Friday, July 24, 2009

Wedding Dress(My Little Doney Gal)

As I promised in my last post, here is a dulcimer tab I created in Aeolian mode for one of my very favorite traditional songs- known as either Wedding Dress, or My Little Doney Gal. I usually play this on the banjo in modal 'sawmill' tuning. I've never seen it tabbed for dulcimer before, so it's about time someone did it! Especially since it's less easy to find aeolian tunes as it is to find ionian ones. (UPDATE: I've been told that Mark Nelson did a tab for it, in Dorian DAG mode. It really is a Dorian tune, but I'm tabbing it here in Aeolian mode because a lot more people play in Aeolian than Dorian and it's a bit more difficult to find aeolian tunes to play.)

This is a great beginner's aeolian tune, because it is actually quite simple to play, with lots of breathing spaces and very simple strums and noter moves. In this one, the drones shoulder almost the whole weight of the tune.
It's easy to get in the zone while playing this one. In the zone is how my old-time musician friends refer to the blissfully hypnotic state one can get into while playing mantric droney-modal-y tunes...
The other nice thing about this tune is that it's so open in terms of space and timing. You can feel free to strum in a soulful way as long as you like between verses or even between lines- aeolian tends to be so forgiving that way, you can linger forever and savor the magic of the drones. Pausing just makes it all the more beautiful. I never get tired of this song, though I've played it hundreds of times.
I hope you enjoy this tab. I made it just for you.


  1. Hi Strumelia, i love this song too.I know two versions:one by the English folk group Pentangle and the other by Jody Stecher on his first album (available on my blog "Times ain't like they used to be" by the way) Actually, there's already a dulcimer tab version of "Wedding dress" in Mark nelson's book "Favorite old-time american songs for dulcimer". His version is in DAG (which is nice for the low notes of the melody) and he says it's in the Dorian mode...

  2. Hi Gadaya!
    Thanks for letting me know about Mark Nelson's DAG Dorian tab. Is it for noter style playing, or for chordal playing?
    I agree that this song is actually in Dorian mode. But since only one extra-low note is in the tune to make it Dorian, and that one note can be avoided without drastically changing the flavor of the tune, I chose to work it out in Aeolian instead because so many people like to play in that mode. Besides I find it's easier to find tunes for Dorian than for Aeolian. ;D
    I learned the song from Aubrey Atwater, dulcimer/banjo/singer/clogger/whistler extraordinaire.

  3. The only recorded version with which I'm familiar is Jody Stecher's and I like it a lot. Anybody have a favorite version by another musician?

  4. Mighty Ghosts of Heaven do a version, assuming it's the same song, on their self-titled album. I grabbed my copy as an mp3 download from CD Baby. Unfortunately the dulcimer tends to get totally buried in the mix, but you can actually hear it pretty well on Wedding Dress.

  5. Hi Strumelia,
    I would love to hear this tune, I tried to play it but wasn't sure what the note values were so didn't know when to hold a note or how fast to you know of a recording I could listen to? Thanks so very much

  6. Hi Jackie,
    You can buy the song here on Amazon and get a good idea of one version of how it sounds:
    It's kind of an open modal-y song, in that once you get the 'feel' for it you can vary the length of phrases and notes a bit as you like, especially if you are playing/singing it by yourself without other musicians to consider.

  7. I love this. I'm trying to learn it on electric guitar. It sounds very folk rock. I love it. Just can't get enough.

  8. Here is a you tube recording of this song to listen to: