Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

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Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby duck clammer dude » Thu Aug 02, 2012 7:25 pm

Hey guys. I've been reading posts here for quite a while and finally decided to get an account! :D So, here's my question.

My first dulcimer was a 5-string Mastertone by Jim and Brenda Good (?) with a walnut back and some kind of light wood for the top with their trademark sliced walnuts for the soundholes. At the time I was clueless and removed the extra fifth string to tune it to DAA, then DAD. To clarify, this fifth string is an unwound sting like the melody that is placed right next to the bass like the doubled melody strings. Now that I have a collection of instruments, I want to move it back to the tuning that originally came with it. Does anyone know what they tune their dulcimers to? If not, I'm sure that there are all kinds of fun things that open up with this new string, so if anyone has some ideas or tips that would be great. I think I remember that it the fifth string was tuned an octave above the bass, but I don't know what the rest of the strings were. (Key of G, I think? Maybe?)

From what I found the makers are very traditional players favoring that drone sound, so it would make sense that they added another string. Also, is this idea unique to them only? DId they draw inspiration from others and do other makers do something similar to this? Jim and Brenda seem like interesting people and I think it's good to know a lot about the instrument you play.

Any other Mastertone players out there? What do you think?
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby KenH » Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:52 am

I don't need to be a Mastertone player to identify the 5 string setup and tell you what you need to know. :shock:

Your Mastertone was setup for a double Bass Drone course with the outer Bass string being the usual wound bass string, and the thinner unwound inner string tuned an octave higher. So for example, if you have a doubled-Melody course dulcimer tuned DAd, that would be 4 strings tuned DAdd. As a 5-string instrument tuned to DAd you would have the strings tuned DdAdd. If you tuned the instrument to DAA it would be DdAAA.

As always, the gauges of strings you choose depend on the VSL and the base tuning which you employ. If you tune to DAd, the thin Bass string would be the same gauge as the Melody strings.
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby pristine2 » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:53 pm

duck clammer dude wrote:Hey guys. I've been reading posts here for quite a while and finally decided to get an account! :D So, here's my question.

My first dulcimer was a 5-string Mastertone by Jim and Brenda Good (?) with a walnut back and some kind of light wood for the top with their trademark sliced walnuts for the soundholes. At the time I was clueless and removed the extra fifth string to tune it to DAA, then DAD. To clarify, this fifth string is an unwound sting like the melody that is placed right next to the bass like the doubled melody strings.\\


As far as I know, Jim Good still delivers his Mastertone dulcimers with the doubled bass course tuned an octave + a third apart -- something like G and b-flat -- with the middle and melody strings tuned in unison at D. I may not have remembered that exactly right, but it isn't tuned like a standard 5-string in Mixolydian.

You can clear up the issue quickly by emailing Jim.

Richard
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby KenH » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:40 am

Verrrry interesting Richard. I'd never heard that. Octave and a third, eh? How odd (but pleasant).
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby heidimul » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:37 am

Hi there, Jim Good dulcimers are the only ones I’ve seen that come tuned in the key of G with the inside, unwound string tuned to B. The bass is tuned to G, and the ‘middle’ string and other strings are tuned to D. It creates a very shimmering sound that sounds gorgeous on an open strum. The problems start when you try to make chords, as the B string will give you some real clams depending on where you fret the bass - and because they run close together, you can’t avoid fingering both the bass and the inner B string at the same time.

Once tuned this way, you’ll need to map out what chords work and only use them, being a little careful where you fret the bass string, and be content to do alot of drone-noter playing. The full G chord you get as you strum open really does sound fantastic with the B string.
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby Robin the Busker » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:25 am

I always think it is worth watching and listening to the builder play their own instruments if at all possible, as it can open your eyes and ears to why they build and tune the way they do. Three of the 5 videos here show JIm playing:

http://mastertonedulcimers.webs.com/apps/videos/

Watching Jim, he reminds me a lot of ID Stamper in both his dulcimer design and playing style, particularly his right hand work with a flat pick. Those wide, shallow, high tuned dulcimers certainly kick out some sound! ID Stamper also would sometimes put a B note into his drones in G tunings, though not always. From the videos that Jim has chosen to present it looks like he plays mostly noter drone in the major key from his prefered tuning. And this is quite classic for traditional playing - I have found other examples (like the Graves family) who have used only one tuning and played only major key tunes for over a 100 years. And the key of G seems to be quite prevalent for this practice (Stamper's short scale, Graves walking cane, Melton Galax style). From looking at the videos, when Jim chords he simply uses the 4th chord at the 3rd fret (3,0,3) and 5th chord at the 4th fret (4,0,4) keeping the middle string open as a drone. The high B string drone alongside the bass G string will be in harmony when fretted at the 3rd and 4th fret for the 4th and 5th chords. If he plays only major folk tunes then Jim is unlikely to need any more chords than these two. It is a very simply yet very effective way to play the instrument.

Of course, any owner of a Mastertone could fit other string gauges and use other tunings and other playing styles. But if I owned one then I think I would keep it for playing tunes using the same styles as Jim and ID Stamper.
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Re: Tunings for Mastertone Dulcimers?

Postby tentmaker » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:54 am

I have a Leonard Glenn dulcimer with the a 3 drone ( III I ) string spacing. When I inquired if anyone on ED knew how the 3 drones were originally tuned I received no info so I tried DdAA /1855 and DF#A A/1355 and played noter drone. Both sounded nice but I will have to give the Df#AA/1 11(8+3)5 5 a go. 8)
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