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Is there a book on how  to take a piece of standard notation music (piano) and write it into dulcimer tab? Is there a way to know from looking at the flats and sharps if it should be tabbed in DAD, DAA or some other tuning? As you can tell from the questions, I am a real beginner when discussing music theory. I have some tunes in fake books  (melody line only) I would like to put into dulcimer tab. Any help would be appreciated.

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Carrie, somewhere in the Music Theory group, I think, Linda Brockinton wrote some very simple instructions on how to transcribe a song in any key to tab in D.  If I can find it I'll post a link for you.

 

Basically, it involves simply estabishing the scale position for every note. For example, in the scale of G, G =1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5, E=6, F=7, and then we start over again with G=8. (Technically that F is an F#, but you can ignore that using this system.)  

 

In DAA tuning, your root (or first position) is the third fret. So the first note of the scale would be played there. Then you just add 2 to every note's scale position for the fret to play it.

 

In DAD, the open string is the root (or first position), so G first note of the scale is played there, and you just subtract one from each note's scale position to find the fret to play it.

 

Does that make sense?

 

The same pattern would hold no matter what the key. One initial stumbling block might be determining the key.  Some songbooks will indicate the key. Otherwise you have to use the key signature, which is indicated by the number of sharps and flats marked at the begining of the notation, right after the time signature. This is where the circle of fiths comes in, but I don't want to get sidetracked.  If you don't know how to read the key signature, say so and I or someone else can explain it.

 

The only time this system will not work is when there are accidentals in the melody, but that means the melody is not diatonic to begin with.

Thanks, Dusty. I think I see through a glass darkly. Sometimes the light is really bight and 2 minutes later I no longer understand. I understand beginning notes for DAD and DAA. But I still do not understand how it relates to the what I see on a piece of sheet music. I just looked at my dulcimer music, much of which has standard notation. I see that most everything that is labled DAD has 2 sharps. Most that have one sharp are labled DGD. But I have one that has one flat and says it is DAD. How can that be? So there is or is not a standard that says if you have 3 sharps etc it will be  in the DAD or another on the dulcimer?  Maybe the question is-Is there a relationship between the number of sharps or flats and what tuning the tab will be if tabbed for dulcimer?

Yes, I need to know more about determining the key signature and how this does or does not relate to the tab of the dulcimer.  I hope this makes sense. I don't feel like it does. Sorry to be so dense about this. If I see an E above middle C on sheet music, how do I know which E position it will be on my dulcimer?

Carrie H;

What you see on the sheet of music [SMN, Standard Music Notation] are the notes that make up the tune. The DAD, DAA, DGD, [tunings] etc., tell you which notes are available to you on each string of the dulcimer and imply the key they are usually used with.

You can google 'key signature' and get the information about them.

The tune with one flat is in the key of F but the B flat note, apparently, is not used in that tune. as a result in can be played on a DAD tuned instrument.

 There is no standard I'm aware of that says which tuning is to be used with a specific key. There is a relationship, it is; are the tune notes available in the present tuning of the MD. Modes may also get involved because of the drones [the middle and base strings].

Hi Carrie,

Let me remind you that the method I described above will allow you to transpose the music you see in standard musical notation into the key of D and to create tablature for it. It will not allow you to play exactly the notes you see indicated unless the music is written already in the key of D.

 

There is a difference between the key signature and occasional sharps or flats in a song. But to determine the key from the key signature, the easiest tool is the circle of fifths, which I paste here courtesy of Wikipedia:

 

 

 

Note that the outer ring shows the key signature as it appears in standard music notation.  We start on the top, in the key of C, which has no sharps and no flats. If you play the white keys on the piano, starting at C, you can play the major scale (or Ionian mode) beginning on C and going up one octave to C.  Moving to the right we go up in fifths. The first stop is G (indicated in a red upper case letter), which has one sharp. The second stop is D, which has two sharps.  The next stop is A, which has three sharps, and so forth.

 

Moving to the left from the C at the top we go down a fourth and we encounter the flat notes.  Again, C has no sharps or flats. One step to the left is F, with one flat. One step further we get Bb, which has two flats, and so forth.

 

So with the circle of fifths we can figure out the key of any song. As I mentioned above, the key gives you the starting position.  That will be the third fret on the melody string in DAA or the open string in DAD. As I explained above, you can determine all the other notes just by establishing their scale position and moving to the appropriate fret.

