Monday, February 23, 2009

Changing tuning from DAD to DAA

First I recommend you read yesterday's blog post about why I like DAA tuning. Now, if you are in the common DAD tuning already and you want to try DAA, just tune your two melody strings DOWN to match the same A note that your middle string is. This might feel like less tight tension on those strings as you play, but it should still play fine on any normal sized dulcimer.

If you have any TAB that is written for DAD noter style playing, you can 'translate' that TAB into DAA tuning simply by increasing each fret number on the paper by three... In other words, a DAD noter style tab which is written 0-1-3, will become 3-4-6 in DAA tuning. If you have a favorite tune in tab notation, this is a good way to figure out how to play it in a different mode.
Modes need not be some complex and mysterious theory puzzle....Instead, just think of modes as having the starting note "Do" of your do-re-mi scale start in a couple of different places on your fretboard instead of always on the open melody string. Doing this is pretty easy if you are only making fretted notes up and down the melody string, as in noter/drone style playing. People who play dulcimer in chord style have to learn a whole new bunch of chord fingerings for each mode or tuning- no wonder they hesitate to try out different modes! We noter players have it easy when trying out various tunings.
On this blog, I am mostly going to stick to only two modes anyway for a good long while- starting with ionian (like DAA). Later on I will go into the haunting and lonely sounding aeolian mode (DAc). There are enough beautiful and delightful songs in ionian and aeolian modes to keep anyone busy for many years of thrilling and deeply satisfying playing!

Modes are not hard to play in at all, and you don't need to learn everything about them, far from it- only a few key things that are useful. In fact, modes actually make things easier for us to play on our dulcimers! More about this later on. For now, don't worry, just try the DAA (ionian mode) tuning.

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