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How do you tune a Dulcimer??

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Jaybird 02 Jun 06 - 09:51 AM
Sooz 02 Jun 06 - 09:55 AM
John MacKenzie 02 Jun 06 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,neovo 02 Jun 06 - 09:57 AM
GUEST,maryrrf 02 Jun 06 - 10:01 AM
Scoville 02 Jun 06 - 01:03 PM
catspaw49 02 Jun 06 - 01:19 PM
Kaleea 02 Jun 06 - 05:15 PM
JohnInKansas 02 Jun 06 - 05:50 PM
GUEST 02 Jun 06 - 05:50 PM
catspaw49 02 Jun 06 - 11:06 PM
Jaybird 04 Jun 06 - 02:01 PM
JohnInKansas 04 Jun 06 - 02:55 PM
catspaw49 04 Jun 06 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Jun 06 - 04:46 PM
JohnInKansas 04 Jun 06 - 11:48 PM
NH Dave 05 Jun 06 - 12:30 AM
JohnInKansas 05 Jun 06 - 12:49 AM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Jun 06 - 09:41 AM
JohnInKansas 05 Jun 06 - 03:14 PM
Little Robyn 05 Jun 06 - 03:29 PM
JohnInKansas 05 Jun 06 - 04:01 PM
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Subject: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Jaybird
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 09:51 AM

Any help will be appreciated.   Thanks, Jaybird


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Sooz
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 09:55 AM

A combination of ear and a chromatic tuner. By the time you've done the first six courses you will still be out!


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 09:56 AM

What type of dulcimer


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: GUEST,neovo
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 09:57 AM

It might help if you said what sort of dulcimer.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 10:01 AM

There are various methods of tuning, depending on what you want to play. Visit this site Everything Dulcimer for lots of information, including an explanation of tuning. I would also recommend "The Dulcimer Chord Book" which very clearly explains many of the dulcimer tunings and how to achieve them.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Scoville
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 01:03 PM

My Appalachian dulcimers are both in DAD (double melody strings, tuned alike), which is the most common tuning in my area. DAA is more standard, I think, especially further east. That first [D] is the bass string, and in DAA both the drone and the melody strings are on the same note.

Depends on what you want to play, though, and what gauge strings are on your dulcimer. I keep mine in approximately gauges 10 [melody], 12 [drone], and 24 [bass], which works great for DADD and CGCC but sounds like crap if I try to tune the melody strings down to A--much too slack. Likewise, 12-gauge strings will often snap if you try to tighten them up to D to play melody.

I probably just answered a question you didn't ask. Could you be a little more specific about what you need so we can give you some better answers?


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 01:19 PM

Before anyone goes bats posting a lot of info, note the links to old threads above. Also, as we don't know whether the poster wants info on Appalachian Dulcimers or Hammered Dulcimers. There are also a boatload of Hammered threads.

Too often around here we want to reinvent the wheel.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Kaleea
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 05:15 PM

somebody invented the wheel?


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 05:50 PM

As this thread represents the only post by Jaybird at mudcat (thus far), we should perhaps offer a welcome, and wait for some additional information about which kind of dulcimer needs tuning, and perhaps a bit of chatty gossip about why and where said Jaybird encountered such an instrument.

That being said:

Welcome to mudcat, Jaybird.

We need a little more information on what instrument you have, since "dulcimers" come in at least a couple of kinds, and we may get thoroughly confused if we don't know which kind you're interested in.

(Jaybird is probably off reading all the FAQs, but will surely be back soon.)

John


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 05:50 PM

Hammered Dulcimer?

Nobody knows!

You mean you can tune these?

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jun 06 - 11:06 PM

Just as a matter of note since I caught a little flak for my response..........

I also sent Jaybird a PM with a welcome and a request to return to this thread (which I linked) to give us some additional info. AND, I put the GROUPING links on this thread just after Maryrff posted ad before Scoville came along.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Jaybird
Date: 04 Jun 06 - 02:01 PM

Thanks for all the friendly replies. Sorry I wasn't more specific about the dulcimer. I assume it is an Appalachian dulcimer. Definitely not a hammer. My dad built it from a kit about 20 years ago, it hangs on the wall in my moms bedroom, he was an autoharp player and built two in his lifetime. I am a harmonica player primarily, also spoons and wash tub bass. I play old time music with a friend who plays claw hammer banjo, guitar and fiddle. He's the the one that turned me on to this site. Was listening to a tape of union and work songs the other day and there was some dulcimer on there and I thought of the old dulcimer on the wall and figure I might give it a try again. I played it a little when I was a kid.

Thanks again for the responses,

Jaybird


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 04 Jun 06 - 02:55 PM

Jaybird -

Welcome to mudcat, again. If you've looked at the links at the top of the thread, to other threads about dulcimers, you may already have found enought to get you started. You'll certainly have seen that we have lots of people here with some knowledge (or at least some ready comments) on the (L)Ap Dulcimer.

