask if they welcome other instruments.  A few clubs are doctrinaire about ukes-only; you wouldn't want to join them anyway, they're no fun!  Then ask for a copy of the songbook.  Like Dusty says, you'll want to study up in advance.  Look at the chords you'll need... and DO NOT PANIC.  You don't have to play on every song.  And you don't have to play every chord; you can mute the strings when there's a chord you don't know.

A beginner-friendly club in the US (where ukes are generally tuned GCEA) will mostly play in the keys of C and G.  If you show up ready to play these six chords you should be in good shape:

C major
G major
F major
D major
A minor
E minor

It's nice to add the 7th chords (C7, G7, Em7 and so on) but really they are optional.  The uke players will be adding a 7th note to some of their chords and it won't matter if you do; the notes you're playing are compatible.  You could learn the theory behind this or just take my word for it.

I play all of these chords on an MD tuned DAd with a 1-1/2 fret and 6-1/2 fret.  If you don't have a 1-1/2 fret, you can tune to CGC as Ken suggests.  Another option is to tune a short-scale dulcimer(or a baritone) to GDG which puts you in the key of G; capo at the 3rd fret for the key of C.    

We're all assuming you play chords.  When in Rome... strum chords and sing like the uke players.  It would be difficult (not impossible) to fit noter/drone into a uke club.  If you ever try it and the drones aren't working -- which they probably aren't -- you can stop playing the drone strings and play single-note melody or harmony.

If this all seems too overwhelming at first, go visit a uke club just to listen and sing along.  Talk to people and you may find others who play dulcimer (or would like to learn).  Even if you decide the club isn't a good fit for you, it can still be a good place to meet other musicians. 

CAUTION:  No matter how much you protest, they will force a uke into your hands and show you how to play a C-major chord.  My local club has two loaner ukes and we force them on restaurant customers, passersby, wait staff and children.  I swear there are neighborhood dogs who know how to play a C-major.  Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (UAS) is a dangerous malady made even worse in conjunction with DAD/DAA.  Do not ask me how I know this.  Save yourself.

katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
And now I'm lost again. I can play all those chords u mentioned tuned in DAD. So if it's in a different key, those chords I know are in a different place. And if I use a capo, they're not the same. And that's where it becomes difficult. The idea I get but not the skill to make it happen.
Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
76 posts

Katie, you've gotten some excellent advice.  Don't be overwhelmed by chords.  There are a limited number of chords that are used with any frequency.  And keep in mind, the same chords are used in many different keys.  The D chord for instance occurs in the Key of D Major, the Key of G Major, and the Key of A Major.  In each instance, the notes that form the D chord are the same.  Their position on the fretboard only changes if you have changed the tuning of the strings.

If you can play a C chord, a D chord, an E chord, an F chord, a G chord, and an A chord, you will be well on your way.  As others have suggested start with a single key and learn the three primary chords for that key.  Notice that some chords occur over and over again.

Key of C = C, F, G Chords

Key of D = D, G, A chords

Key of A =  A, D, E chords

Key of G = G, C, D chords

katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
Dusty Turtle, thank u for ur excellent response. I'm proud of myself because I actually understood it. I'm going to music camp in 2 weeks and hopefully will have confidence in playing. That's a really big part of it too.
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,107 posts

@katiemac225, Ken has explained the central issue here.  The ukulele is a chromatic instrument, so it can play in any of the 12 keys.  The dulcimer is a diatonic instrument, so if you are tuned DAA or DAd, it will be very easy to play in D (or Bm), somewhat less easy to play in G or A, and very difficult or even impossible to play in other keys.

What does this mean in practice? I would suggest two approaches for you.

First, you might find out ahead of time what tunes the ukulele group plays.  Most groups use a songbook.  Get a copy of that book and look through it.  Find the tunes in the key of D and expect to play along with those, skipping the rest (for now).  [You can play in C if you retune to CGc or CGG, and out of your D tuning you can use a capo at 3 to play in G or at 4 to play in A.  So you can start to add the tunes in those keys as you get comfortable.]

Second, you might approach one or two of the friendlier, patient people from the ukulele group and ask if they would play with you.  It will be easier to ask one or two people to play only in D than it would be to get the whole group to change their routine.  As you get comfortable playing with those one or two people, you might then be able to join the group.

In anticipation of playing in either of those scenarios, you can practice by getting used to strumming chords and singing songs, for that's what people do in uke groups.  They either use a songbook or lyrics with chords are projected on a big screen (sometimes with a strumming pattern indicated as well) and they all strum chords and sing together.  Try that for yourself.  You might start with two-chord songs like "Jambalaya" and then move on to three-chords songs like "Jamaica Farewell" and then four-chord songs like "Let it Be" and so forth.

 




--
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
katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
Ken, that was very clear and helpful.
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
579 posts

It depends. Are you willing to retune your dulcimer to play with the ukuleles? Most ukulele groups today tune their instruments to the key of C rather than D, so you would need to tune down to CGc or CGG. Of course if the songs the group plays use only the D, G, and A chords you can play along without any problems. It's all about the music.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

katiemac225
@katiemac225
3 months ago
8 posts
Can't find any dulcimer groups in my city while there are many ukelele groups. I'm a beginner dulcimer player so many confused me. What do I do to strum along with a uke group? Simple terms, please.
Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
5 months ago
1 posts

If you study ukes in their broader aspects, you will find the "D tuning" isn't anything strange.

