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Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)

JenBurdoo 19 Jul 15 - 01:50 AM
Will Fly 19 Jul 15 - 05:01 AM
Sean Belt 20 Jul 15 - 09:56 AM
Dave the Gnome 20 Jul 15 - 10:11 AM
Will Fly 20 Jul 15 - 10:40 AM
GUEST,nickp (cookieless) 20 Jul 15 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,nickp 20 Jul 15 - 11:11 AM
PHJim 20 Jul 15 - 02:21 PM
GUEST,nickp 20 Jul 15 - 03:43 PM
Sean Belt 20 Jul 15 - 03:47 PM
PHJim 20 Jul 15 - 07:33 PM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Jul 15 - 11:32 PM
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Subject: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: JenBurdoo
Date: 19 Jul 15 - 01:50 AM

I'm not doing too badly learning guitar -- am flying home this week for a family visit and as far as I know they don't have one but may still have a couple dulcimers my Dad picked up (ye gods, decades ago) in Mountain View, Arkansas. Don't suppose some of the same chords and tuning can be used? I've seen them being played but have never tried.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Jul 15 - 05:01 AM

Look http://www.get-tuned.com/dulcimer.php.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: Sean Belt
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 09:56 AM

JenBurdoo, dulcimers and guitars are similar in that they both have strings and can be strummed or finger picked. However, the number of strings and fret patterns are different and lend themselves to different techiques.

While guitar is a chromatic instrument, i.e. all of the notes in the scale are represented by the frets, dulcimers are diatonic and have to be retuned (or use a capo) to play in different keys.

Additionally, due to the diatonic fretting and there being only three strings (sometimes four, but the melody strings are a double course and tuned to the same note), chording can be problematic as often you're not getting a full chord, but only two of the three notes. Because of this, dulcimers tend to be melody instruments rather than chordal (like the guitar).

None of this is meant to discourage you from picking up the dulcimer, though. They're great fun to play and once you know what you're doing, very versatile.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 10:11 AM

Funnily enough although I am UK based I visited Mountain View on my last trip to the states and had a try at a dulcimer! The lady in the shop said not to strum back and forth like a guitar but only in one direction. I can't remember which way and do not know if that is common practice.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 10:40 AM

My dulcimer is tuned with 3 courses - D-A-D, and I finger it, rather than a sliding dowel rod. I use pieces of soft plastic to pick the strings, with a back and forward motion - or sometimes my thumb.

You can see mine in action in an old YouTube video from 2007 here:

In Good King Arthur's Days


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: GUEST,nickp (cookieless)
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 11:10 AM

Mountain View? Must be McSpaddens. Nice instruments.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: GUEST,nickp
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 11:11 AM

Oh and stum out makes more sense because you play the majority of the melody on the string nearest you and the out strum stresses that.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: PHJim
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 02:21 PM

I usually tune mine G-D-DD (bass to treble), but I sometimes use different tunings. I disagree about strumming in only one direction. I use both directions and sometimes finger-pick.
Sean mentioned a capo. With a guitar, you don't have to put any thought into the capo, since it is fretted chromatically, but a dulcimer, fretted diatonically, will change the relationship of the frets when you put a capo on it, so while it is possible to use a capo, it's usually not just to change the key. I first started using a capo thirty some odd years ago and at that time dulcimer capos were not available, so I used a chop-stick and an elastic band. I still prefer this capo for my dulcimer.
chopstick capo   
I also use a Bic pen lid with some modifications as a partial capo to capo just the bass string.
partial capo
The tuning I use is best for playing in G.
The G chord is 302 (GDB, treble to bass)
The D chord is 201 (F#DA) or partial D7 is 403 (ADC)
The C chord is 313 (GEC)

A good site is the Friends Of The Mountain Dulcimer


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: GUEST,nickp
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 03:43 PM

I also strum both ways (coming from a guitar) but I guess it depends what you find comfortable. My wife does 'out'.

Various capos availbale but they tend to flex a little. A brass one (although expensive) works well - use Google to search. The chopstick idea is good if you don''t need a capo often. If you do, then maybe you need a different tuning.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: Sean Belt
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 03:47 PM

PHJim, G-D-DD is not a tuning I've heard before. To get to G, I usually tune D-G-D (as I only have three strings). I'll have to see if I can coax that bass string down to G and the middle up to D to see what that sounds like!

As far as strumming only in one direction, that may work for someone who's never played the instrument before to get a good tone and to play a simple tune. But in order to play fiddle tunes at speed with other instruments, one pretty much has to strum both back and forth (or forth and back according to your preference). I angle my strum slightly up and outward to emphasize the melody string, but to also make sure I keep the rhythmic drone going on the middle and bass strings.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: PHJim
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 07:33 PM

Sean, I believe this is the tuning that Jean Ritchie used a lot in the early sixties when I first started listening to her. She modified her playing later and I believe that she even used four equi-distant strings at times.


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Subject: RE: Any basic tips on dulcimers?(not hammer)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Jul 15 - 11:32 PM

Jen, the simple answer to your question is 'no.' The guitar and the dulcimer are nothing alike.

Will, thanks for the link. I like your dulcimer.


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