 

Again, this system transposes music into the key of D.  If you want to play in other keys, you have to learn more about different tunings.

 

Songs in the key of G can be played in a melody/drone style if you tune DGD, as in the example you cite, but that is the equivalent of playing GDD, so the the tonic or first note of the scale is the third fret.  Some call this "reverse ionian." It is ionian because the melody string tuned to the fifth scale position gives  you an ionian mode but the bass and middle strings are reversed (a "normal" ionian tuning in the key of G would be GDD).

 

You also mention a song with one flat. As you can see from the circle of fifths, the key would be F.  But every major key also has  "relative minor" which is indicated by the lower case letters in green. As you can see, the relative minor of F is d. I don't quite understand how you can play a song in d minor out of a DAD tuning unless the third note of the scale is never used.  That kind of understanding is way above my pay grade.

 

In a standard D tuning, the bass string is tuned to the D below middle C and the melody string to the D above middle C.  So if you see an E above middle C in sheet music, that would be the first fret in DAD tuning or the 4th fret in DAA tuning. However, remember that what I've explained in my earlier post is how to transpose music into the key of D and also how to find the frets on the melody string to play. You will only be playing the actual notes written in standard music notation if that notation is already in the key of D.

I'm not aware of a book that explains this, but Neal Hellmans Dulcimer Case Chord Book has a lot of information that will help you tune for different keys and modes. This is a starting point, but won't show you how to write tab. Are you learning from a book now?

Paul

Wow, this a lot for me to digest. It is understandable. So I will have to study it awhile and get it in my head.  I'll see if I can now write the tab for one of the songs I like. Thank you so much.

Dusty Turtle said:

Hi Carrie,

Let me remind you that the method I described above will allow you to transpose the music you see in standard musical notation into the key of D and to create tablature for it. It will not allow you to play exactly the notes you see indicated unless the music is written already in the key of D.

 

There is a difference between the key signature and occasional sharps or flats in a song. But to determine the key from the key signature, the easiest tool is the circle of fifths, which I paste here courtesy of Wikipedia:

 

 

 

Note that the outer ring shows the key signature as it appears in standard music notation.  We start on the top, in the key of C, which has no sharps and no flats. If you play the white keys on the piano, starting at C, you can play the major scale (or Ionian mode) beginning on C and going up one octave to C.  Moving to the right we go up in fifths. The first stop is G (indicated in a red upper case letter), which has one sharp. The second stop is D, which has two sharps.  The next stop is A, which has three sharps, and so forth.

 

Moving to the left from the C at the top we go down a fourth and we encounter the flat notes.  Again, C has no sharps or flats. One step to the left is F, with one flat. One step further we get Bb, which has two flats, and so forth.

 

So with the circle of fifths we can figure out the key of any song. As I mentioned above, the key gives you the starting position.  That will be the third fret on the melody string in DAA or the open string in DAD. As I explained above, you can determine all the other notes just by establishing their scale position and moving to the appropriate fret.

 

Again, this system transposes music into the key of D.  If you want to play in other keys, you have to learn more about different tunings.

 

Songs in the key of G can be played in a melody/drone style if you tune DGD, as in the example you cite, but that is the equivalent of playing GDD, so the the tonic or first note of the scale is the third fret.  Some call this "reverse ionian." It is ionian because the melody string tuned to the fifth scale position gives  you an ionian mode but the bass and middle strings are reversed (a "normal" ionian tuning in the key of G would be GDD).

 

You also mention a song with one flat. As you can see from the circle of fifths, the key would be F.  But every major key also has  "relative minor" which is indicated by the lower case letters in green. As you can see, the relative minor of F is d. I don't quite understand how you can play a song in d minor out of a DAD tuning unless the third note of the scale is never used.  That kind of understanding is way above my pay grade.

 

In a standard D tuning, the bass string is tuned to the D below middle C and the melody string to the D above middle C.  So if you see an E above middle C in sheet music, that would be the first fret in DAD tuning or the 4th fret in DAA tuning. However, remember that what I've explained in my earlier post is how to transpose music into the key of D and also how to find the frets on the melody string to play. You will only be playing the actual notes written in standard music notation if that notation is already in the key of D.

Thank you, Skip. What you have said makes sense, adds to my knowledge and helps me begin to understand. Examples help me most. So if I see a tune written in the key of C, I would probably not try to tab it into DAD, Right?

