Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuning a dulcimer (and an aside, dear reader, on how a blog is like the old-fashioned oak filing cabinet in my home office)

Copied from an email message I just sent out to members of the Prairieland Dulcimer Strings in Springfield on the theory (mentioned below) that a blog -- this blog, at any rate -- is kind of an electronic filing cabinet where I can tuck away information that would get lost otherwise.

Hi everybody --

I've got a couple of links below for the beginners, but I'm emailing everyone to remind you Bonnie and Ken Lawson have invited us (and our dulcimers!) to a picnic at their home for our regular August meeting, Thursday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. I'll forward their message with directions, etc., in a few minutes.

Something else I keep forgetting to mention: Mike Thomas of our group has several extra sets of strings he's willing to sell. If you're interested, contact him ... or contact me, and I have his email address so I can forward the message to him.

Now, about tuning ...

At the end of last week's meeting, we looked at some of our tablature and decided there isn't a whole lot that calls for playing the 6+ fret, so it's probably best for the folks with WalMart dulcimers to play in DAD. I'm going to paste below a primer on how to tune the dulcimer from Jerry Rockwell's website. He's a very talented player and luthier from Ohio, and his website is one I keep going back to. Very informative.

Here's how you can tune the dulcimer when you don't have an electronic tuner. You always start with the bass string, and tune the rest of them to it. If you're playing with someone else, get your bass strings in tune with each other. Then tune the other strings to it. Rockwell explains how:

D Ionian (D-A-A)

Step 1. Tune the 3rd or bass string of the dulcimer to the D below Middle C (this is the same note as the open 4th string of the guitar).

Step 2. Hold the 3rd or bass string just to the left of the 4th fret and pluck this note (A). Tune your middle or 2nd string so it exactly matches this pitch.

Step 3. Tune the melody or 1st string to the same note as the open middle string. Now play the Ionian mode from frets 3 through 10 and back down. Skip the 6+ fret!

D Mixolydian (D-A-D)

Steps 1 and 2 are the same as for D Ionian.

Step 3. Hold the 2nd or middle string down at the 3rd fret and pluck this note (high D, one octave above the open bass string). Tune the melody or 1st string to this note.
Here's a link to his page, which has some more information: http://www.jcrmusic.com/Learning.html

You might want to surf around his website sooner or later. He's got a page on improvising that I really like, and he knows a lot about music theory. Jerry Rockwell's website is one I keep coming back to.

-- Pete

I'm going to copy this message to my "Hogfiddle" blog, too, so I don't delete the information. It's at http://hogfiddle.blogspot.com/ ... I use it as kind of an electronic filing cabinet.

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