E Dorian for MD (in two tunings) and HD

I’ve begun teaching hammered dulcimer lessons, as well as mountain dulcimer. Some students have been wondering whether hammered dulcimers and mountain dulcimers can play the same music, or play together. The short answer is yes, but everybody will have to be in the same key!

Let’s look at some arrangements in “E Dorian,” which is easily played on a Dorian-tuned mountain dulcimer (EBA), a DAD-tuned mountain dulcimer, and a hammered dulcimer. I think it should be easy to see how these arrangements could be easily adjusted for this trio of instruments and styles.


Dorian mode is called the “mountain minor.” E Dorian lives alongside the D Ionian (“natural major”) scale on the hammered dulcimer, because it has the same key signature: Two sharps! (F# and C#) Only you start the E Dorian scale on the second note (E) instead of on D.

D Ionian’s scale is —-> D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# D

E Dorian’s scale is —-> E, F#, G, A, B, C# D, E

Of course, each scale has its own set of chords, which my students can find on my reference maps and charts.

Here is an easy song for Hammered Dulcimer, in E Dorian, a Manx tune called, “Was Nancy in London?”

“Was Nancy in London?” for HD


For Mountain Dulcimer, E Dorian can be played on a dulcimer that is tuned to DAD, with no capo. Find the melody, then add the chords. Do not strum across; you have to play chord-melody style.

Map of the scale, and the chords

Down the Brae pg 1

Down the Brae pg 2


If you prefer to play noter-drone style, or on the melody string only, the way to tune for E Dorian is

E on the bass string

B on the middle string

A on the melody string.

Here is a map of the scale, and chords. Remember, the chords are optional; you can just fret the melody string only and strum across, in this tuning. The instrument will drone in the Dorian mode. But if you’d like to add some chords for depth and interest, they are on this chart.

And here are two Manx tunes that can be played separately, or they also work very beautifully as a medley. This is a great medley for beginners because the two tunes have the same time signature – 3/4 – as well as the same key signature.

Was Nancy in London

Oh, Kirree, Why Have You Left Me

Whichever dulcimer you play (hammered or mountain), or however you play it (modal or DAD), I hope you will enjoy these tunes. If you’d like to learn more about arranging your own music, or about playing in different keys and modes, please contact me for lessons!