How to Read Dulcimer Chord Diagrams
Chord diagrams are a way of displaying chord voicings with a visual representation of the dulcimer fretboard. Here is an example of a chord diagram with each part of the diagram labeled:
1. Chord Name: This part of the diagram tells you what kind of chord it is. In this case, the chord is a D major chord. This part of the chord diagram is also known as a chord symbol.
2. Strings: The horizontal lines represent the strings on the dulcimer. The bottom line represents the high D string(s), which is the closest string to you when you place the dulcimer on your lap. The top line represents the string that is furthest from you.
3. Frets: The vertical lines represent frets. The left side of the diagram is closest to the tuners, so the orientation of a diagram is just like the dulcimer when placed on your lap. If the leftmost vertical line is thicker than the others, it represents the nut on the dulcimer. Otherwise, there may be a number plus the abbreviation "fr." For example, "3 fr" indicates that the chord starts at the 3rd fret.
4. Fretted Notes: A fretted note is indicated by placing a black dot in between two vertical lines. You should place a finger anywhere a black dot appears on the diagram. When counting frets, you should count the space between the lines instead of each individual line. In the diagram above, the only fretted note appears on the second fret of the high D string.
5. Open Strings: Open strings are indicated by a circle placed at the end of the diagram. These appear in front of the string to which they correspond. Note that a chord may consist of both fretted notes and open strings.
6. Nut: The nut of the dulcimer is represented by a thick vertical line. Some chords begin higher on the neck. These chord diagrams won't feature a nut, but will have an indication of the fret where the chord start. See #3 above for an explanation.
Common Chords for Dulcimer
Below are chord voicings for the following chords: D major, E minor, F sharp minor, G major, A major, B minor, and C sharp diminished. These are the triads in D major. All voicings are for a dulcimer tuned DAD. Many other chords are possible in this tuning and others. For a more complete chord reference, you may want to buy a chord book.
F Sharp Minor
C Sharp Diminished
Create Your Own Chords
A sheet of blank chord diagrams for dulcimer is available here. This is useful for creating and remembering your own chord voicings, especially if you are using an unusual tuning.