(I often just call it a "lap dulcimer" since Appallachian is such a big word.)

You will want to "count the frets" to know when talking about your playing whether you have the "six-and-a-half fret" on your instrument.

The "top string" which should be the one closest to your belly when the "strum notch" is on the right, can be tuned to any "pleasant sound," but a D is fairly common for the open string. If you tune to something in that vicinity, you probably won't break a lot of strings. Note that sometimes the top string is "double-coursed" so you tune both strings the same, but usually refer to the "pair" as a single string.

The traditional layout starts the "major scale" at the third fret, and it will be a G scale with the open string at D. Starting at the third fret, and strumming just the top string; moving upward, you should get a do-re-mi scale. If you get a "clinker" at around the top lah or ti note, you have the 6-1/2 fret, which has to be skipped over to play the straight G major scale.

(Some players add another 1-1/2 fret to their dulicimers, but it's unlikely - not impossible - you'd find one on a home-built from 20 years ago.)

If you do have the 6-1/2 fret you can also start at the open string and go up in a do-re-mi (major) scale by skipping the 6th fret and using the 6-1/2 one in its place.

The remaining strings are sometimes tuned just as "drones," and some people strum across all of them with all, or nearly all, notes while playing the melody on the top string. Various tunings are used to "fit with" tunes in different modes, and the subject of "modes" can fill large books. A D-A-D tuning for the three strings is fairly common as a starting point. Other tunings may be required for some tunes, and when starting you may need to consult tunebooks for "unique" tunings. When/if you manage to make some sense out of the "modes" thing, you may be able to choose a variety of other tunings to suit tunes in particular modes.

Many players graduate to "fingering" and tune the lower strings to make it easy to reach "chords" rather than just "droning along." There are numerous good training books, but finding a player to show you how to get into this is to be recommended if possible.

More specific questions are likely to draw some real players, so come back until your questions get answered.

John


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Jun 06 - 03:45 PM

Actually, John calls it a lap because he can't SPELL Appalachian....LOL......Actually he gives you great info there. Past that point you begin to get into various "modal" tunings which broadens the range of the instrument for different types of songs, giving them the proper "feel" and sound, for lack of better words.

Several of the threads linked above are directly discussing tunings and getting started. There are also some excellent things on the history of the instrument. That should provide you with lots of good reading and info.....and when you have questions, we're here (sadly, just about all the time as none of us have a real life.....***sigh***........) I would also suggest a book or two but right now you have plenty of reading right here! Among other books that are excellent is one that almost all dulcimer players have......"The Dulcimer Book" by Jean Ritchie. She is the "Mother of the Mountain Dulcimer" and had it not been for Jean, the instrument would be little known today. She's a living legend and an American treasure and lucky for you, also a Mudcatter....look for "Kytrad" on the threads.

Welcome again to the 'Cat..........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Jun 06 - 04:46 PM

Congratulations on feeling the temptation of the lap dulcimer. It's a good instrument.

A thought - what's the climate like in your mother's bedroom? If the dulcimer has been hanging on a wall for 20 years, it may be dry and fragile. Better give it a chance to soak up some moisture.

I prefer to tune my dulcimer D-A-A. I can play scads of songs from Gregorian chant to Nat King Cole with relatively simple finger placements.

Then when I'm in the mood, I can drop the melody (highest) string a mere one step to G and play minor songs.

I admit that I have never really tried DAD. Have needed to so far.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 04 Jun 06 - 11:48 PM

Joe -

It's not that my spelling is so bad, it's that I've worn out my keyboard, and my typing suffers as a result. With close examination you'll find that in my post above the second "p" in Appallation (the spelling preferred by my Random House dictionary, believe it or not) was actually typed ahead of the first "p", because of the "keyboard stutter" I encounter frequently. That was a typo, not a misspelling.

Things may have changed since my 1911 dictionary came out, but it's on disk so it's handy. LiK says her new Websters drops one of the "l"s, but it doesn't say which one to leave out.

John


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: NH Dave
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 12:30 AM

Folk Legacy, Sandy Paton here on Mudcat, has two booklets and cassettes, unless they've put them onto CD's by now, of Howie Mitchell's work with both Hammered and Plucked Dulcimers. He discusses building each instrument, various ways of tuning the plucked dulcimer, as well as several different ways of playing this dulcimer as well. He starts off with the usual tone and drone strings and progresses to chording the instrument and playing it like a banjo or guitar. Howie and his wife do a very beautiful four part harmony of Babylon is Falling, playing two parts on dulcimers and singing the other two parts.

The cassette or CD gives you a musical feel for the various modes of tuning a dulcimer, or playing music, which for a beginner has to be worth every dollar it costs.

Dave


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 12:49 AM

As mentioned in passing above, instruments that play only diatonic scale notes, and music for such instruments, frequently make references to tunes being in one or another "mode." The FRETTED DULCIMER (another common name for it) is possibly the primary instrument most people encounter where nearly all "how to play" books make extensive reference to modality in tunes.

