How to play with guitar key of C

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How to play with guitar key of C

Postby Djwini » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:54 pm

All the camp songs I know are in key of C, chords are C, Am, F, and G. How do I play along with the guitars? Which of us changes? Capo or retune?
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby philips » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:27 pm

(1) If you're in DAd just tune down to CGc. If you're in DAA just tune down to CGG. You'll now "sound" in the key of C and can play in your normal way using your usual key of D melodies/chords etc.

(2) Don't retune the dulcimer, and then get the guitarist to put a capo on the guitar's 2nd fret and play with their usual C chording.The capo on the guitar's 2nd fret will make it "sound" in the key of D.
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby Djwini » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:54 am

Thanks, exactly what i needed to know
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby BobbaSkywalker » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:49 am

I've had a similar experience and wonder if some of you could help.

There's a small group of people around here who gather weekly to play. After being on the mailing list for over two years, I finally decided to pay them a visit. It was a low census day, with someone playing the autoharp; another playing bass; two playing guitar; and another playing the banjo. At various times they have fiddles and a mandolin.

Anyway, when I looked at the song book, I had a sudden case of amnesia. (Words and chords, that's it, no melody line.) There I was with my dulcimer, tuned in DAd, I couldn't figure out how to play anything than D and A. "Uhm, what was that other chord that's part of the progression in the key of D?" To make matters more confusing, half the songs in the book are in G, and only 15 percent are in D. (The other third are in C, with a handful in A, F, and Em.)

Assuming I wish to strum the chords that are written in the book, what do I do? I could easily take two dulcimers with me, one DAd and one CGc. It seems obvious: On the songs in D, use the D instrument and use the combinations I'm familiar with. And I can use that instrument for songs in G, as I can play a G/C/D progression (I have a 1.5 fret) — though, again, I never thought of it that night.

But for songs in C, well, I don't have a way to play an F chord on a DAd tuning. Do I use a tuning in C? A capo on a C or D-tuned instrument?
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby Acmespaceship » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:08 pm

A dulcimer can play more chords than most people think. Invest in a good chord book. Here's one that fits in a dulcimer case so you will never get caught in a jam without it: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1562222481/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

While you're waiting for it to arrive, check out the chords here: http://www.davidbeede.com/simpledulcimerchords.htm

If you are in DAd tuning and you have a 1.5 fret, you can play an F chord by barring the 1.5 fret. This works for F-major, F-minor and F7 chords; any F chord that is not diminished or augmented. That's because you're playing only two of the notes from the chord (F is the root and C is the 5th). If that's more music theory than you wanted to know, ignore what I said but remember if the tab says "Fm7sus4" simply bar the 1.5 fret and you're golden.

Rock musicians call it a "power chord" when you play only the root and 5th. It's what we get any time we're in a 1-5-8 tuning like DAd and we make bar chords. If you were playing solo, you'd want to add the missing notes. But in a jam, we can count on the other instruments to fill in the missing notes. If the tab calls for a Dm chord, we can strum the open strings (or bar the 7th fret).

In DAd with a 1.5 fret, you've got the basic chords for the keys of D, G, C and A (bar the 1st fret for E chords).

A final piece of advice that has stood me in good stead for decades: If you don't know a chord, pretend to keep playing until you reach a chord you do know ;-)
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby BobbaSkywalker » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:09 pm

Thanks. I just ordered the Mel Bay book.

I do have some printouts with chords, including the page you linked to. I also have a handy little laminated sheet I bought at a festival. It has fingerings for nine different chords in DAd, but ... I left it at home!

Thanks for the note about using the 1.5 for a barre chord. My sheet mentions 2/2/2 for F#m, but yeah, I hadn't thought of going 1.5/1.5/1.5.

I ended up not playing much that night. Instead, I sang harmony during the choruses.
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:20 pm

BobbaSkywalker wrote:I've had a similar experience and wonder if some of you could help.

There's a small group of people around here who gather weekly to play. After being on the mailing list for over two years, I finally decided to pay them a visit. It was a low census day, with someone playing the autoharp; another playing bass; two playing guitar; and another playing the banjo. At various times they have fiddles and a mandolin.

Anyway, when I looked at the song book, I had a sudden case of amnesia. (Words and chords, that's it, no melody line.) There I was with my dulcimer, tuned in DAd, I couldn't figure out how to play anything than D and A. "Uhm, what was that other chord that's part of the progression in the key of D?" To make matters more confusing, half the songs in the book are in G, and only 15 percent are in D. (The other third are in C, with a handful in A, F, and Em.)

Assuming I wish to strum the chords that are written in the book, what do I do? I could easily take two dulcimers with me, one DAd and one CGc. It seems obvious: On the songs in D, use the D instrument and use the combinations I'm familiar with. And I can use that instrument for songs in G, as I can play a G/C/D progression (I have a 1.5 fret) — though, again, I never thought of it that night.

But for songs in C, well, I don't have a way to play an F chord on a DAd tuning. Do I use a tuning in C? A capo on a C or D-tuned instrument?


If you are thinking about taking a second instrument then a McSpadden Ginger in Gdg is very useful at the sort of jam you describe. The key of G is very popular as is Am (capo 1) and C (capo 3). The other advantage is that the higher pitch places your dulcimer above the guitar in the mix (you won't be drowned out), plus you can off-beat 'chop' those high chords mandolin style and therefore add something different to the ensemble.

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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby BobbaSkywalker » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:51 am

Thanks for explaining the benefits of tuning in G. I had not thought of that. But I think yet another instrument is not in the future, as far as I can see. I do have two instruments, probably the standard length (though I don't recall) that are the standard length.

Could I restring one of those, tune it to G, and get something approaching the result you mention?
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby KenH » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:18 pm

Yes, you could change a couple strings and tune to Gdd or Gdg, the G equivalents of DAA and DAd. Use the Strothers String Calculator http://strothers.com/string_choice.html to choose the strings you'll want. The middle and melody strings that you already have should handle things, it's the bass string that will baulk at being tuned up to G from D without breaking.
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Re: How to play with guitar key of C

Postby BobbaSkywalker » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:21 pm

Thanks for the link. I'll have to look at that.
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