Saturday, April 4, 2009

Froggy Went a' Courtin'

Here is a very fun song that is especially liked by children. I love envisioning all the little animals coming to wedding! There are many versions of Froggy, and I chose one that did not have the long nonsense rhyme in the verse, since we already have the dulcimer playing along too. Sometimes it's best to keeps things from getting too complicated.
Here is a link to a lovely sound clip where you can get an idea of how this version might sound as it's sung: Froggy...
I found I could sing it pretty well in G, but it was still just a bit low for me, so I tabbed it in the key of A, ionian mode, tuning EAE. (incidentally, those two E's are about as high as you'd want to tune your dulcimer strings if you have a scale length of 28" or more- tuning up to F or high G might well break you a string.)
If you prefer singing it a little lower in G, just tune DGD instead and follow the same tab. It's simply ionian mode tuning, so you could even tune it back to D ionian as well (DAA) if you find you can sing it well in the key of D. Remember, once we get the mode, we can change tuning to go up or down to suit our voice yet still follow the same tab numbers, as long as we stay in the same this case ionian, with the tonic key note being on the third fret of the melody string.

Don't be afraid to play around with the timing a bit, especially as you listen to that clip and get a feel for the song. You may like to add an extra beat or two of additional 'resting' space after each "uh-huh", just like the unaccompanied ballad singer typically does. That actually makes it sound more natural and interesting. It becomes a slight logistical problem to write extra beats into TAB, and the extra beats can vary from verse to verse, so I tabbed it 'straight' for basic learning purposes. Tab is just a basic blueprint for learning a song anyway, and tab shouldn't be followed religiously. So after you get the song basics down, you should make the song your own!

Incidentally, this song is very very old, having been already referred to in 1549 and was published again in the 1600's and 1700's...From Andrew Kuntz's Fiddlers Companion:
FROG AND THE MOUSE. English, Country Dance Tune (2/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. Kidson's tune is from Thompson's Pocket Companion for the German Flute (1797), and is the same as that used for the old song "Amo Amas I love a lass" (from the "Agreeable Surprise," 1781). He points out the nursery song "A frog he would a wooing go" is quite ancient and is mentioned in the 1549 work Complaint of Scotland under the title "The frog cam to the myl dur {mill-door}." A ballad "Of a most strange wedding of a frog and mouse" was entered at Stationer's Hall in 1584, according to Chappell. It can be found in Melismata (1611) and in Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719) as a political song. American versions go under the title “Froggie went a-courtin’” while in Ireland it can be found as “Cousin frog went out to ride (fa lee linkin’ laddy oh).” Kidson (Old English Country Dances), 1890; pg. 3.


  1. Thank you so much for maintaining this blog. Before moving to Missouri 3 years ago from Las Vegas I had never heard of a mountain dulcimer.
    The first time I heard one I was just in awe. I love the drone sound and so I began to learn to play with a noter. I am not terribly musically inclined-even though I came from a musically talented family,so noter style was a plus for me. I have read everything I can get my hands on-for noter style playing-this is more than the icing on the cake-Thanks--PS heres the link to my
    which will give you an idea of what life has been like here after moving from the city.Although I haven't posted in the last couple of months.Thanks again--Denise

  2. Hi Denise,
    Thank you for your nice comment. I'm so glad you are enjoying learning to play the dulcimer! :)