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Beginner players

Members: 1061
Latest Activity: 47 minutes 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.

Discussion Forum

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Comment Wall

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Comment by 10ashus on February 22, 2015 at 12:01am

The suggestions about changing broken strings and ordering sets of strings is excellent. You may wish to type your suggestion again in the Dulcimer Care & Maintenance forum -Topic: Changing A String, so it is saved and retrieved under a specific topic.

http://mountaindulcimer.ning.com/group/dulcimercareandmaintenance/f...

Comment by Tom on February 20, 2015 at 7:31pm
If I break a string, it's the only string that's replaced and replace all the strings, if they're oxidized.
Comment by Lexie R Oakley on February 20, 2015 at 4:48pm

About ordering strings and breaking them: 10ashus, I order mine in bulk, I even bought 1/4 lb. piano wire. I won't have to worry about not having a supply.

As for breaking strings, well I have, but I sense got to know the tuning's in which I like to play in, but if I break a string, I only change that broken one.

Comment by john p on February 20, 2015 at 4:43pm

Hi 10

Can I offer a couple of points for you to think about.

If you have a double melody string, when one breaks, change them both. It's important the two strings are balanced and have the same amount of usage. This helps avoid intonation problems due to unequal wear.

Don't buy sets of strings, buy half a dozen of the size you break most often instead. If you keep breaking the same string all the time, try using a gauge thinner.

There are sites that specialize in selling this way.

As you say, no need to change the drones all the time, just every so often.

Comment by 10ashus on February 20, 2015 at 4:05pm

Lawrence said, "...I guess I could order in advance and have extra on hand..."

Your comment has me stopping a bad habit.

I have one set of extra strings on hand. One string breaks, usually one of the melody strings when I am tuning up to DAD. The advice from many players is to change all your strings when one breaks. Bad. Bad. I change the one broken string only.

But, even if I do not use all the strings in the pack, if I break one more string, I will not have a whole set. Like you said, waiting for the mail can get your fingers nervous and twitching. So I immediately mail order another set.

I have decided to order 2-3 sets of strings from now on.

Comment by Sally Pena on February 19, 2015 at 9:47pm

Good discussion, folks! B. Ross Ashley, you said it all there. Plus, there's always "you can never have too many dulcimers"!

Comment by B. Ross Ashley on February 19, 2015 at 6:11pm

Right all; "There is no wrong way to play the mountain dulcimer!"

Comment by Tom on February 19, 2015 at 3:58pm
Learning, is understanding the best way to grasp the subject matter at hand. The dulcimer sings a sweet song, of a by gone era. There are different ways to play an instrument that has no standard dimensions.
Comment by Dusty Turtle on February 19, 2015 at 2:46pm

Well, I don't peel my potatoes. I get the kind with thin skins and eat it all! (My favorites are purple potatoes for the color and Yukon golds for the buttery taste.)

You are right, Ellen, that we all learn at difference paces and we all start from difference places.  When I discovered the dulcimer I had been playing guitar for about 40 years as well as mandolin, autoharp, a few piano lessons as a kid, and more.  Needless to say, my understanding of music and even how to play the dulcimer were already fairly advanced, even though I was technically a beginner having never played the instrument before.

We should all be aware of the different ways the dulcimer is played today as well as how playing styles have evolved over time.  But I see nothing wrong with people developing specialties.  I would never tell Don Pedi that he has to use a noter; he has truly mastered fingerdancing on the dulcimer and I hope he plays nothing else for many years to come.  I would never tell Linda Brockinton to play with drones; the sweet harmonies she finds in her soft fingerpicking style are soothing nourishment for our ears.  I would never tell Aaron O'Rourke to drop his flatpick, stop playing individual strings, and use a quill to strum across all of them; his flatpicking technique creatively captures Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, and Tony Rice all on a (mostly) diatonic, three-stringed instrument.

We need to celebrate all the great music that is played on our beloved instrument rather that deem those who play differently than we do as somehow wrong or uninformed. It might take beginners a while to develop their preferences, but once you discover what those preferences are, embrace them and follow your muse!

Comment by Ellen Rice on February 19, 2015 at 12:26pm

Hmm, this may be one of those "How do you peel a potato?" discussions. (Which I like better than "How do you skin a cat" -- I could see that the starting place does make a difference. In our group we've had new players that arrive with many years of piano and they are beginning a different place than those of us whose early exposure to music was "Ol' Beulah musta found a raccoon to run. Don't she sound bee-yu-ti-ful!"  I had my hands full getting both dulcimer hands going -- other brains may be (probably are) much more nimble. 

 

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