Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

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Beginner players

Members: 1059
Latest Activity: 5 hours ago

Not sure how to tune your first dulcimer?...

Are you totally lost as to how to tune your dulcimer to begin learning to play?
Most players these days start learning in the key of D, choosing either DAA tuning or DAd tuning. But you also must be in the right octave or you may break your strings!
Click on THIS LINK to find a very handy online tuning aid. See the piano keyboard pictured? Click on the key marked "D3". That's a low sounding note of D that you can tune your heaviest bass string to.
Next, click on the key marked "A3" and tune your middle string to that note.
Lastly, you can tune your single or double melody string(s) to either A3 A3 as well (for a DAA tuning), or to D4 D4 if you want to tune to DAd (also known as DAdd if you have 2 melody strings).
Your melody string or pair of melody strings are closest to you when the dulcimer is in your lap. The bass string is furthest away from you with the dulcimer in your lap.
Notice the open heavy bass string has the lowest sounding note on your dulcimer. Also notice on the piano keyboard how D4 sounds a whole octave higher than D3. And notice how A3 sounds somewhere in the middle between those two d's.
There is also a nice clear Youtube demonstration HERE showing step by step how to tune your dulcimer to DAA.
Now you can start playing your dulcimer in either DAA or DAd!

Much of this same info on how to tune your new mountain dulcimer can also be found in THIS POST of my Noter-Drone BLOG.

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Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Beginner players to add comments!

Comment by Strumelia on January 11, 2015 at 6:52pm

That's a great little book, I love it!  I've also met Dallas Cline and would encourage supporting her efforts by supporting buying the book.    It has some lovely traditional tune tabs, and lots of useful info.

Comment by Quinn Golden on January 11, 2015 at 6:51pm
There is a version here based on the 1829 version; but it's in Bb.;ttSTWBLHOR.html

Transposing it is beyond my abilities but someone can probably do it.
Comment by Dan Goad on January 11, 2015 at 1:51pm

The tune "Stewball" is originally from Ireland in the early 1800's.  I found a tab for it in Dallas Cline's little booklet "The Pick and Noter Book".  The tab is in DAA. The booklet is under copyrite so I cannot legally copy and post the tab here but the booklet is available on Ebay for $7.75 plus $2.00 shipping.

Comment by Charlene R. Mitchell on January 11, 2015 at 1:08pm

I would like to know please if there are tabs or Peter , Paul and Mary's song "Stewball" This  is one of my favorites. I also would like  to learn to play some waltz's. Thank you

Comment by Nancy Barker on January 4, 2015 at 1:24pm

Whether you go to Kentucky Music Winter Weekend or any other festival where classes are offered, one of the best introductions for beginners is to sign up for a festival!  You can learn more in a weekend than you can imagine, surrounded by wonderful instructors and people who love the music!  There are two weekend festivals coming up next weekend - January 9 - 11.  Very affordable weekends of fun and learning, and did I say fun?  Anyway, check the festivals/events list here at FOMD.  It's never too late!

Comment by Mark Ash on December 10, 2014 at 7:06pm

Happy Holidays ... from Louisville!

This week, because one of my strings broke, a music store person persuaded me to try playing with a fourth string.  My instrument has space for six strings.  But I have never installed more than three.  It will be interesting.

Another adventurous thought occurred to me ... since I've taken the fourth string plunge.  Should I used the flat head screw adaptation the previous owner added to cinch up my DAD tuning ... while focusing my practice on Bing Futch's BLUES 101 method book which sticks to that tuning?  

Is that a good idea?  Anyone else out there using a tuning adaptation like that?  Are there risks I might not be aware of?

Comment by Alan Nation on December 2, 2014 at 5:00pm

My thanks to Strumilia & Ken!

Comment by Strumelia on December 1, 2014 at 11:44pm

Alan, it's not always true, but in about 85% of traditional folk tunes, the song ends on the key note. (also called the tonic or tonic note)

Comment by Ken Hulme on December 1, 2014 at 10:12pm
Comment by Alan Nation on December 1, 2014 at 9:36pm

learning modes. How do you know what the keynote is?


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Visit Strumelia's Beginner Noter-Drone dulcimer Blog

I have a main blog for Traditional style mountain dulcimer playing here: Mountain Dulcimer Noter-drone Blog This is an old style of playing where you only fret your notes on the melody string, while letting the drones strings ring open. In my blog, I express my personal views about playing, I offer free TAB and free beginner videos, and I try to help beginners understand in a very basic simple way the 'mysteries' of playing the mountain dulcimer in traditional modal noter/drone style.

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