Mountain Dulcimer tab

• Nov 25, 2015 - 17:59

I am re-posting, as suggested, a conversation I have been having with Thomas Bronte (MuseScore).
I am searching for a dulcimer tab package.


Nov 25, 00:49

Hi Thomas,

I have had a look as suggested but not a lot of luck in finding an answer.

It may interest you to know that I have been using ABCexplorer with a
modified format file instruction to produce dulcimer tab with the correct
fret intonation, and half fret instruction.

The only down side is that all the tab code has to be input manually,
it takes a very long time but the results are good.

The format was taken from the ABC banjo tab format which is free/shareware
round the ABC notation forums.

If what I am using could be squeezed into your MuseScore, that might
provide much of the code towards automating dulcimer tab numbering.

Just a suggestion,
Best wishes

Thomas (MuseScore)

Nov 25, 16:55

Hi Graham,

Could you do me a favour and repost your findings in our forum at

It's simply because I'm not in charge of the notation software coding as I'm the MuseScore web developer. So by reposting your findings in the forum, the MuseScore developers can take notice of it and improve things.

Thanks for your cooperation.

Thomas Bonte
MuseScore co-founder


Something along these lines has been already discussed in this feature request . The topic itself appears to be a duplicate of this very old post .

While I assume nobody has anything against the Mountain Dulcimer, the topic itself seems to have elicited very little response from the community. I have no idea if the Mountain Dulcimer and the Appalachian Dulcimer are the same instrument (or at least related), but I would believe that by coordinating requests and information, there would be better chances to attract interest to a topic which seems to fulfil a rather niche need.

Thanks for your continuous interest in MuseScore and let's see if the situation can be improved.

In reply to by Miwarre

1. Thanks to 'Bear Meadow' for reminding everyone what a (non hammered) dulcimer is, much appreciated. :)
2. Re: my contribution, it seems we are going round in circles. What I was saying was that I already have conquered the dulcimer diatonic issue with a revised format file within ABC notation.

That's fine as far as it goes but it doesn't handle the second part of the function automatically.
Once the score is done, I then have to input all the tab numbers and string locations which effectively means doing the job twice.

I am not a programmer but the thought crossed my mind that if MuseScore enhanced or based a development on the 'format code' that I have been using, ie. automate the tab writing aspect of it, we have then scored the winning goal !

With regard to the 'niche' need, here in the west of England where I play in sessions at local pubs every week I am approached very frequently by people who have dulcimers but have never found help in learning to play them and have given up hope of getting started.
I think the niche may be bigger than you think and I am talking of some 25 years of playing the dulci.


In reply to by GrahamB

I have been using MuseScore for a number of years, and I have found a way to add a dulcimer tab (mountain/Appalachian dulcimer, that is) to my music. It produces a clean, easily read sheet. All you have to do is think outside the box ... If anyone is interested I'll share my method.

In reply to by cadiz1

Rather than wade through a bunch of boards, I put my method up on my blog under MUSIC. Go to

Here's a copy of "Spanish is a Loving Tongue" tabbed for dulcimer with lyrics that I did using this method. It's nice and clean and easy to read.

I'm not sure how to add a sample of the sheet music here. I'll try, but I'll also put that up on the blog too.

Attachment Size
Spanish is a Loving Tongue-J.pdf 20.72 KB

In reply to by johannam.bolton

You upload a MuseScore song the same way you do a PDF.

I checked out your Dulcimer tab method and it is far more complicated than what it needs to be.

If I understand, you want a Voice line with a tablature under it, but no other line for the Dulcimer. If this is correct, I'll tell you an easier way, besides having it added to the instruments.xml file.

In reply to by johannam.bolton

The more I look at this the more I see why it seems overly complicated to me. This is a score for show only, it has no functional playback. I now see there is a reason you did this. You cannot make the 6+ fret position show and play on the tab.

More to follow...

In reply to by mike320

The only time I'm using the tab is when I'm playing live music. If I want to listen to the song for any reason, I just create the song as a score with notes and play that. Unfortunately I don't like the sound of MuseScore's dulcimer, but that's no big deal. I can listen to the dulcimer piece on another instrument -- usually the harp -- for verification purposes. The only purpose for the tab for me, is to actually play the mountain dulcimer and to share my arrangements with other musicians for live performance. I can read music, and I can also play the dulcimer from the actual music. Tab is something I use because everyone uses it. Not many people play the dulcimer from the actual notes. But tab is useful because it gives us some options for fingerings ... there are a number of ways to play the same note on the dulcimer. As for listening to playback via tab ... why? Notes work just fine.

I think what's happening here is that people who play music via their computer rather than a musical instrument are wanting to play dulcimer music via tab. I have absolutely no idea how to make that happen. (And I don't need to learn how to make that happen.)

In reply to by johannam.bolton

I gathered all of that from your web page. There are people who are interested in a functional tab for diatonic instruments. BTW, I'm not one of them, but I've seen several people discuss it for the Appalachian Dulcimer as well as several other diatonic instruments and I hope this discussion leads to someone making it happen.

