How To Tune A Hammered Dulcimer; To tune a hammered dulcimer, use a tuning wrench to adjust the tension of the strings. Start with the bass bridge and move to the treble bridge, fine-tuning individual strings as needed.

Understanding the Basics of Hammered Dulcimer Tuning

Before diving into the tuning process, it’s important to grasp the fundamentals of the hammered dulcimer’s tuning system. The instrument consists of a series of strings stretched across a soundboard, with each string assigned to a specific pitch. The dulcimer’s strings are arranged in a diatonic scale, similar to the white keys of a piano, with a few additional chromatic notes available.

How To Tune A Hammered Dulcimer

To tune the hammered dulcimer, you will need a tuning wrench or a tuning hammer, which is used to adjust the tension of the strings. Additionally, a chromatic tuner or a pitch pipe will come in handy to help you achieve accurate pitches.

Step-by-Step Guide to Tuning a Hammered Dulcimer

  1. Start with the bass bridge: Begin by identifying the bass bridge, which is usually located on the left side of the dulcimer. Using your tuning wrench or hammer, turn the tuning pins clockwise to increase the tension and raise the pitch, or counterclockwise to decrease the tension and lower the pitch. Tune each string on the bass bridge to the desired pitch, starting from the lowest note and working your way up.
  2. Move to the treble bridge: Once the bass bridge is in tune, shift your attention to the treble bridge, typically found on the right side of the dulcimer. Repeat the same process as before, adjusting the tension of the strings until they reach the desired pitch.
  3. Fine-tune individual strings: After tuning the bridges, play each string individually and listen carefully. If you notice any discrepancies in pitch, make slight adjustments to the corresponding tuning pin until the string is in tune.
  4. Check for overall balance: Once all the strings are individually tuned, play some chords and listen for any inconsistencies in tonality or balance. Make small adjustments to individual strings or bridges as needed to achieve a harmonious sound across the entire instrument.
  5. Repeat the process: Tuning a hammered dulcimer is an iterative process. After completing the initial tuning, revisit each bridge and string, making minor adjustments until you achieve the desired tonal quality and pitch accuracy.

Tips for Maintaining a Well-Tuned Hammered Dulcimer

  • Regular tuning: It’s essential to tune your hammered dulcimer regularly, as changes in temperature and humidity can affect the tension of the strings. Aim for tuning the instrument before every practice or performance to ensure optimal sound quality.
  • Use a stable environment: When tuning your hammered dulcimer, choose a stable environment with consistent temperature and humidity levels. Extreme fluctuations can cause the strings to go out of tune quickly.
  • Be gentle: While using a tuning wrench or hammer, apply gentle pressure to the tuning pins to avoid damaging them or the soundboard. Take your time and make small adjustments to prevent over-tightening or loosening the strings.
  • Consider professional assistance: If you are new to tuning or encounter difficulties achieving the desired sound, seeking assistance from an experienced hammered dulcimer player or a luthier is recommended. They can provide valuable guidance and ensure your instrument is in optimal condition.

How do you tune a dulcimer?

Tuning a dulcimer involves adjusting the tension of the strings to achieve the desired pitches. Most dulcimers are tuned in a diatonic scale, similar to the white keys on a piano. The common tuning for a mountain dulcimer is D-A-D, with the middle string tuned to D, the bass string to A, and the melody string to D.

How To Tune A Hammered Dulcimer
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To tune, use a tuner or reference pitch to set the pitch for the melody string, and then tune the other strings relative to it. Adjust the tuning pegs or hitch pins as needed until each string reaches the correct pitch.

What notes are used for a hammered dulcimer?

The hammered dulcimer has a wide range of notes available, allowing for melodic and harmonic exploration. Traditionally, hammered dulcimers are tuned in a diatonic scale, following the pattern of the white keys on a piano. The most common tuning for hammered dulcimers is D major or D mixolydian mode.

This tuning typically includes notes such as D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, and D. However, various other tunings and modal options exist, allowing for versatility and different musical styles on the hammered dulcimer.

What is the tuning for a dulcimer on a guitar in the key of A?

The dulcimer can be tuned to replicate the key of A on a guitar, offering a harmonious blend between the two instruments. To achieve this, tune the dulcimer strings to D-A-D, just like the traditional mountain dulcimer tuning.

However, you will need to capo the guitar at the 2nd fret to match the dulcimer’s pitches. This will effectively raise the guitar’s open strings to the same pitches as the dulcimer, resulting in a harmonious collaboration between the two instruments in the key of A.

What dulcimer is tuned to the key of D?

The dulcimer that is typically tuned to the key of D is the mountain dulcimer. The mountain dulcimer has three strings, with the middle string tuned to D, the bass string to A, and the melody string to D.

How To Tune A Hammered Dulcimer

This tuning allows for playing melodies in the key of D and its related modes. The mountain dulcimer’s tuning in D makes it a versatile instrument for playing traditional folk, Appalachian, and Celtic music, among other genres.


How often should I tune my hammered dulcimer?

It’s best to tune your hammered dulcimer before every practice or performance. Changes in temperature and humidity can cause the strings to go out of tune, so regular tuning is crucial.

Can I use an electronic tuner to tune my hammered dulcimer?

Yes, using an electronic tuner is highly recommended. It provides precise measurements of pitch and makes the tuning process more accurate.

What should I do if a string breaks while tuning?

If a string breaks, don’t panic. Replace it with a new string of the same gauge and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult a professional for assistance.

Q4: Are there any specific maintenance practices to keep my hammered dulcimer in tune for longer periods? A4: To maintain your hammered dulcimer’s tuning for longer durations, store it in a controlled environment, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Additionally, periodically check the tension of the strings and make any necessary adjustments.

V. Conclusion

Tuning a hammered dulcimer is an essential skill that every player should master. With proper knowledge and practice, you can achieve the captivating and resonant sound that characterizes this beautiful instrument. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, along with regular maintenance, you’ll be able to keep your hammered dulcimer in tune and enjoy the magic of its melodic possibilities for years to come.