Thursday, March 12, 2009

a dreadful wind and rain...

Let's play one of those great old spooky ballads from Appalachia. You know, the kind where someone kills someone, usually in a gruesome manner!

Wind and Rain, often called The Two Sisters, or Twa' Sisters, is a very old ballad from across the sea, from Britain, Scotland, or thereabouts. The oldest surviving printed example, a 'broadside', is from 1656, so it likely originated even before that... Over the generations it has evolved and branched out into many versions with many different verses and even several different melodies. Here I've chosen a simple but lovely version with only a few of the key verses included. You can search the web and find other traditional verses for it if you like and add them into the version you sing. That's one of the wonderful things about traditional songs and tunes- there are so many versions and you can feel free to play one you especially like. There is no official 'right' version and no one can tell you how to play your version. Make it your very own!

Now when you look at this tab you are going to gasp when you see the tuning: CGG.
Don't panic. This is SUPER EASY! CGG is merely DAA but tuning all the strings one step down (in the alphabet, C is one step before, or 'lower' than D). You are re-tuning from D ionian mode to C ionian mode.
Why am I doing this? For two good reasons:
One, when I sing it in the key of D the high part is a strain on my voice so bringing it down a step to C makes it way easier for me to sing. You too may find this useful when you sing with your dulcimer...and
Two, I'm trying to get you used to the idea of re-tuning to play in several different keys. You already play in D, and you've learned how to tune to play in G. Now you can tune to C just by tuning whatever D tuning you are in down one step on all strings. So now you can play in D, G, and C! This works for all modes, so if you happened to be in D mixolydian tuning DAD, to play in C mixolydian you'd just tune all strings down one step and you'd be in CGC. See, it's not that hard! Don't chicken out....try tuning down from DAA to's thrilling when you see how easy it is!
(Note: this is one of those unusual folk songs that does not end on its tonic/key note, in this case C. Instead it ends on a spooky G. Don't let that throw you, it's still in C ionian.)

And so....a dreadful wind and rain.


  1. Hi Strumelia! Do you have a video or post on how I tune my DAA dulcimer down to CGG? Can I use the multi-instrument tuner I use for my ukulele?

    - lovinforkful

  2. Hi forkful!
    Yes, just use the multi-instrument tuner you have already, and tune every string DOWN (not up!) one whole step- from DAA to CGG.