Creating tabs for any diatonic instrument is very different than creating one for a chromatic instrument and several of them have nonstandard symbols (such as 6+) included in them.

In reply to by johannam.bolton

Johanna's quote: "As for listening to playback via tab ... why? Notes work just fine."

Well, actually, with an instrument tuned D.A.D, one receive this result (in the second measure), and our wish (the requesters) would be to receive the result of the fourth measure - as the "real" sound/good pitch result, obtained with the dulcimer instrument.
See short example: dulcimer tab.mscz

There are other instruments that do something similar and for a programmer watching out there I would propose adding fret names to the instrument.xml file. For the dulcimer player looking at the definition it might get a little confusing because software fret position 7 would be musician fret 6+ and software position 8 would be player position 7. I would suggest having the definition look something like

(fretdefs)1=2,"1"(/fretdefs) // fret 1 plays 2 half steps above string e.g. String D plays an E
(fretdefs)2=4,"2"(/fretdefs) // fret 2 plays 4 half steps above string etc.
(fretdefs)7=12,"6+"(/fretdefs) // string D plays C# diaplays 6+ on tab
(string)31(/string) // D (numbers may be wrong)
(string)36(/string) // A
(string)43(/string) // D

This is a portion of what the dulcimer definition would look like. It allows diatonic tuning and alternate fret displays which have been asked for on other instruments as well.

If this were put into a liked tab, then if a note were entered on the staff with an illegal value, the tab could display a red X or even the current red 0 shown for illegal tab notes.

i realize this means adding the option of allowing the user to define frets in a new window, so that is a little more work. From a user point of view, if they wanted to change the tuning to D-A-A they could simply replace the D3 with an A2 (or whatever the correct string is). The fret definitions don't changes since the frets positions are offset from the string. If there is no fret defs as with all currently defined instruments, the frets would default to 1/2 steps and fret display would default to fret number. What if the user selects ABC frets instead of 123? The display on this would not change. If it is necessary to add this option, then you could add another field in the fret definition like


Someone familiar with diatonic instruments would have to tell us if this is necessary.

The lack of something like this is the basis of the problem that prevents adding diatonic instrument definitions to MuseScore. This could not be implemented in 2.1 if the code could be written bulletproof over night because of the incompatibilities it would introduce.

In reply to by mike320


Thanks for the effort. Nevertheless, as you have noticed and as you say on your blog, it is literally a cacaphony if you do not turn off the playback of the instrument with Tab (you have chosen the banjo)

With playback (it's the display of your pdf file, less the lyrics), you receive this (not good at all!) :(
1 Spanish is a Loving Tongue.mscz

Without playback, well, it misses something! :) : 2) Spanish is a Loving Tongue.mscz

Even with a dulcimer tablature (tuned in D-A-D), any attempt would be in vain since the possibility of entering tablatures for diatonic instruments is simply impossible. It's not implemented, that's all. Hence this feature request: #153016: add mountain dulcimer incl. a tab preset

I had seen a few months ago on the forum (in General Discussion, or Technology Preview, or Plugins ... I do not find it any more, arhhh ...) that a collective of a few people worked more or less on this subject. Unfortunately, no news since.

Would a plugin suffice, would it be suitable to allow this? Honestly, I do not have the skills to know this.

Meanwhile, as you do, if playback is not a problem, of course, this result can satisfy you. But one must already own the tablature of the dulcimer. Otherwise, it does not work.

And to get a result with playback (for this case), you have to add another (invisible) staff and recalculate all the notes ... A lot of work, time consuming... for a nice song ...

Here the result (with a flute): 3') Spanish is a Loving Tongue.mscz

In reply to by cadiz1

Wow, talk about complications! But I see where the problem lies. I am a musician. I play the mountain dulcimer. I want music either to print out on a page or to enter into my tablet so I can use it as a reference for performance. I'm not particularly interested in creating a MuseScore file for the purpose of playing it back on the computer. I have actually done that, but in that case I have followed a completely different protocol. The purpose of my method of creating dulcimer tab is to enable the performing musician to create sheet music to use as a reference. Completely different purpose.


In reply to by johannam.bolton

" creating a MuseScore file for the purpose of playing it back on the computer I have actually done that, but in that case I have followed a completely different protocol. "

Could you elaborate this, and attach an example (a musescore file). Thanks.

And about your purpose, "my method of creating dulcimer tab is to enable the performing musician to create sheet music to use as a reference", it is not at all contradictory with the desire of other musicians to listen also their files (if only for verification) and to share them with other musicians in this way (.mscz file, or Mid file, or mp3 and so on)

Hence the request on several threads - and eg in this comment, inter alia -
( to have this feature about the diatonic instruments (and the dulcimer is not the only involved!) :)

In reply to by mike320

I figured the method on my own and chose to use the guitar function rather than banjo. It doesn't really matter. The only problem is on does not get playback as stated above. It would be great to hear the score to verify that everything is in order. It's one thing you put in the right tab numbers, it's another to hear it played back and find out you made an error. Also, I prefer listening to a song over and over before attempting to play. I'm sure others are like me. With a proper duclimer feature, one can share midi files for playback.

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