How to read Tab

Many dulcimer players learn songs by ear and others learn with Tab. Tab is a form of musical notation. Many dulcimer players actually learn songs with a combination of learning the tune by ear and by referring to the Tab ...

To play by numbers, so to speak, using Tab, the strings of your mountain dulcimer are represented by the three lines below the musical staff and notes. The top line will be the frets of your bass string (the big thick string farthest from you), the middle line are the frets to play on your middle string, and the bottom line represents the frets on your melody string (closest to you).

When learning a new song most people focus on playing the frets on the bottom, melody line only.

Look at your fret board.  It has a series of large spaces and small spaces.  Now match your fretboard to one of the typical tunings shown below for your dulcimer ... (Keep in mind that some mt dulcimers have extra frets like a 1+ fret ...)

Because most dulcimers are diatonic advanced players often re-tune their dulcimers to match different keys.  You can for example, easily re-tune your DAD dulcimer down a full step to "CGC".  This allows you to play tunes that are Tabbed for "DAD" in the key of C instead of the Key of D.  

Note that when re-tuning, all the notes on the fret board change!  

Because mt dulcimers are frequently re-tuned, most mt dulcimer players play by the fret numbers that are shown in Tab and they don't bother memorizing the note positions on the fret board.  Yes, eventually, advanced players figure out the notes in the tunings they frequently use but it can be a distraction for beginning players to worry about the notes at each fret position until they settle on the specific tunings they will be using. Therefore - beginning players focus on playing by the numbers that are in the Tab below the musical notation.  

When playing your fingers should press down on the string just behind the fret, not on top of the fret but behind it. By pressing the string down behind the fret, the string is shortened to the length of that fret and vibrates with the indicated note.

Sources of Tab

(Many sources of are "free", while others charge fees. In general tab that charges a fee is often far better and far more accurate than free tab.  Also, copyright songs require fees to be paid to the copyright holder which isn't the person that arranges the tab for mt dulcimer.  Therefore, songs under copyright almost always charge a fee ...)

Free Sources:

Not so free ... but absolutely fantastic :

(If I am missing someone's awesome Tab ... please contact me!)