“Let Me Call You Sweetheart” is a sentimental song for Valentine’s Day. However, it can present a challenge for mountain dulcimer players. Most dulcimers are tuned to DAD, the key of D, great for strumming but not always pitched best pitch for singing voices.
“Let me Call You Sweetheart” was written in 1910. It is a great sing-along song and has many chord changes which make it interesting. My grandfather, Everett Snavely, was in college at Mt. Morris College in Illinois and Manchester College in Indiana during this time period. He sang in the school glee club and I can picture the choir singing this number with it’s harmony parts. But the song probably wasn’t sung in the key of D.
Mountain Dulcimer Player’s Dilemma
This is the mountain dulcimer player’s never-ending dilemma: How can you play a song on the dulcimer in DAD tuning in another key besides the key of D.
Playing music in keys other that D can present a challenge. The Key of D is not always the best pitch for singing. But is not easy to change keys on the dulcimer due to the diatonic scale and frets. The tension of the dulcimer strings is limited; it is a hassle to re-tune for each new song.
Playing in the Key of G while Tuned to DAD
There are a couple of solutions for playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” in the key of G on the dulcimer. All have pros and cons.
- Keep a DAD tuning and just play in the key of G adding chords and harmony notes. This is not for the beginning dulcimer player.
- Place a capo at the 3rd fret to change the dulcimer to the key of G.
- Retune the dulcimer to DGD which places the dulcimer in the key of G with the “do” or first note of the scale at the 3rd fret.
- Play the song on a dulcimer tuned to GDG — either a baritone dulcimer or higher octave dulcimer, called a ginger dulcimer.
One solution is to keep the dulcimer tuned to DAD and play the song in the Key of G. Okay, but now the dulcimer “do” note is at the 3rd fret. The middle and bass strings are not pitched for the Key of G. Strum across the strings while holding the 3 fret on the melody string down, it sounds disharmonious. You must play chords and harmony notes on the other strings to play the song.
The “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, si,” scale in this approach goes from the 3rd fret to the 10th fret.
Songs in the key of G often use a C chord. You really need a 1 1/2 fret to effectively play a C chord on the mountain dulcimer in a DAD tuning. The dulcimer shown above has a 1 1/2 fret. If you don’t have this fret and want to sing with the dulcimer in the key of G in a DAD tuning–then get one placed or try a different approach.
“Let Me Call You Sweetheart”
I started playing around with the song — using an arrangement originally written by Paul Andry and adapted by Pat Fontaine. Paul didn’t use a 1 1/2 fret — which makes a big difference when playing this song. The song has many chord changes, some accidentals and 7th chords and the 1 1/2 fret comes in handy. In the end, my song is different from both of their arrangements; I’m pleased with mine.
This is not song for a beginning mountain dulcimer player. It requires the ability to play chords and place fingers on all the strings. The song itself has accidentals (sharped and flatted notes) and many D7 and other 7th chords. You’ve got to play all the chords and notes for it to sound right. As a song for an intermediate or advanced dulcimer player, the rhythm and strum pattern is just a guide. It can be changed to fit your preferences.
I like the arrangement–I can’t stop playing it–and hope you enjoy it, too.
Here’s a downloadable PDF file. Of course, I found a couple of mistakes, here’s the updated version. (I haven’t figured out how to update the scribd account yet, so it differs slightly.) Click on the link to get a printable song.