Dulcimer/5 string Mt dulcimer
I have an old 5 string Mole in the Ground Mt dulcimer that I am cleaning up and putting new strings on. I wasn't sure about the double bass strings - are they tuned in unison or maybe an octave apart or something else.
Thanks for your help.
Good question - I've seen them tuned all sorts of ways, see below:
One maker says, "5-string dulcimers are usually arranged in three courses: a double melody, a single middle string, and a double bass string (which can be a unison or octave course)." I've also seen them strung like a banjo, with a really high top string acting as the banjo's fifth string, for frailing. One caveat -- if you plan to tune the bass strings an octave apart, watch out for the gauges -- heavy gauge strings often won't tune up to an octave higher than D, so you might want to use a smalelr gauge.
Dulcimer is still a free-range instrument, which has resisted standardization, so everybody tunes and plays the way they want. I've never played a five-string and I'm a DAA player, so my information on this is limited. As luthier Ron Gibson says, "There is no right or wrong way to play, tune or string a mountain dulcimer. A mountain dulcimer can be set up with any gauge of strings and tuned in any way the player desires." He adds, "A 5-string dulcimer - at least the way I build 'em - is a 4-string dulcimer with the addition of an extra bass string that is spaced equally apart from the other strings (not doubled like the melody string). This gives the dulcimer a fuller sound with more bass frequency response. However, there is no reason that a string other than the bass string could not be added- it is all at the discretion of the player. For beginners who learn to play using books or other instructional materials, it would be wise to choose something other than a 5-string. There are few learning materials written for a 5-string dulcimer and it could be very discouraging trying to use books written for a 4-string dulcimer."
Hope this helps