Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Blackest Crow

painting by Pablo Picasso

I made this tab because some dulcimer players on the EverythingDulcimer online forum were asking for it. I figured I would do a version for them which included a harmony part so that two dulcimers could play a duet. It's a very pretty ballad. I generally followed the version sung by the great Bruce Molsky with Julie Fowlis- it can be heard here on YouTube and that will give you an idea of how it sounds... (Bruce mixes up the second verse in the YouTube clip but you can just follow the more usual tab lyrics I wrote here.)

It should be noted that some older versions are much plainer than this rather 'orchestrated' one. Personally I like a fewer instruments on the old ballads. For me Bruce's fiddle would have been just perfect all by itself with the two voices. Another note is that Jean Ritchie's Blackest Crow is pretty much a different ballad altogether- but pretty as well! I imagine this ballad would be lovely finger-picked too.

I stayed in the key of G just as Bruce Molsky sang it- much better than trying to sing it in D (yikes). For noter style, it kind of needed to be in ionian tuning, thus the tuning here is GGd. Notice that I don't use DGd, which would be the 'usual' G ionian tuning. That's because when you get to the minor sounding note 1st fret note such as where the word "part" is in the first line- well the fifth of the scale (which would be the bass string D) sounds rather sour there, and it's an important part of the tune. It's perhaps even the most important note, so we don't want it sounding nasty. I found that keeping the bass and melody strings on the tonic 'one' note of G produced a much sweeter effect that went smoothly through the whole ballad. This happens sometimes with tunes like this one that don't follow the usual pattern, and you have to be open to the idea of tuning bass and middle strings both to the tonic to resolve the unhappy dissonance even though it may strike you as oddly bagpipe-y at first. Believe me, it grows on you. I'm a big fan of dissonances, however there are a few that even I can't stomach!

Please note that if you are tuning to GGd from DAd, you tune your middle and bass strings DOWN to G, not up. If you try to tune them up to the next G they will break. Your melody string stays in the d that is is already. If you are in DAA and wanting to tune here to GGD, then you will indeed tune your melody string up from A to d (while the other strings still will go down to G). This ballad is is 3/4 time, like a waltz. That makes it a nice rhythm variation to help break things up during a set of the usual 4/4 tunes.

Now, It occurs to me that perhaps I am not being sensitive enough to die-hard "D-heads" out there by trying to force them to tune to G.
So, if you don't care about singing the ballad and just want to play it in D, simply tune to DDa. You [i]can[/i] tune to DAa and play it, but again you will get a somewhat sour sound on that pretty note as I mention above. Sticking to DDa will keep it sounding sweet when that minor part comes up. Since you are staying in the same ionian mode, the TAB numbers will not change. (Oh, the beauty of noter style tab!)
To tune to DDa from DAd, leave bass string alone, tune middle string UP to D, and tune melody string(s) DOWN to 'a' or aa.

Remember, if you click on the pictures of the tab, they will open in a larger window and you can easily print them out full size from there.
So, I hope you enjoy it. The Blackest Crow....

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