Skip said:

Carrie H;

What you see on the sheet of music [SMN, Standard Music Notation] are the notes that make up the tune. The DAD, DAA, DGD, [tunings] etc., tell you which notes are available to you on each string of the dulcimer and imply the key they are usually used with.

You can google 'key signature' and get the information about them.

The tune with one flat is in the key of F but the B flat note, apparently, is not used in that tune. as a result in can be played on a DAD tuned instrument.

 There is no standard I'm aware of that says which tuning is to be used with a specific key. There is a relationship, it is; are the tune notes available in the present tuning of the MD. Modes may also get involved because of the drones [the middle and base strings].

You can try this;

1. Draw the 5 lines of a treble clef, the one with the big S shape at the front. just below it, and indented, make a short line, about 1/2" long. below this draw another set of 5 lines, the bass [or 'F] clef.

2. The open-D note on the melody string(s) of a DAD tuned dulcimer, is the note in the space between the short line and the bottom line of the treble clef [the top 5 lines]. Write D in that space and to one side write the number 0, [zero]. On the bottom line of the treble clef write the # 1, and E above the D. the bottom space of the treble clef is #2 and F#. The remaining lines and spaces follow the same pattern, lines odd numbers and spaces even numbers. The numbers represent the frets.

3. The open-D note on the bass string is located on the middle line of of the lower, F, clef. It is numbered 0 and D. The space above it is id-ed as 1 and E and so on up the clef/fingerboard.

4. The short line is middle C.

5. The middle string open-A begins on the top line of the F clef.

The letters/note names don't change if/when the tuning is different, the numbers will. Middle C and the middle C# are always the short line, F and F# are always the first space on the treble clef, etc.

No, Paul I do not have a book. I was just hoping there was one out there that I could study. 

Paul Certo said:

I'm not aware of a book that explains this, but Neal Hellmans Dulcimer Case Chord Book has a lot of information that will help you tune for different keys and modes. This is a starting point, but won't show you how to write tab. Are you learning from a book now?

Paul

I really like your example. It clears up a lot. I have a sister-in-law who also plays the dulcimer. I was purchasing a book for her and she said, "Don't get one with tab. I play by reading music". I want to be able to play either way and I want to be able to put SMN into tab for others in our group who can only play by tab. Thank you for all this wonderful information. I appreciate so much the helpfulness of all the players on FOMD.

Skip said:

You can try this;

1. Draw the 5 lines of a treble clef, the one with the big S shape at the front. just below it, and indented, make a short line, about 1/2" long. below this draw another set of 5 lines, the bass [or 'F] clef.

2. The open-D note on the melody string(s) of a DAD tuned dulcimer, is the note in the space between the short line and the bottom line of the treble clef [the top 5 lines]. Write D in that space and to one side write the number 0, [zero]. On the bottom line of the treble clef write the # 1, and E above the D. the bottom space of the treble clef is #2 and F#. The remaining lines and spaces follow the same pattern, lines odd numbers and spaces even numbers. The numbers represent the frets.

3. The open-D note on the bass string is located on the middle line of of the lower, F, clef. It is numbered 0 and D. The space above it is id-ed as 1 and E and so on up the clef/fingerboard.

4. The short line is middle C.

5. The middle string open-A begins on the top line of the F clef.

Carrie, this conversation got complicated partly because you asked more than one question. You started with how to create tab from standard musical notation. But you also asked about key signature and tunings as well.  It's also hard to refer to something (like key signatures) without explaining it.

 

Let me start over and remind you that to create tab in they key of D for a simple melody, establish the key signature.  That gives you your starting position. Give that note a 1. Then proceed up the musical alphabet. If the key signature is A, for example, A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7 and the octave A=8.  You can note the scale position in any key using this method and you can ignore sharps and flats.

 

In DAD, subtracting one number from that scale will give you the fret to play. In DAA, adding two will give you the fret to play. The numbers you arrive at represent your tab, for they indicate the fret on the melody string where you can find the note needed for the melody.

 

Most of the simple melodies in your fake book can be tabbed using this method.

 

But if you already know the melodies in your head, I suggest not working with tab at all and just noodling around on the melody string and trying to find the right note. You might be surprised just how far your ears can take you.

A tune in C may be playable in DAD if finger/flat picked. It may not sound 'right' though. It probably will not be playable noter/drone/finger dancing because of the drones.

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