General direction on tuning modes

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,699 posts

That's great SkipII!  You have an advantage already-  you are aware that you can do various things by using various tunings, and also you don't seem to be afraid of trying out new things.  Good for you!  Have FUN with your music and your instruments.  :D




--
Site Owner

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

Thanks, all, for the generous and helpful responses. I'm going with DAD for now on my Warren May, but might keep my McFadden at DAA. I'm already drawn. to Bing Futch's style but I'm sure I'll expand that.  

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,699 posts

Dusty Turtle:

I would suggest you listen to the dulcimer players who play the kind of music you want to play and ask them how they are tuned.

That.

 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
3 weeks ago
446 posts

Dusty Turtle:

I would suggest you listen to the dulcimer players who play the kind of music you want to play and ask them how they are tuned.

Listen to some of what FOTMD member Sam Edelston plays.  If you like it, you might want to chat with him directly--or anyone else whose music sits well with you.

 




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,147 posts

@Skipii, Ken is correct that DAd and DAA are equivalent in terms of the notes and chords available.  Chord voicings are a bit different; they are more compact in DAA and a bit more expansive in DAd.   But you have exactly the same notes available to you in those two tunings, so any claim that one is better for chords than the other is pure nonsense.

There are two main limitations with either tuning.  The first is key, for you can only play in a handful of keys (D and Bm are  easy, G and Em are doable, A and F#m are a stretch, and anything else is near impossible). The second is that you still have a diatonic fretboard (which is why the keys are so limited).  Fretting across the strings allows you to get around some of the limitations of the fretboard, but not all of them.  Personally, I play dulcimers with both a 6+ and a 1+ fret to allow a greater variety of notes, chords, and keys.  You might consider adding those extra frets as well.

The answer to your question is that it doesn't really matter.  Most of us who play modern music tune to a 1-5-8 tuning such as DAd, so you will find more resources for that tuning.  That might be reason enough to tune that way.

I would suggest you listen to the dulcimer players who play the kind of music you want to play and ask them how they are tuned.




--
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: 10/24/19 01:20:40AM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,639 posts

Most dulcimers are tuned to DAA or DAd because those key of D tunings, are what most clubs play in -- particularly DAd. 

It's not hard to switch between the two tunings, but you chord players have to memorize different chord fingerings for each tuning.  Since you aren't interested in traditional music and dulcimers there's no reason to go into any other detail of the stylistic differences between the two tunings.  

BOTH tunings have equally accessible chords, although the DAd people would have you believe otherwise.  Some say DAA actually has more chords available. If you can't find much information on DAA chords, drop me a PM and I can send you a copy of the definitive article on the subject, by Merv Rowley (R.I.P.). 

Of course the chords you can achieve are only those associated with the key of D.  Other keynotes (the note to which the bass string is tuned) have other chords associated with them, of course.  To reach some of the other keynotes will require different gauges of strings to prevent string breakage (notably the bass string).  Unless you go totally modern and get an instrument with a chromatic fretboard (and IMHO are no longer playing a dulcimer), you will never have every chord available at any time.

SkipII
SkipII
@skipii
3 weeks ago
3 posts

I'm fairly new to dulcimers -- or least this time I'm paying attention to doing it right.. I see most dulcimers are tuned to DAD or DAA. Is there a parrticular style associated with each? It seems to me it would be a little hard to switch to the other once you have become accustomed to one and learn its chords. My interest, frankly, is not in traditional folk songs or hymns, but adapting some more modern music to the dulcimer. Is there one tuning that might be better for that?  Thanks for the help to a relative newbie.