Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Is there any information that would help to convert guitar tabs to dulcimer? I would love to learn, 'My Heart Will Go On" but I don't have a clue how to do this.


Thank you.....hope everyone is having a great day!!!

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Put the tune in TablEdit, then change from guitar to dulcimer as the instrument. The dulcimer part [module] would be missing notes because of being diatonic. I've done it, but I set up a custom chromatic dulcimer module in TablEdit. This allows me to get to a 3 string form which then can be modified to the various tunings.

Linda -- the problem often is that guitar tab only gives 'accompaniment chords' (one chord per measure for example), not melody chords (one chord for each note of a melody) the way dulcimer tab is written.  Creating dulcimer tab from Standard Music Notation is relatively easy and straightforward.

Is there a certain guitar tab you have in mind, or are you asking for a general concept of this fret on guitar equals that fret on a dulcimer?

Guitar tab is usually lead parts, not chords. The lead may be melody, but more often is an improvised solo part. The real problem with converting it to a dulcimer tab is dulcimers don't have near the range of a guitar. Low parts would have to be moved up an octave to fit on a dulcimer. High parts could not be moved up an octave because the guitar can come up at least as far as the dulcimer. The relocated low parts then will not be quite in relation to their guitar counterparts, but it can be done. It would be best to move a whole section, rather than just certain low notes.

Converting may work, if the solo is not too far outside a certain key. If the guitarist makes a lot of use of out of key chords, the notes of a solo reflect those chords. They have to, to harmonize. For a dulcimer to play this note for note, it may be necessary to use a chromatic dulcimer. CAUTION: OPINIONATED CONTENT! It seems to me it would be better to create a dulcimer solo, rather than try to convert one from guitar. But that's just an opinion, and creating new solos may not be what every player likes to do.

Look for a guitar chart called "Fret board Road Map". It shows what note is at what fret, assuming standard guitar  tuning. If the guitarist is using a different tuning, there may be a chart for it, I really don't know. I never bought them. In standard tuning, the 4th string on the guitar is tuned to D, the same D as our bass string if we tune to DAA, or DAD. The 3rd string is G, same as we use for DGD tuning. The second string is B, one tone above our A middle string, and the 1st string is E, one tone above our D melody string in DAD. The tricky stuff starts on the guitars 5th string, where we can't reach any notes below the guitars 5th fret. The 5th is tuned to A, an octave below our middle string. The 6th is E, almost an octave below our bass string. If you have a tab in mind, the starting point is to decide what key it's in, and see if it changes keys or modes. Hopefully, we can find a dulcimer tuning we can use for it.


thanks for the information Paul. I need to sit down and re-read this to soak in all the information.

Thank you to all of you. There have been a lot of songs I would love to change and have the full music sheets written for guitar/piano on them but didn't have clue to how to convert them. I am not at a level in Music Theory. Right now I would not be able to purchase a software program to convert (i.e. TabEdit) so I thought I would reach out to the entire group in this site for expert advice.

Thank you all for the info you have shared......

FWIW, there is a free download of a (limited) TablEdit version here:  that may be of some use to you...

Yeah, except for the little 'nag screen' that pops up each time you open the program, the free version of TablEdit is pretty useful.  Easy to just close the nag screen each time before you start to work in the program.

Hey Linda,

This is an idea.  Have you ever tried to pick out a tune (a simple version of it) on the dulcimer?  You would really be surprised at how it's not as hard as you really think.  Picking out simple versions of tunes will allow you to add in filler notes that compliment those simple notes also.  I have ZERO music theory.  I have no clue the names of any chords or notes on the dulcimer, but I can pick out simple tunes and spice them up a bit.  Here's how I would go about it if I were you.  

First see if there are any dulcimer vids out there already of that particular song.  If so, if you like the arrangement try to mimic it by watching their hands or listening to what is being played.  If I can see round about where someone is on the fretboard I can usually pick it out.  If there aren't any dulcimer vids, then I would either listen to the actual song or a vid of someone playing the tune (on any instrument) where you like the arrangement.  

Then if you can get a few notes here and there you can start to fill out in front and behind the ones you are sure of just by trial and error.  In my opinion you will get so much more satisfaction out of picking out a tune yourself vs. reading some tab.  Tabs are great, but they are limiting IMO.  I feel so much more freedom doing it this way, but I do still sometimes use tabs for certain parts of songs (knowing that I will change them to suit me).  

Good luck and I hope this helps a bit. 

Ok, in doing a quick search on youtube I see there are no dulcimer versions of this yet on youtube.  There is a great tutorial on a tin whistle though.  I've watched this girl before because I'm learning that instrument too.  But, the whistle is a D whistle so you can literally copy the notes by sound.  You could play the lower notes and it would sound great.  Here's the vid if you want to try it My Heart Will Go On - D whistle

Heck i really love that song too and may try it on whistle and dulcimer.  



Ok, I made a mistake above. Fretboard Road Maps isn't what you want. I was thinking they were charts showing what notes were at what frets. They kinda are, but more on the order of patterns for improvising. What you need is a chart of all the notes on a guitar fret board, so you can see what note a tab is showing when it gives a string and fret number. A finger board chart, like this one:

This can be downloaded, and printed. I have seen these for sale at music stores, as well. You set it on your desk and learn your way around the finger board. For converting guitar tab to dulcimer, you look up each note in the guitar tab, write down it's name, and locate that note on the dulcimer. You will need a chart showing the dulcimer fret board as well, some dulcimer books have a few charts, at least for one or two tunings used in the book.

Once you have identified the notes, and located their position on a dulcimer chart, mark them on a blank dulcimer Tab sheet. You can keep all the bar, timing, and other info from the guitar tab as it doesn't change. Try a simple song, such as Frere' Jacques, Hot Cross Buns, or London Bridge. Play the new tab and let your ears tell you if you have made any mistakes. If it doesn't work in an ionian tuning, try mixolydian, then aeolian and dorian. Give us a full report of your findings. You have until the end of the semester to complete your work, and this will go in your permanent record. And bring enough chewing gum for everyone.


Linda, can you explain exactly what you are trying to convert?

If it is only the melody, there is a pretty easy method that is described by Linda Brockinton in the Music Theory group where you just number the notes according to scale position. If you are trying to convert chords, then you just need a chord chart to show you where to find the right chords on the dulcimer, and not conversion is needed. 

If you are trying to convert an entire arrangement you may have difficulties, since a guitar is chromatic, meaning your dulcimer may not have all the notes needed, a guitar has greater tonal range than a dulcimer since the open strings span two octaves rather than one, and the guitar can play more notes at a time since there are six strings as opposed to the three on the dulcimer.

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