Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

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Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:04 pm

One of the members in my dulcimer group is adamant about keeping her dulcimer tuned AAAD, but the rest of us use DAD or DADD, depending on whether we use a 3 or 4 string dulcimer. Is this tuning ok to use? She also uses a noter and a long strip of plastic as a pick . She says she has to re-tune a lot and does not read tab, only music with notation.

Joe
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby KenH » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:03 pm

Joe;

I believe her AAAD tuning is an old "backward" designation for DAA tuning, listing all 4 strings of a doubled melody string instrument. DAd or DAdd (not DAD/D) is the modern designation for what you normally tune in. The lowercase d tells you that the melody string d is an octave higher in pitch than the bass string D.

I think I had a conversation with this person on the Facebook page. Very few people these days use the old "melody strings first" designations. This lady was asking what gauges of strings to get, but had not given her VSL, so I sorta set her straight about tuning designations so she could use the Strothers String Calculator once she measured her VSL.

No reason she can't play along with the rest of you being in DAd, she just won't play the same frets as y'all do. She can easily modify any Tab you might have, by subtracting 3 from the melody string tab numbers... if the DAA tab number is 9, she'll play the 6+ fret, not the 6th fret. If your tab has chord notation (all three courses), she'll just play the melody string numbers.
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:24 pm

Thanks for the explanation. It makes sense. She learned this back in the 70's and quit playing for years. She says it makes playing her hurdy gurdy easier. Thanks Ken. I hope your sail boat made it safely through Irma.

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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:05 am

I have a number of older dulcimer teaching books that show AAD or AAAD as the tuning, with, as Ken says, the bass string being last on the list. So when your friend learnt to play in the 70s the 'reverse' way of talking about your tuning was the norm.

Incidentally, she may possibly be set up as 4 string equidistant? So would have just a a single A melody string for her noter then two A drone strings then a D bass string. This was how Jean Ritchie had her dulcimer set up in the 70s onward, and why McSpadden dulcimers initially included the option for a 4 string equidistant set up on their bridges and nuts (a nut/bridge slotting system that many makers still offer today, although the link to Jean Ritchie is lost). Jean was a big influence on how instruments were built and set up because folks saw her play or went to her workshops and wanted an instrument set-up like hers. Today, I pick up new dulcimers and see the bridges and nuts with those extra slots and I smile to myself and think "Ah, Jean; there you are. Still with us today, yet nobody knows!"

I was playing over the weekend in workshops, sessions and in a band for a dance evening in that old AAAD (or DAAA as we'd call it today) equidistant tuning alongside DAdd players, fiddle, hammered dulcimer, squeeze box, guitar, banjo etc.

It all fits together just fine. 8)
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby KenH » Tue Oct 24, 2017 9:09 am

In the mid-late 70s when I learned to play, there were only three books -- Jean's The Dulcimer Book (1963), Robert Force's In Search of the Wild Dulcimer (1974), and Michael Murphy's The Appalachian Dulcimer (1976). If I remember correctly both Jean's and Michael's books referenced both nomenclatures -- DAA and AAD, but Robert's only referred to DAA.

My boat, ManCave, made it through the storm just fine. We were on vacation in Scotland at the time. My neighbor said that when the tidal surge sucked most of the water out of the river, that ManCave sank her keel into the mud and stood upright until the water came back and she rose again. Only two boats in the marina were damaged.
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Wed Oct 25, 2017 10:15 am

Hi Ken, thanks for the update on your sailboat . Glad everything is ok . I know how those hurricanes are . We got our share in South Louisiana.

Thanks again for the enlightening info from you and Robin on the AAAD tuning . Now I have to convince my colleague to get with DAD tuning.
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby KenH » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:04 pm

If she's comfortable playing noter&drone in DAA why not just let her be? She will not sound 'wrong' or 'out of place', she'll just have to annotate her copies of Tab to show the "subtract 3" to convert DAd tab to DAA..
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:59 pm

I will let her be. BTW she will not use tab. Her music has to have notation. I told her she is just giving herself more work.

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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby Acmespaceship » Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:28 pm

Lots of people here on ED have told us they stopped attending a dulcimer club because they felt pressured to use the same tuning and play the same way as everybody else. Trying to talk people out of playing the way they want to play may not be the best way to lay out the welcome mat. Just saying. ;)

There's a lot more standard music notation in the world than there is dulcimer tab. I think she's making it easy on herself and your club has the problem! Learn from her.
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:09 pm

I am not trying to change her. The problem is that she can't play a lot of songs because they are not in her tuning. It is a problem now that we are practicing Christmas songs and there are not as many Christmas songs in DAA.

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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby fortytwo » Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:31 pm

I have lots of Christmas songs in DAA. If she's playing from SMN she can play DAA if the song is in the key of D. DAdd and DAA sre both key of "D" tunings. My club plays 99.9% DAdd. I'm the only member that plays DAA and I can play any tune they can.
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Re: Is AAAD a legitimate tuning?

Postby JoeBesse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 10:44 pm

She plays primarily with a noted. What is SMN? What is a good resource for DAA Christmas songs? The ED site has only a few DAA songs.

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