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Welcome to the 1-3-5 Website
"Psychologically, we of today are poorly equipped to hear unaccompanied single-tone melodies, because we must instinctively and
silently - and most often unconsciously - supply each heard tone with unsounded tones to support and accompany it.....Our brains, that is, hear any melody as if it were moving forward on the support of changing chords, or even as integers of such chords. In much of the most familiar music, in fact, the tones of the most prominent melody are simply the highest notes of such a succession of chords!
Herbert Weinstock, "What Music Is"
Dolphin Books, Doubleday & Co.,Inc., Garden City, NY
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Within the past few years, many mountain dulcimer
players have learned how to play far more than just folk
music on their instruments, using nothing other than a
slightly different tuning! Not only that, this tuning
allows us to play dozens of exciting new chord sounds,
never before possible with any of the tunings used in
the past. The discovery of this 1-3-5 tuning system is absolutely the most significant factor affecting the music of the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer since the first
raised-fretboard instruments appeared around 1813 -
some 200 years ago.
What is a 1-3-5 tuning?
For this tuning the three “open” (unfretted) strings are
tuned to form a major chord. This is perhaps why it is
sometimes referred to as an “open” tuning. Although we
could choose any key we wished, consider such a tuning
for the key of D major, whose scale consists of the
notes as follow:
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
(6) (7) (8)
D E F# G A B C# D
If we select the first, third and fifth notes
of this scale, and then tune the bass, middle and treble
strings to those notes, in that order, the “open”
strings when strummed will sound the notes D, F# and A
(a D major chord). That’s it!…the tuning is finished.
The best way to picture where all the notes are located
is by means of the sketch below:
Notice that this fretboard represents a
dulcimer having only three equidistant strings and a 6+
fret. There are three important and unique features seen
Each fret (8 per octave counting the 6+) forms a
major “barre” chord whose name is given by the note on
the bass string. This is NOT a modal tuning; drones do
not exist, and chord accompaniment is required.
We are not in a fixed tuning. We can play
a scale on the treble string alone in the keys of B
minor, D major or A major without either retuning or
using a capo.
Among the three strings, we can locate
the entire 12-note array of the chromatic scale! C
- D - E - F - G - A - B
plus C# - D# - F# - G# - A#.
These features appear for any 1-3-5 tuning,
regardless of key.
With this tuning, we can not only play songs containing
“accidentals” (sharps and flats) but can also find and
play a wide array of “color” chords, made possible only
by these extra chromatic notes on the fretboard.
The 1-3-5 tuning offers a new and thrilling sound
experience to those interested in finding out what it