It would be difficult to find sounds quite like the ones from a mountain dulcimer; the sounds are soothing, have a tinge of excitement and are always comfortable to everyone’s ears. However, the key to making incredible sounds with a dulcimer is often related to dulcimer tuning. The better you tune your dulcimer, the more surreal it begins to sound.
Since the open strings play a significant role in creating exceptionally soothing sounds, tuning the dulcimer has to be carefully done, all the time. Tuning can be done in many different ways. As per the requirements of the players to achieve distinct sounds, they carry out dulcimer tuning to different ‘note combinations’.
In order to make sure that you will be able to easily tune your dulcimer, we have explained in detail all the major type of dulcimer tuning. We are sure that this dulcimer tuner guide will prove helpful for you.
How to Tune a Dulcimer with Electric Tuner?
While using an electric tuner as your dulcimer tuner, follow the below given steps. Here, we are tuning the dulcimer to ‘D-A-A’ (D-Ionian), which is the most common type of dulcimer tuning.
- Place the dulcimer on your lap so the tuning keys of the dulcimer are on your left.
- Keep the tuner near the dulcimer and switch the same on.
- The top-string must be plucked using a pick and observe the note that gets registered on the tuner.
- If the registered note is below ‘D’, make sure that you tighten the string using the turning-key to make it pitch higher and loosen the string using the turning-key to make it pitch lower in the note registered is below ‘D’. Repeat the same till the string registers ‘D’ on the tuner.
- Repeat the same step above with the middle string to get the ‘A’ note on the middle string. The same step must be repeated for the double string at the lowest strings to get the ‘A’ note.
Tuning the Dulcimer with a Guitar or Piano
While tuning your dulcimer to ‘D-A-A’ with the help of a guitar or a piano, keep the dulcimer just as you would when you carry out dulcimer tuning with an electric tuner. You can observe that the double-string must be at the lower side of the fret board and above which, there must two single strings—one at the middle and the second at the top which is the bass string.
- Pluck the ‘D’ string on the guitar or the ‘D’ which is below the middle C on the piano and keep adjusting the top string of your dulcimer as needed till it matches the pitch of the same.
- Pluck the ‘A’ string on the guitar or the ‘A’ which is below the middle ‘C’ on the piano and keep adjusting the middle string of your dulcimer as needed till it matches the pitch of the same.
- Pluck the ‘A’ string on the guitar or the ‘A’ which is below the middle C on the piano and keep adjusting the lower double-strings of your dulcimer as needed till it matches the pitch of the same.
Strum all of the strings to make sure it sounds in tune.
Now, let us see how to tune your dulcimer for Mixolydian (D-A-D)
In order to get this, follow the below steps;
- First, you need to get the bass strings tuned. For this, pluck the bass string on your dulcimer and listen to the sound made by it. Once you have done this, play the right ‘D’ note on a stringed instrument like guitar, piano or a pitch pipe. Now, keep adjusting the bass string on the till it produces a sound that matches the sound from any of the instruments you have played. If you are using a guitar, pluck the open fourth string to make the correct sound.
- Now, you need to work on the middle string. Pluck the same and listen to the sounds made by it. Play an ‘A’ from the instrument and using the tuning knob on the dulcimer, adjust the middle string so as to create a sound that matched the sound produced by the guitar, piano or the pitch pipe that you have used to create the correct ‘A’ note.
- Using the middle string, produce a high ‘D’ by plucking the same. Now, using the knob on the dulcimer, adjust the same till the sound it produces a sound matched the ‘D’ note on the guitar, piano or the pitch pipe that you have used.
Here is a video guide on tuning your dulcimer for D-A-D:
Now, let us see how you can do your dulcimer tuning for Aeolian (D-A-C)
- Pluck the bass string and listen to the sound it creates. Now, create the right ‘D’ note using a guitar, piano or a pitch pipe. Once you understand the sound created, adjust the bass string to match the sound created by the ‘D’ note using the other instrument.
- Now, you have to tune the middle string to the ‘A’ note. Create the sound from the instrument that you use to support you and tune the middle string of the dulcimer till it matches the sound created by the other instrument you have used.
- Here, produce a ‘C’ note using the bass string of the dulcimer. Now, tune the melody string to creating a sound that matches the sound of the ‘C’ note. During the process, ensure that you loosen the melody string a little to get the best result.
Dulcimer tuning has to be done with extreme care. One of the most striking aspects of the dulcimers is that they sport an open and ringing quality which must be owed mostly to its tuning. It is the peculiarities of the strings that let the people play with the chords on the instruments to create exceptionally alluring sounds. Since that is the case, you need to pay enough and more attention during dulcimer tuning.