For a very few people, "thinking modally" seems to come easily; but for most "normal people" it ain't really natural, and requires a bit of study.

When (and if) you progress with your dulcimer to the point where the varying treatments of modes in the numerous references for the instrument have completely confused you, one of the best references on modes that I've seen is right here at mudcate. It's comprehensive and detailed enough to require some study, but clear enough that I even thought it made sense, at:

MODES FOR MUDCATTERS: A SYNTHESIS PRIMER

Since we've recently had some discussion about mudcat peculiars elsewhere, I'll note that:

1. The above link is a "local link" that will only work when you're already at mudcat. Many links that you'll find in threads are of this kind. The "address" contained in the link is shortened to:

/thread.cfm?threadid=19748&messages=67#202739

If you want to save the location, perhaps in a document on your own machine, or to give it to a friend via email or a letter you'll need to use the global URL, which is:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=19748&messages=67#202739

2. You can also save a thread location on your Personal Page by opening the thread, going down to the end, and clicking on the "Add to Tracer" at the top of the box where you'd add a new post to the thread. This will put a link to that thread on your Personal Page and the link will stay there until you remove it. Provided that you're logged in, you can click on "Personal Page" just below "Café" in the header on any page to go to your personal page. This is also where you'd go to read any "PMs" you receive, or to compose a PM to another member. (PM = Personal Message)

3. This is an old thread that was scrambled by a database crash a few months ago, so the links don't appear in the order they were posted. At the top of the page, you can click on "Printer Friendly" to get them in their original order, which you should do in order to make sense of the thread. (There are numerous other threads where this is handy to know.)

Having used this opportunity to take a cheap shot at giving a couple of "navigation hints" I'll suggest that if it interests you now, take a look at the thread; but unless you've had some exposure to modes you'll probably want to save thorough study for later when it becomes more necessary (and will make more sense). This means you'll want to make a note of the URL, and/or put a Trace in your Personal Page so you can find it easily.

You might find some of it useful with your harmonica playing as well as for the dulcimer, since the harmonica usually is a "mostly diatonic" instrument; but you'll have to determine for yourself how far you want to get into it now. I've not found many harmonica players who use the language of modes, but a few of them "think that way" without knowing they're doing it.

John


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 09:41 AM

The last sentence of my post above has a type. Should have been "haven't needed to", not "have."
------------
I have been playing fretted dulcimer for 12 years, and my list of songs is three and a half pages, typed small. I have never needed to pay any attention to modes. Modes are outmoded.


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 03:14 PM

leenia -

I think your "type" must have been a Freudian slip. Exploring the options is usually a good thing, but one has to be ready to expand one's thinking.... (a tweak, without malice)

Although modes are much less used now by many dulcimists, the F-dulcimer (abbreviation for Fretted), the dulicimer, because it is limited to a one or two "keys" with any particular selection of a tuning, can be "Just tuned" more appropriately than other instruments. Changing modes, in just tuning, and limiting the playing to drones and "chords" that are enharmonic with the tuning of the melody, produces a somewhat different feel and effect than just changing keys on an equi-tempered instrument. For those who want to play traditional tunes in the manner of the performances where the tunes originated, some solid understanding and use of modes is quite important.

There are quite a few "old tunes" that when played on "modern instruments," especially when one tries to figure out exotic fingerings so they can "use whatever chords the guitar does," quite frankly sound to me like someone "made a mistake when they wrote that one." The same tunes played "modally" often are quite pleasant.

If you play only with another bunch of rockers, you'll have a difficult time getting them to tune so that "modes matter." If you're adding frets and inventing fingerings to accomodate music that's not appropriate to the traditional instrument, then in the opinion of some you're not really playing a traditional dulcimer. The "improved instrument" doesn't have a separate and distinctive name - yet, and only offends a few; but maybe you should get yourself a tenor banjo. (Note: said mostly in jest.)

There is no reason why you shouldn't play the kinds of music you like, and if modes are not important in your style of play that's not a crime. In some kinds of music, and for some styles of play, they remain quite integral to the music. And understanding a little about them needen't be much more painful than prepping for your 6th grade trigonometry test.

John


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: Little Robyn
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 03:29 PM

Experts have given the best advice.
I just tune mine 'bing bing bong'!
Welcome,
Robyn


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Subject: RE: How do you tune a Dulcimer??
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Jun 06 - 04:01 PM

A friend who has played a "traditional" lap dulicimer (no 6-1/2 fret) for many years, has the ever-popular quote from an early devotee pasted in the lid of his case, and frequently points it out to others. My recollection may not be entirely accurate, but it's something like:

"You don't tune a dulcimer, you just plays them."

The "traditional" response to how to tune a dulicimer is:

"Find a pleasant tone."

A particular problem with the lap dulcimer is my (too frequent?) reminder to my beloved one:

"It does help a bit if it's the same pleasant tone someone else is using."

John


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