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Learning Chords on Your Dulcimer

There are many approaches to learning chords on your dulcimer. I like to group the main chords in the key of D together in the lower frets, then the middle frets, and then finally in the higher frets up towards the 7th fret. By playing the D, G, and A chords in this sequence:

D – G – D – A – D

…we can make a nice, musical exercise that has good voice-leading (there aren’t any awkward leaps from one chord to the next), and allows you to work on getting your left-hand fingering smooth and consistent.

So here are six different ways you can smoothly change chords through this progression:

  1. Close Voicings in the first three frets
  2. Open voicings in the first three frets
  3. Close Voicings in frets 1 –> 4
  4. Open Voicings in frets 1 –> 4
  5. Close Voicings in frets 4 –> 7
  6. Open Voicings in frets 4 –> 7

NOTE: Close voicings are the most-closely-spaced form of the chords. I really like these a lot!! They sound so subtle and graceful. Open voicings are when you have larger intervals between the chord members. When you take a glance at the interval spacing in the standard music notation above the TAB, you’ll see what I mean. The open voicings have a big, almost orchestral sound. They are what most dulcimer players grab by default….especially those who use their left-hand thumb on the melody string. With some careful arranging and efficient fingering — you can move from the close voicings gradually to the open, and then on back. Not so easy, but well worth it if you like challenges!!