How to Read Dulcimer Tablature Tabs


Dulcimer tabs, (and Mountain Dulcimer Tabs) have been around for generations to help you easily learn songs. They are commonly used for all kinds of stringed and fretted instruments including guitar, banjo, mandolin and dobro, just to name a few. One of the most common ways to learn how to play the dulcimer is by reading tablature tabs, or “tab” for short. Dulcimer tablature is a simple and easy-to-read system that allows you to learn how to play your favorite songs on the dulcimer.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to read dulcimer tablature tabs:

  1. Understand the Basics: Dulcimer tablature is made up of numbers that indicate which fret to play on each string of the dulcimer. The numbers are arranged in a vertical column, with the top number indicating the string that should be played, and the lower numbers indicating the frets to play on that string.
  2. Identify the Notes: Before you can start playing a song on the dulcimer, you’ll need to identify the notes that are being played. Most dulcimer tablature will include a diagram of the fretboard that shows which notes correspond to which frets on each string. This diagram will help you to identify the notes in the tab and play them correctly.
  3. Learn the Rhythm: In addition to the notes, dulcimer tablature also includes symbols that indicate the rhythm of the song. These symbols can include dots, dashes, and other markings that tell you how long to hold each note. Pay close attention to these symbols and practice playing the rhythm of the song along with the notes.
  4. Start Playing: Once you’ve identified the notes and learned the rhythm, it’s time to start playing the song. Start by playing one measure of the song at a time, using the dulcimer tablature as a guide. Practice each measure until you can play it smoothly and accurately before moving on to the next measure.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: As with any instrument, the key to mastering the dulcimer is practice. Make a habit of practicing every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with reading dulcimer tablature and playing a variety of songs on the dulcimer.

In addition to these basic steps, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you read dulcimer tablature tabs more easily. For example, it can be helpful to practice playing the notes with a metronome or backing track, to help you develop a better sense of rhythm and timing. You can also try practicing with a dulcimer teacher or tutor, who can help you to identify and correct any mistakes you might be making.

Another helpful tip is to practice playing along with recordings of the song you’re learning. This will help you to develop a better understanding of how the notes sound in context with the rest of the song, and will also allow you to experiment with different variations and improvisations.

Overall, learning how to read dulcimer tablature tabs is an important step in becoming a proficient dulcimer player. With a little bit of practice and dedication, you can quickly master the basics of reading dulcimer tablature and start playing a variety of songs on this unique and beautiful instrument.

Check out our huge range of Free Dulcimer Tabs to get you started.

Finger Positions on Mountain Dulcimer

Enjoy this video from BanjoLemonade which goes through it all step by step.

Video Text:

0:00:00. –>
everybody I hope you’re doing well today um today I wanted to take a minute and teach folks playing the mountain dulcimer how to read tablature um you can really do a lot with tablature and it’s not that hard to read and I’m just gonna quickly go through it I will put a little graphic somewhere to show you what I’m talking about as I talk about it but I’m gonna go ahead and move the camera now and then we’ll get to it I hope you’re enjoying these free lessons that I’m giving please subscribe down below and let’s get on with the video okay so we’re gonna take a look at leaning on the everlasting arms okay we’re looking at the first measure of that song and most of your tabs will be laid out like this so you see there in the top left you’ve got four over four okay

0:01:00.2 –>
that is standard timing for songs so it just means you’re gonna have four beats in the measure and so our notes will equal four quarter notes okay you don’t have to worry about that but that just tells you the time signature there’s lots of different time signatures out there another common one is 3/4 time and that’s what we call waltz time and that’s like bump bump bump bump one two three one two three lots of songs are done that way too okay so this one’s in 4/4 now some things we notice we see the music score running along the top and if you can read music that’s excellent if you’re like me I read tab so what we have on the bottom here is you see three

0:02:00.9 –>
lines okay so if you have a look down at your dulcimer you see three lines now you may have a four-four string dulcimer three string dulcimer but that double string down there we just kind of refer to that as one string because you’re not going to play those independently of each other so we have three lines on the page and three lines on our dulcimer when we look down okay so if you look at the page again you’ll see that it is laid out exactly as if you were looking down at your dulcimer look at the page look down at your dulcimer okay the tops the top line that you see there that top line is this top string on your dulcimer that bass string the thickest string on your dulcimer the middle line middle string the bottom line is your melody line okay so as you can see there the first thing we have is we have a two

0:03:01.8 –>
okay so that means we put we press down the second fret and that’s the first note okay then we see two more twos a one and we see a zero now that means we play that note open we without pressing anything down okay now you’ll notice there’s no numbers on either of the other two lines okay that means those are not played okay so if those were going to be played if they were going to be played open so if I was going to play that whole first measure open it would look on the page like the first note would be to then directly above it it will be zero and directly above it zero and it would sound like this okay so you’d have those zeros on there if they wanted you to play that way so

0:04:01.3 –>
this song this tablet sir in particular is just written the melody notes okay so that leaves it up to you to add in chords where you’d like them [Music] see how I just I just made that first one okay all right so the last thing I want to talk to you about is what’s on the very top and that is the cord so you see a D at the very top of this line okay so that represents the D chord so there’s a bunch of different ways to play the D chord I’m just gonna play it like this and that is our second fret at the bass string and that’s a beautiful D this is a D also but anyway [Music] so you could play this song and sing it and that first chord there’s a D

0:05:00.7 –>
so that would be see how we could sing that so all that information is in that first measure and it follows all the way through but there’s a lot there now let’s talk about the second tablet sure that I want to talk about nuts down in the valley and I’ll put that up for you okay so what do we notice right off the bat all right we see a lot of the same similar things but there is something just a little bit different okay so that time signature there is three four so again that means there’s three beats in that measure so it’s one two three one two three one two three okay now what do you see in that first measure okay you see this little doohickey that’s two parallel lines and then two dots all right that little thing is called a repeat symbol so when you see that in a song you’re going to

0:06:02. –>
follow it to the you’re gonna start and follow it till you see the next one and the next one is flipped and reverse of that so the two dots are facing inside so you got two dots facing this way two dots facing that way you play everything inside and you repeat it okay so you’re gonna see that come up a lot in tablature and you need to know that that means you repeat it okay all right so this first measure here we have three notes in there if you see the top score there you see three notes all right you also see the D chord so that’s your first chord now into the tablature you see something and this is what it looks like when you have chords okay so the first thing we see is two open notes at the top of our dulcimer so we have an open bass string and an open middle string and it sounds like this

0:07:01.9 –>
right then that’s followed up by strong everything open and a first fret of that melody line and everything open and it would sound like this [Music] okay now let’s look at the next measure the next measure only has one thing in the entire measure and it’s got the second fret and two open strings sounds like that now what does that mean that means we play that and we let it ring out for those three beats of that measure okay the next measure after that shows open everything’s open for that entire measure okay so I’m going to play through those three measures for you so you hear the timing of that [Music] did you see how the space that that took

0:08:00.1 –>
up took up the whole timing of that measure I’ll do it again [Music] so it’s good to understand that within those measures you’re going to have a whole different amount of notes and chords and different things but they take up that same time signature that we talked about in the beginning so okay we move the camera back okay I hope you enjoyed that and got something out of it and before I go I just always want you to remind you that Jesus loves you bye bye you

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