DAd and DAA tuning

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

DAd and DAA tuning

Postby bret » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:27 pm

I've been watching a lot of videos and reading a bit online and this has gotten me curious: It seems like dulcimers use to be generally tuned to DAA and have mostly shifted to DAd in current times. Since they're both tunings for the Key of D, what's the reason for the shift?

Are there advantages for one vs the other in different situations?
bret
Junior Mbr (0-50 posts)
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:00 pm

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby dholeton » Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:11 pm

Bret
I think dulcimer clubs playing mostly in DAd tuning and the development of tablature files in DAd tuning are a couple of the reasons for DAd being preferred in some circles. There are some people who compose tablature files in both DAd and DAA tunings (along with other tunings), but DAd only is more common.

When I first joined dulcimer clubs in the 1980s, we played in many different tunings (DAA, DAC, DAG, and also DAd).

I prefer DAA or CGG (instead of DAd or CGc) since DAA and CGG provide notes below DO on the melody string(s). (I prefer to play the melody on the melody string(s)). Many DAd tunes play the melody on the middle and bass strings since there is only one note below DO on the melody string(s). I also think the chords sound better in DAA or CGG tunings.

There are arrangements in DAd than can also be played in DAA but there are some tunes in DAd that require DAd or some other tuning (not DAA).

If I'm playing with dulcimer club members, I have to have a tuning arrangement that can play with DAd or I need to be in DAd tuning. Most of the time when I'm playing alone at home, I'm playing in whatever tuning suits me.

Dave
User avatar
dholeton
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 748
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:27 pm
Location: Clinton, TN

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby kwl » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:55 pm

I am sure you will receive many varied responses to this question. When I first started playing back in 1974, CCG was what most instruction books offered as the standard tuning. That soon changed to DAA. By the end of the 1970s the 6 1/2 fret became popular and folks realized they could play mixolydian tunes without retuning. My experience is that until recently mountain dulcimer players were unwilling to retune their instruments to try different keys or modes. Playing Ionian tunes in DAA gives you 3 notes below the beginning of the musical scale. This means that often you can play the entire tune without moving to the middle string for grab some of the notes. You may have noticed that in DAd you sometimes need to play those notes on middle string. I was recently at a guitar workshop and the instructor told us to retune from the standard tuning EADGBE to DADGAD and not one person complained. My experience in dulcimer workshops is that asking a group to change tunings elicits cries of dismay. Banjo players retune all the time as certain tunes are played in certain keys in jams.

Ken
"The dulcimers sings a sweet song."
User avatar
kwl
Dulcified! (>2000 posts)
 
Posts: 17380
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2002 5:25 pm
Location: Reedsville, PA

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby philips » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:20 pm

DAd has become popular over the past few decades because as playing styles have evolved, combining melody with bass string lines and middle string counterpoint is easier in this tuning.
philips
Member (51-100 posts)
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:12 am
Location: Dallas

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby bret » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:44 am

kwl wrote:You may have noticed that in DAd you sometimes need to play those notes on middle string.


Actually, yes! That was part of the reason for my question. I bought a book of Christmas tunes recently and they're TAB for DAd, which is all I've played so far. I noticed that the melody drops to 0, 1, and 2 on the middle string pretty often, which made me think these would be easier to play in (and maybe originally arranged for) DAA tuning as the melody notes would all fall on the melody string.

Dulcimer Acquisition Syndrome is in full swing and I have a third dulcimer on the way :shock: It's set up for DAd, but I'm thinking to change the melody string and tune it as DAA so I'll have that readily available to play around with.

I was looking at some chord charts for DAA and noticed the chords seem a little more difficult to do in that tuning. A lot of the 2 finger chords in DAd seem to be 3 finger chords in DAA. (Boy have I drifted from my plan to play noter-drone...)

kwl wrote:I am sure you will receive many varied responses to this question. When I first started playing back in 1974, CCG was what most instruction books offered as the standard tuning.