Generally speaking, British and Canadian players tune A-D-F#-B, and according to some sources, it was popular in Hawaii at one time. It was pretty much standard before WW-II in the USA. Because of that you can readily purchase string sets intended for the higher tuning. Many small tuners even give you a choice between U-C and U-D setups.

I have several "learn ukulele" books, and probably the best of the bunch is Roy Smeck's classic, which is all in D tuning.  See https://www.amazon.com/Mel-Bay-Ukulele-Method-Smeck/dp/0871664836 for details.

I keep one (cheap) tenor tuned each way.

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 months ago
1,107 posts

Ken Longfield: When I first saw the title of this discussion, I was going to suggest using a pick instead

There's always one comedian in the crowd. happys




--
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 Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
5 months ago
579 posts

When I first saw the title of this discussion, I was going to suggest using a pick instead, but now that I understand the topic of this discussion, I won't do that. I just received a soprano ukulele and enjoy playing along with my dulcimer friends.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

kjb
@kjb
5 months ago
11 posts

I also play uke and enjoy playing along with dulcimer by lowering to CGC.  It is easy to play chords to any key on the uke.  You can also use a capo to tune it to D.

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
5 months ago
76 posts

Without relearning everything in a new key, you (and your husband) have two options: He can raise his tuning one whole step or you can lower your tuning one whole step, .  I'm not familiar with how easily a ukulele can be raised a whole step without breaking strings, but it is relatively easy to retune your dulcimer to C-G-c as you suggested.

However, the obvious solution (since your husband has two ukuleles) is to leave one in the standard ukelele tuning to which he is accustomed and tune the other one up a whole step to make it easier to switch back and forth as needed.  That way he can play the same chord shapes and melody note positions on both. 

Butch Ross
Butch Ross
@butch-ross
5 months ago
10 posts

I agree with Dusty and Cynthia, with two additional ideas.

1. It's not hard to re-tune a Uke to ADF#B, making his easy chords (C, F, G and Am) your D, G, A and Bm. This was done all the time in first heyday of the Uke (1915 - 1935).

2. it's equally not hard to tune down to C-G-cc on the dulcimer. This has the added bonus of making your songs easier to sing (Honestly, D is generally a terrible singing key).

 

hugssandi
@hugssandi
last year
252 posts

I love this Q and it's answers!  We have quite a few uke players in our church.  Thank you.

Byron Kinnaman
Byron Kinnaman
@byron-kinnaman
last year
9 posts

Gale A Barr: Correction: soprano and tenor ukes are usually tuned in the key of c - foggy brain late at night.....

Make that c6 for open tuning.   GCAE = chord C6 

 

David Preston
David Preston
@david-preston
2 years ago
7 posts

"Playing Dulcimer With A Ukelele"

Really, a proper noter is what you should be using.  

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 years ago
1,107 posts

Folks, I think there are some misconceptions going on here.  Ukuleles are chromatic instruments and are not usually tuned to an open tuning. People sometimes refer to the standard C6 tuning, but that references the chord the open strings are tuned to; it does not refer to a key the instrument must play in.  That is to say, that whereas the dulcimer can be said to be tuned to a key, ukuleles are not.  The ukulele is capable of playing any song in any key.  

As Cynthia says, for a uke to accompany the dulcimer tuned to D, all that is necessary is that the uke player knows the chords of D, G, A and perhaps a few more for more complicated songs.  I simply suggest getting a ukulele chord chart like the one I attached here.

It is also true that the dulcimer can easily play in G and A with a capo at the third or fourth fret and C when tuned down one step.  You will have to decide when you want to play in D and when it might be more appropriate to play in one of the other common keys.  Just keep in mind that it is much easier for uke to accompany the dulcimer than the other way around. 

pdf




--
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: 08/16/16 12:58:32PM
Vlillik
Vlillik
@vlillik
3 years ago
9 posts

Hi, I have a tenor and soprano ukulele too. I'm a mountain dulcimer (MD) beginner and am almost coping in transposing a piece from uke. 

Uke C's are usually D in MD; Dm Em;  Bb A in the tune I'm working on,  but as there are such a variety of A's etc it's taking a while! Wish I had music theory to fall back on. Learning the MD though has made me learn tablature though and it's so useful! 

Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
46 posts

Thanks, everyone! We will have to get capo for the ukes and give thata try....

Cynthia Wigington
Cynthia Wigington
@cynthia-wigington
5 years ago
69 posts

If he knows D,G and A chords he can play with you.

He can capo 2 and play in C - CFG, which will please him.

If you have specific questions on specific songs, I'll help you if I can.

CGC tuning for you is fine too if you mostly are going to be playing with him.

Have fun, I do this all the time and they sound great together.

Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
46 posts
Correction: soprano and tenor ukes are usually tuned in the key of c - foggy brain late at night.....
Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
46 posts

Hi -

My hubby is the proud newowner of not just one ukulele, but 2 ( a little Diamondheadsoprano and tenor Fluke) and I as a beginner/intermediate player of a dulcimer would like to play together. The ukes are commonly tuned to the key of G. We have been experimenting a bit but should I retune to CGC to make it easier to accompany him or capo to G while in DAD tuning? I am open to any suggestions to make it easier to do....3.gif...thanks!


updated by @gale-a-barr: 02/25/19 03:50:36AM