Mountain Dulcimers with a southwestern flair from New Mexico.Mountain Dulcimers with a southwestern flair from New Mexico.Mountain Dulcimers with a southwestern flair from New Mexico.

Mountain Dulcimer Lessons

Lesson # 2 -- "L" Chords:

Another form of chord is the "L" chord. So here is a list of the "L" chords in DAd. Form the barre chord first, and then find the 3rd note of the chord. (Notice how you are just counting up the alphabet on the bass string):

Hint: The 3rd note of the chord is found two frets higher.
HINT: You start with the barre chord and add the 3rd note of that chord.

Say you want to play a complete G chord. First, find the barre G chord (Remember to count up from the nut, D, E, F#, G -- which puts you at the third fret). Put your index finger on the bass string, your middle finger on the middle string and your ring finger on the treble string at the 3rd fret and you have the barre G chord.

Now place your thumb on the 5th fret of the treble string. Voila!! You have a complete G chord!

Hint: In the DAd tuning, the bass and treble string(s) are the same note, just an octave apart, so you can invert that chord by placing your thumb on the bass string at the fifth fret instead of the treble string.

This formation is true all the way up the fingerboard. If you start at the first note of the D scale (D), the barre chord is open and the 3rd note of the chord is found two frets higher -- 002 or 200.

If you move to the first fret and barre across, you have an incomplete E chord. Once again, the 3rd note of the E chord is found two frets higher -- 113 or 311.

   
D0  0  2
Em1  1  3
F#m2  2  4
G3  3  5
Am4  4  6
A4  4  6+
Bm5  5  7
C6  6  8
C#m6+  6+  8
D7  7  9
Em8  8  10
F#m9  9  11
G10  10  12

If you move to the second fret and barre across, you have an incomplete F# chord. Once again, the 3rd note of the F# chord is found two frets higher -- 224 or 422. And so on.

The trick is at the 6+ fret.

If you move your barre chord up to the fourth fret, you have an incomplete A chord. The 3rd note of the A chord is found two frets higher -- 446+ or 6+44. (Remember in the last lesson I told you to forget about the 6 fret for now.)

Also, I said in the barre chord lesson that the 3rd note of the chord is what determines whether or not a chord is major or minor. Now this part is a little harder, but it isn't necessary to totally understand. Of course, since now you are adding the 3rd note of the chord to your chords, you are defining them as either major or minor and it is a good thing to know whether or not you are playing a major chord or a minor chord. Since the dulcimer is set up diatonically, when you are forming "L" chords, you only have a choice at the 6 and 6+ fret when playing the A chord or the C chord. The major or minor quality of the other chords in the "L" form are predetermined for you.

HINT: To change a chord from major to minor, you flatten the 3rd note by a half step.

I have discovered that it is much easier to explain this if I could show you rather than just explain it on paper.  It is also much easier to understand if I could just show you rather than trying to explain it on paper!!

The next lesson is "X" chords. See yea there!

Lesson # 3: -- "X" Chords:

Another form of chord is the "X" chord.

Here is where use of the 6 and 6+ fret are important.

To the right is a list of the "X" chords in DAd.

The easy, no-memorization way of finding these chords is this:

HINT: The middle string names the "X" chord.

Once again, you just count up from the open middle string.

(For the first "A" chord, of course, you can use the 1 0 1 configuration that we are all familiar with. It is neither major nor minor.)

Bm0  1  22  1  0
D2  3  44  3  2
Em3  4 55  4  3
G5  6  77  6  5
A6+   7  88  7  6+
Am6   7  88  7  6
Bm7  8  99  8  7
D9   10   1111 10  9
Em10  11  1212  11  10

Notice that the bass string is fretted ONE FRET higher or lower, and the treble string is fretted ONE FRET higher or lower. One confusing thing about this is remembering which fret to use for A (6+) and which fret to use for Am (6).

Remember that the third tone of the chord determines whether or not the chord is major or minor. The middle string at the 7th fret is an A which names the chord. The 6 on the bass/treble is a C and the 6+ on the bass/treble is a C#.

Hint: To change a chord from major to minor, you lower the third tone by a half step.

So just remember when you are forming the A chord, if you want minor, you move a fret lower on the bass/treble strings (a "half step", because it is a narrow space).

Hint: The best way to finger these chords is to assign your middle finger to the middle string. Then, you can use your ring finger for either the bass string or the treble string to the left, and you can use your index finger for either the bass string or the treble string on the right.

"X" chords are good to know. You can use them for "mando" chops behind another instrument playing melody. Just pivot on your middle finger, inverting the chord over and over.

(Notice that you do not have any form of C chord or F chord. Because the dulcimer is diatonic, the necessary sharps and flats are missing for these chords to work out in this "X" manner.)

The "X" chords are harder than the Barre or "L" chords at first. But once they make sense to you, you will use them more often than the others.

As a "general rule" you don't always have to fret the bass string (or treble string). Those are called "two finger chords" and some of you are probably already using them. Usually, when an instructor introduces you to chords, they take you to the two finger chords first.

You can use any combination of some of the "X" chords.  An example would be the low D chord.

You can play them any of these ways:

Counting these four fingerings plus the full "X" chord, the barre, and the "L" chords, you have just learned nine.....count them.....NINE....different ways to play a D chord!!! !!! Well, no....if you go up an octave, you have 18 ways to play a D chord!!! !!! No one can convince me that the dulcimer is "limited".

Ready for Lesson # 4???
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