I have two grandchildren coming from Germany for a visit in a couple of months and thought it might be nice to learn a few children’s tunes on the dulcimer to sing to them. I walked outside this morning on a sunny August day and saw a spider and beautiful web in my back yard. That reminded me of the children’s tune, “Itsy, Bitsy Spider.” And so I arranged the basic tune for the dulcimer in the Key of G and also a variation to the tune.
“Itsy, Bitsy Spider” is a fun song for children because you can sing and act if the lyrics out with your fingers and arms. This might be helpful for a German-speaking youngster. Of course it might be difficult to play the dulcimer, sing and act the song out all at the same time. But perhaps some other family members can help.
Several years ago, I purchased an inexpensive dulcimer kit from “Smoky Mountain Dulcimers.” A member of the dulcimer club assembled the kit for me because wood working is way above my skill level. The dulcimer is made of pine and has a laminated bottom. It is small, lightweight and simply indestructible. Best of all, the dulcimer is easy to play and has a nice tone. I love the dulcimer and keep it sitting on a end table. It is easy to just pick up the dulcimer and practice whenever I have a few minutes. I highly recommend keeping a small dulcimer such as this one close at hand, in plain view and ready to go at a moment’s notice. And so I tabbed out the song using this dulcimer.
Key of G
“Itsy, Bisy Spider” is one of those songs which is easier to sing in the key of G than the key of D. Since the mountain dulcimer is typically tuned to the key of D, some changes must be made to get this diatonic instrument to the key of G. There are several ways to accomplish this when playing the mountain dulcimer. Here are two ways:
- Re-tune to dulcimer from DAD tuning to DGD tuning. This means lowering the middle string by one note. It really is not difficult. With some practice and a good tuner this goes quickly. Typically, you really only need to turn the tuner about half a turn to get to the G note. It does mean that you must learn new fingering patterns for chords. However, this song only has 2 chords, “G” and “D”, so this is a good one to learn in the DGD tuning. Plus, I included only tab for the melody — not harmony notes on middle and bass strings. (Strum across all the strings.) This song is an easy start for learning to play a song in DGD tuning. Here’s the scale on the dulcimer. The scale begins at the “3” fret and goes to the “10” fret using the 6th fret rather than the 6-1/2 fret.
And here are several DGD chords for this tuning. The G and D chords are used in this song.
2. The second approach is to play the song on a dulcimer which is designed to be played in the key of G using either a ginger or baritone dulcimer. These can both be tuned to GDG. With this tuning, all the chord structures are the same as with a standard dulcimer tuned to DAD. Confusing? Yes, you just have to understand that anytime the dulcimer has strings which are tuned 5 pitches apart, then the chord structures will be the same — regardless of the absolute pitch of the strings. Here’s the scale of the GDG tuning.
I seem to have alot of spiders and webs in my yard and have managed to capture a few of these webs over the years. The webs can be quite elaborate! This one is by the recycling bin — I guess this spider will have a multi-course meal!
“Itsy, Bitsy Spider” Song
I set this song to a 4/4 time signature and beat. This song is also played in 3/4 time “waltz time” or 6/8 time “jig time.” The steady beat of 4/4 time seemed “right” for my arrangement — it was just my preference — no particular reason. I have included arrangements of this song for both a standard dulcimer tuned to DGD and a baritone or ginger dulcimer tuned to GDG. Since both are in the key of G you can play the arrangements together. The second page, or “alternate tune”, has a few differences or variations to the melody — so don’t be alarmed. Chords for the song are included above the standard notes. This makes for several playing possibilities and it makes for fun arrangements especially playing the dulcimers together with the “alternate” arrangements. Try it out.
Here are PDF files which you can download, play and share. Have fun with your children and grandchildren.
Itsy Bitsy Spider – DGD Tuning with standard dulcimer. Itsy Bitsy Spider DGD – R
Itsy Bitsy Spider – GDG Tuning for ginger/baritone dulcimer. Itsy Bitsy Spider – Ginger dulcimer GDG – R
And here is the tune arranged for a Ginger or Baritone Dulcimer, GDG tuning, pages 1 and 2.
And page 2 of the Ginger or Baritone, GDG tab.
So let’s see what happens when the granddaughters from Germany come to visit in October. It will be exciting to play some music with them.