I bought a book off eBay a couple months ago from that era (with the idea it would be mostly noter-drone style) and it was using something similar. What it calls GGC tuning, which i suspect would be called CGG now. Just a whole step lower than DAA. The book was interesting in that it goes through tunings for all 7 modes and has chords and songs for each. It's a bit beyond where I am, but I am interested to explore it in the future.
bret
Junior Mbr (0-50 posts)
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:00 pm

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby KenH » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:10 am

Back in the Dark Ages, when Ken & I learned to play, almost everyone re-tuned to play songs, chord-melody style was just being explored and the 6+ fret was a new innovation. And tunings were written from melody-to-bass string rather than bass-to-melody the way we do now. Not sure why that change occurred, except it does make it easier to see what key the instrument is in.

The majority of songs today tabbed in DAd, are not really DAd Mixolydian tunes. They are really DAA Ionian tunes transposed to DAd for people who don't want to re-tune to the proper tuning.

If you must play chords, read An Approach to Learning Chord-Melody Style by Merv Rowley in the Articles section here. You'll see that DAA chord-melody is actually more versatile -- more chords available than DAd. And the chords are really not any more difficult than DAd chords -- just different.
User avatar
KenH
Dulcified! (>2000 posts)
 
Posts: 10080
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2002 7:16 pm
Location: Afloat in Fort Myers, FL

Re: DAd and DAA tuning

Postby bret » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:36 am

KenH wrote:Back in the Dark Ages, when Ken & I learned to play, almost everyone re-tuned to play songs, chord-melody style was just being explored and the 6+ fret was a new innovation. And tunings were written from melody-to-bass string rather than bass-to-melody the way we do now. Not sure why that change occurred, except it does make it easier to see what key the instrument is in.


Total guess as I wasn't around for that era: all the string instruments I've played list the string tuning from lowest to highest which is also the order they're in from the player. For a dulcimer the order from the player is reversed as the melody string is closest. Maybe the convention was to write them in the order going out from the player like other instruments originally, but then switched to lowest to highest for consistency or some reason. Just complete speculation on my part :lol: The written order is arbitrary I guess.

KenH wrote:The majority of songs today tabbed in DAd, are not really DAd Mixolydian tunes. They are really DAA Ionian tunes transposed to DAd for people who don't want to re-tune to the proper tuning.


Seems like the 6+ fret is somehow related as that allows the Ionian mode / major scale to be played on the D string starting at 0. It made perfect sense when I was playing the Merlin that it was just a major scale as a lot of songs are written that way. (The Merlin's 6th fret is what would be a 6+ on a dulcimer and has no equivalent to the 6th fret on the dulcimer). I can definitely see an advantage to being able to go below the root note on the melody line for ease of play though, so DAA with the Ionian Mode starting on 3 makes sense.

Also, I've realized DAA tuning is what some of the videos I've watched are using and is why when I try to play the songs they sound wrong as I'm tuned DAd :lol:

KenH wrote:If you must play chords, read An Approach to Learning Chord-Melody Style by Merv Rowley in the Articles section here. You'll see that DAA chord-melody is actually more versatile -- more chords available than DAd. And the chords are really not any more difficult than DAd chords -- just different.


Thanks, I'll definitely give that a look. I wasn't really expecting to use chords (in fact I was hoping not to!), but at the workshop I attended in September, Karen taught us a couple simple chords (D, G, A) and I've picked up a few more from videos and songs I've been learning. They're a little easier than I was thinking they would be. The part of Whiskey Before Breakfast that runs down from 7 to 1 uses 2 finger chords that just run down the fingerboard like 0-5-4, 0-4-3, 0-3-2, etc and sound pretty good. Not sure the names for them, but I've played around with incorporating them into other songs. They add a bit of richness to the sound. 3 finger chords seem to trip me up still though. When going from G (0-1-3) to the 2-3-4 chord my brain just stops :lol: I've found it's easier for me to barre the 4th fret or play 0-5-4 there.
bret
Junior Mbr (0-50 posts)
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:00 pm


Return to Mountain Dulcimer Beginner's Area

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron