Learn Stick Dulcimer Chords Lesson 1

How to Play Stick Dulcimer Chords

I was doing a video a moment ago, it was a Death Cab for Cutie song and I realized that I have been remiss in telling you how to play the chords that I play, maybe that's helpful I don't know, but perhaps I should just walk you around how I think about chords, and what the chords are here. This is off the cuff, so hopefully this is as thorough as it can be and helpful for you. This is a Seagull Merlin, and it is tuned to G, I mean D. They make them in G, and the Strumstick that Bob McNally makes comes in either D or G as well, depending on which model you get, of course. You can tune up or down but just for point of reference those are the options that are standard out there. This one's in D. I say that because now we can know which scale we’re in. I will often refer to chords as their number on the scale. It's just I'm in Nashville and it's become a thing that I know and I try to stick to because it helps transpose keys. If that's of no meaning to you, feel free to ignore that. I'll try and use the numbers and the letters.

So the D, which is the root, the open chord on this is the one. The four chord if you go one, two, three, four that note the chord that's built up, that's the G chord. So that's the four of the scale and this is the four chord. Make sense? The five chord, which is the fifth of the scale, is the A. I do it this way a lot. The sixth chord, which is a six minor because a nat in a key naturally the six is a six minor chord and that's because this is a diatomic, so it's naturally in the key. That's what you get there or down here. There's other ways to play it, I believe here, no sorry wrong Fret. I usually stick to this one and this one. This one's just a little trickier, maybe because I’m lazy? So anyway all that was to say: one two three four five six seven eight, so that's how you get your scale. We would just assign the chord number to each of those scales: one chord, two chord, three, four, five, six, seven, eight okay?

Power Chords

Now quick words because I just did that real quick about Power Chords. Power Chords are the essence of a chord as housed by the root in the fifth, but no third in the middle, so in this case it would be root, 5, octave, but no third. So the chord is there, it's powerful. It feels like a chord but it doesn't have a major or minor tonality to it, but if I did this so that it sounds minor, I don't know if you can hear that or not, but as opposed to (strumming). So similarly (strumming). That actually isn't major or minor, maybe your ear hears it as major because the four, and your ear’s programmed to hear major there because that's how we think of keys, that's how western music is pretty much programmed. So if I add that third in now it definitely sounds major, but otherwise it's totally a power chord. Now power cords are fun because then you get rock and roll. So a lot of rock and roll is based on power chords. A really easy example would be The Middle by Jimmy Eat World. (music) So that's actually the key that it's in so you can play along with the record just like that. It's kind of hard to see from my camera probably but I'm just barring with my ring finger all the way across, so it's still a Power Cord and then I'm moving down with my index finger. I do that because it makes it easier to switch. You might think I'm crazy and you can just do it with one all the way up and down right? That's kind of the essence of those one finger melodies that I've had. They’re a little bit easier to pull off when there's less frets and less strings could be concerned with. So that was just (strumming) Maybe I'll make a video for that, it’s a pretty simple one. Anyway just riffing here. So there's your major one chord. We're adding the three, we’re adding the third sorry, the third of the chord.