Frets and Notes

Dulcimer Frets
The dulcimer is at heart a folk instrument, so it uses simple scaling.  Musically the scale is called "diatonic," which means that it features only the white keys of a piano.  Sharps and flats are left out. 

Modern dulcimers, however, usually have one extra fret after the sixth diatonic fret. 

The extra fret is most often called the "six and a half" fret, but we'll just label it as fret 7 on this site.  This fret is used by many songs in many musical styles, and it allows playing in two different keys (D and G) without re-tuning.  It's a little confusing at first, but the added versatility is well worth it.
You can try out the extra fret by playing the following scales. Press the bottom string just behind each numbered fret and pluck the string (0 means no fret is used). 

First try each fret in turn:                            0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7           The do-re-mi scale goes flat at fret 6

Now start again at 0 but skip fret 6:     0 1 2 3 4 5 7  8           This is the do-re-mi scale in the key of D.

Again start at fret 3 and skip fret 7:     3 4 5 6  8 9 10  11     This is the do-re-mi scale in the key of G. 

Just remember when browsing dulcimer tablatures on other sites that you may encounter this notation:


This diagram shows the note positions on a stick dulcimer with a 6+ fret tuned DAd.  This is just shown for reference.  If you're playing by ear you don't really need to know these.