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About the Dulcimer


appalachian and mountain dulcimer    A dulcimer is a fretted, plucked musical instrument. The instrument first appeared in the early 1800s from the Scots-Irish in the southern Appalachian Mountains, and thus is also called a mountain dulcimer or an Appalachian dulcimer. There is a wide variation in Appalachian dulcimers and some may have up to 12 strings, but they are most commonly found with 3, 4, or 5 strings.

how to tune a dulcimer

    Like a said earlier, there are a lot of types of Dulcimers, so I am only going to explain how to tune the most common dulcimers, the 3, 4, or 5 stringed dulcimers.
There are many ways you can tune a dulcimer, but currently the most common tunings are DAD, DAA, or DGD. DAD is the most common but it is often easier for the beginning player to tune to DAA or the so-called "Reverse Ionian" tuning, (DGD).


Difference between 3, 4, and 5 stringed Dulcimers

Down below i will explain how to tune a Dulcimer that has 4 strings. A 3 string and 5 string dulcimer are basically tuned to the same tuning as a 4 string dulcimer. The difference is that a 3 string has only 1 melody string, and the 5 string dulcimer has 2 melody strings and 2 bass strings. Those pairs of strings are tuned exactly the same note, to cause a harmonizing effect.


Tuning a Dulcimer using a Keyboard or Piano

Tuning a dulcimer using a Piano in DAA tuningTuning a dulcimer using a Piano in DAD tuning

Tuning a Dulcimer to itself

D Ionian (DAA) Tuning
1st String (bass) D - 2nd String (middle) A - 3rd String and 4th String (melody strings) A
  1. Tune the 3rd or bass string to the D below Middle C on the Piano (or to the open 4th string of a guitar).
  2. Press the 3rd or bass string just left of the 4th fret and pluck this note (A). Tune your middle or 2nd string until it matches this pitch.
  3. Tune the 1st or melody string to the same note as the open middle string.
D Mixolydian (DAD) Tuning
1st String (bass) D - 2nd String (middle) A - 3rd String and 4th String (melody strings) D
  1. Tune the 3rd or bass string to the D below Middle C on the Piano (or to the open 4th string of a guitar).
  2. Press the 3rd or bass string just left of the 4th fret and pluck this note (A). Tune your middle or 2nd string until it matches this pitch.
  3. Press the 2nd or middle string just left of the 3rd fret and pluck this note (high D, one octave above the open bass string). Tune the 1st or melody string to this note.


That's it! If you have any questions or comments, post them below.


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Comments

Recent Comments on this PageView All Posts
Jessica [11/16/2011 14:23]

I enjoy playing and teaching the mountain dulcimer in the standard DAD tuning. There are other tunings that this versatile instrument can be played in. I've attended many dulcimer festivals in the last 10 years....the instrument is taking a come back! It's easy and fun!

Leonidas [11/16/2011 20:03]

what a strange looking thing. amazing though

Dick Wilkinson [11/05/2012 13:43]

I have a dulcimer made several years ago by Stinson R. Behlen (past away some years ago) of Slaton, Texas. I have the original owner's manual that came with it, but not having any musical experiance, the tuning directions are confusing to me. It referres to the 1st and 2nd strings and so on. This dulcimer (starting away from the fretted board) has two heaver wound strings and two more smaller wond strings. Then there is a double set of strings with fret bars spaced diferent from the next two sets of double strings. When one referres to the number of the strings (or sets of strings) which would be considered the first string? The manual also referrs to "E-major", E-flat (D#) major, F-major, G-major, and D-major tuning. Any help or advice would be greatly apreciated Thanks in advance Dick Wilkinson

PaulKleine [03/31/2013 19:43]

I have just finished building my first mountain dulcimer and have tuned it to DAD. But.....I have purchased a beginner book that plays all songs in the key of C with no sharps or flats. But......how do I tune my dulcimer to allow me play those songs? Thanks very much, Paul

jim_n2001 [05/27/2013 15:14]

Paul, Try the Ionian mode. It can be a bit discordant but that can be an advantage. By the way, are you at all connected with my cousins in Cullman, Alabama? j

jim_n2001 [05/27/2013 15:26]

Or you can go with the old fashioned GGE (I think that's what it is. I'm a bit rusty.) tuning. It's like playing the piano with one finger on the white keys. j

lucydog1 [08/07/2013 13:00]

What can cause the sound of a dulcimer to change? Mine has gone from a "bright sound" to a brassy, tinny sound. I recently wiped off mine with a very lightly dampened cloth with no cleaner on the cloth. Several of my player friends think the cleaning caused the change Is there anything I can do to restore its beautiful sound?

caglaus [02/06/2014 11:15]

Hi,I developed first free Mountain Dulcimer Tuner for Android Devices, it may be useful for you. You can check it from this link in Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... cimertuner

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