Thursday, March 5, 2009

Four Marys

Sometimes I am in the mood for writing about how I feel about music, sometimes I like to write about playing techniques, and sometimes I like to work out a song on my dulcimer and share it with others.
I felt like playing instead of writing this evening, so I hope you don't mind that I just post this version of Four Marys (also called Mary Hamilton) that I worked out on paper today... It's a wonderful very old ballad that has been around for generations. Jean Ritchie's family used to sing it as well, in fact here is a Youtube clip of Jean and her sister Edna singing it unaccompanied: Jean and Edna Ritchie singing Four Marys. As with most old ballads, there are many versions to be found.
Here is some interesting background on the ballad: Four Marys/Mary Hamilton
I transcribed it into the key of D, ionian tuning (DAA), for no particular reason. You could easily re-tune to C, G, or A (if that's better for your voice range) and play it in those keys as well, even using the same tab numbering if you make sure to remain in the ionian mode when you re-tune. I love the words to this tragic and sad! I hope you enjoy it.


  1. I, for one, would love to hear your version of this great Child ballad.

    I finally got my dulcimer on last Thursday, when my brother (who built in in 1973) came to visit and finally remembered to bring it with him.

    Having gotten it in tune (on the original strings), I've been playing around with it and find that it is really easy to play many of the tunes I've been playing on banjo.

    Next, I'm looking for the right pick (I would really like to try a quill) and deciding if I want to buy or make a noter.

    Anyway, if you happen to see this comment (several years after your original post), I just wanted you to know I FINALLY have my dulcimer!

    I am now busily reading through your blog posts to catch up, and expect to check out the FOMD website real soon.

  2. Brad, thank you, I'm so glad you finally got your wonderful dulcimer.
    I hope to see you join FOTMD to tell us more about the dulcimer your brother built!