Dulcimer Tuning

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

tuning

Postby Gail Knapp » Thu Aug 15, 2002 2:30 pm

Carol, In answer to your msg. regarding finger picking. I do some finger picking on some of my songs. Some I use chords on and some i don't, I just use my fingers on the melody strings, which I don't see that there would be a problem with using a noter while finger picking. I love the sound of a piece that is finger picked and I think the listeners do too. I don't use my bare fingers though. I use a plastic thumb pick--National brand is good and I use Dunlop nickel finger picks. They are bendable to get a good fit. You get good volumne that way. I am beginning to notice that it is rare for duclimer players to use finger picks like I do. I learned this from my banjo friend, and it works out really well for me. Hope this helps. Gail KWink
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Postby SMO » Thu Aug 15, 2002 3:21 pm

I am also a DAD'er most of the time. I like the sound better and I think there's better flexibility. For instance, if you want a different voicing of a chord, just turn it around to the opposite strings (ie a 2-3-4 D to a 4-3-2 D), same chord different sound. One of the more interesting things I have gotten into was in a workshop I helped teach at the Kent State Folk Festival about 6 years ago. Three of us played a song in G (one I didn't even know), one tuned to DGD, the other capoed at 3 and me playing G, C, D backup chords. There are no set rules, that's what makes this fun.
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Postby Carol Keeton » Thu Aug 15, 2002 3:27 pm

What you said about the D A D tuning giving the dulcimer a little richer sound is right I believe. I've done some switching back and forth between D A A and D A D and each time I go to D A D, I notice that my dulcimer seems to have a nicer sound to it even with me being pretty new at this thing. It is also good to know that I can tune the middle string down to G and have D G D. Now does this mean I would still be in the key of D or the key of G? This tuning thing still confuses me a little.
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Postby Carol Keeton » Thu Aug 15, 2002 3:33 pm

Gail, Thanks for your msg. I was in a music store earlier this afternoon and thought about getting a thumb pick, but didn't. Maybe I will get one of those. Glad you think it would be ok to use a noter and still finger-pick with the right hand. I'm still trying to decide about using the noter. I'm kind of slow making up my mind. Sometimes I switch back and forth between using a noter and using my finger, but whichever way I do it, sure do enjoy my dulcimer.
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DGD Tuning

Postby jakstall » Thu Aug 15, 2002 5:00 pm

The DGD tuning is the key of G while the DAD tuning is D. This DGD tuning arrangement is sometimes called "New Ionian" since it moves the string tuned to the key note (G in this case) from the Bass string to the middle string but the scale still starts on the 3rd fret like GDD Ionian tuning (the key of G variation of DAA tuning) would be. If this is too confusing, look at Jerry Wright's page titled "Basic Information on Playing the Mountain Dulcimer" at http://www.geocities.com/pickinwright/b ... mation.htm He has a diagram of where the notes on the scale are for DAA, DAD, and DGD tunings under the "Fret Board" section about half way down. Like Gail, I do some finger picking both with and without chording and like the sound either way. I use only a thumb pick for this. I just can't seem to get used to the finger picks so I leave my fingers bare. Don't worry about taking a while to decide how you want to play. You can always switch back and forth among styles/tunings/etc. The goal is to enjoy making music, so just relax and play however the mood strikes you.
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Postby Carol Keeton » Thu Aug 15, 2002 9:58 pm

Thanks for telling me about the DGD tuning. I have been practicing with my dulcimer today mainly using my fingers to fret the notes instead of a noter. I still like using the noter, but I really like the sound of my dulcimer tuned to D A D and in that tuning, using the noter just doesn't seem to work too well because of having to go to the middle string for different notes, so figure I better start using my fingers. I might get me a thumb pick for the right hand.
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Tuning / Finger Picks

Postby Steve Smith » Fri Aug 16, 2002 8:03 am

I wholeheartedly agree with the comment that D-A-d is nice because you can so easily change to D-G-d for ''New Ionian'' in the key of G. Another easy change is going to D-A-c for an Aeolian tuning in the key of D minor. Again, you're only changing one note, instead of going down several to get to D-A-A, and this tuning gives a nice minor sound without having to do full chording. As for using finger picks, I prefer using my fingernails, mainly for the ''feedback'' reason I mentioned earlier. You can also strum with your index fingernail, which I do on ''Hector the Hero''. That's sometimes hard to do with finger picks. It can be hard to keep your nails long (and strange when you keep your left hand nails short at the same time!), but it's worth a try. Just be careful opening car doors. I think I've broken more nails that way than any other. If you do want to use finger picks, I'd suggest looking for ''Alaska'' picks. They lodge under whatever bit of nail you do have, and you can trim them just like your own nails. They give great feedback, and you can even strum with them if you don't get too enthusiastic!
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Pick noise

Postby picky player » Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:46 pm

My favorite pick is a long white one from Folkcraft but it makes a lot of noise. So much so that one of the club members gave me a Herndin pick and suggested I use it. Problem is, with arthritic fingers, it is not comfortable to hold. Any suggestions or ideas on reducing pick noise? Walter
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Pick Noise

Postby Steve Smith » Sat Aug 17, 2002 8:40 am

The best way I've found to avoid pick flap is to use a relatively heavy pick and not hold it too tight. I particularly like the Dunlop gray .88mm picks. They're textured, so it makes them easy to hold onto. Another way to completely remove it is to use your right index fingernail as you pick. As I mentioned, it can be tough to keep it long enough, but it gives a nice clean sound. We've even got a guy in our dulcimer club who ''frails'' his dulcimer like a banjo, using his fingernails. Sounds good!
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pick it

Postby KenH » Sun Aug 18, 2002 5:41 pm

Try a Folgers pick... coffeecan lid plastic. You can cut it VERYlarge for ease of holding in arthritic fingers, and control the stiffness by bending it. Jean Ritchie uses one half the size of her handEEK! EEK!
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