Haunted Tunes for Halloween on the Dulcimer

A good tune for Halloween is one that sounds haunted, eerie, spooky. On the dulcimer, these tunes are played in a minor mode or key using a different tuning or capo. It is easy to do this and opens up a new world of beautiful yet whimsical melodies and songs.capo-1-on-dulcimerPlaying in a minor key of the mountain dulcimer

There are several minor modes or scales on a dulcimer. Two of the most common minor modes are the Aeolian and  Dorian modes. Both begin at the first fret rather than the open fret and go to the eighth fret.. Aeolian mode uses the 6-1/2 fret and the Dorian mode uses the 6 fret. The subtle difference in moving from the open fret to the first fret to play the scale changes the the position of the sharps/flats or half-steps gives the song that “mountain minor” or eerie feeling.

Capo 1st fret to play a minor scale

So play a song and strum across the strings; adjustments must be made to one or more of the strings so that all the strings harmonize. One way is to re-tune the dulcimer to a DAC tuning with the melody string tuned to middle “C”. Then the first fret becomes a “D” note which harmonizes with the middle and bass strings. This is a Dm scale.

A second way to play a song in a minor key is to place a capo at the first fret on the dulcimer. Then the song is in the E minor key and an strum across the strings on the dulcimer is E-B-E which harmonizes.

There are many types of capos made for dulcimers from inexpensive to more pricey (about $20). All seem to work well, I’ve had no problem with any of these. The 2 metal capos have a lever which allows a person to fit the capo to a specific dulcimer. The lever is used to add pressure to the capo.types-of-capos-img_1472_1To place a capo on a dulcimer, it is placed slightly behind the fret–not on top of it. It must be snugly attached to the fretboard. I apply pressure on top of the capo over the bass string first and tighten the capo, then rock my finger to the melody string and press down and tighten the capo additionally. If properly placed there is no buzzing or scraping noise. The strings sound out when strummed.capo-next-to-first-fret-img_1476_1

Ghost of Tom 

This is an old camp song which I sang when growing up and attending summer camps. It is actually a Halloween song and round. It has an eerie, spooky sound that goes along with the lyrics about the Halloween ghost. The four parts of the round are indicated with numbers in circles. I arranged this song to be played with a capo at the first fret placing it in the Key of E minor. It actually is a beautiful song; easy and fun to play. Enjoy!


I hope you enjoy this Halloween song along with some Leatherwing Bat treats!spicy-ginger-cookies-img_5394_1


  1. Lagniappe Dulcimer Society wrote: > WordPress.com > Maylee at Beyond Gumbo posted: “A good tune for Halloween is one that > sounds haunted, errie, spooky. It’s fun to play some of these tunes on > the dulcimer. ” >


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