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Lovely Joan - Folk Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangement in Tab, Notation and Audio

Updated on September 8, 2016

Lovely Joan

For fingerstyle and classical guitar players, here's a fingerstyle guitar arrangement I've made of the English folk song "Lovely Joan". It's not too difficult but it isn't beginner level, either. You can follow the guitar tablature (tab) or standard music notation while listening to the audio track, either on the video as it plays or in the score printed below.

This piece is also well known in an orchestral arrangement by the composer Ralph Greaves who used the melody of Lovely Joan as part of his, "Fantasia on Greensleeves" based on Ralph Vaughan Williams' opera "Sir John in Love".

Lovely Joan - Audio, notation and tablature

Notes on playing Lovely Joan

As the tablature makes clear, the song can be played in the first position of the fretboard. All the notes are available within the first three frets plus one stretch up to fret 5 on the first string to play the high A note.

Give it an improvised feel when you play it as it's a folk song; it's not a classical piece that requires strict adherence to the notes on the page. Roll (spread) some chords like you can hear in in the audio track and use slides or slurs (hammer ons and pull offs) wherever you feel they enhance the overall sound of the song.

Treat notes with upward pointing stems as melody notes and try to give them a singing quality that can be heard clearly above the underlying bass and harmony notes. Those are notated with downward pointing stems and played with your thumb (for bass notes) and one or at most two fingers for the inner harmony notes.

As it's a very short verse, it can be repeated, which is exactly what happens when it's sung with its lyrics (which can be found on Wikipedia if you're interested.) However, without lyrics it needs some variety of treatment if it's to be repeated. It also works well played just once as an intro or as a prelude to another piece in the same key or mode (see below for 'mode' info).

About the music

Lovely Joan is a modal folk song. The mode is Dorian, and in this arrangement is 'A' Dorian.

The mode, A Dorian, is the same as the scale of A natural minor except that the 6th note is F# instead of F.

A Dorian = A B C D E F# G A

Key signature

Modal pieces are commonly published in either of two ways regarding the key signature. One way uses the key signature that agrees with the number of sharps or flats in the mode. In this case the key signature would be a single sharp (F#). This is the same key signature that is used by music written in the keys, G major and E minor, but it's definitely not in either of those keys.

The other way (which I've chosen here) is to use the key signature that is used by the nearest major or minor key with the same tonal centre (tonic) and overall mode (major or minor) - in this case, A minor, which uses the key signature of no sharps or flats. All the F notes are F sharp and each sharped F is shown by an accidental in the score in front of the affected notes.

Try some more fingerstyle/ classical arrangements

Kemp's Jig - This is an anonymous sixteenth century dance tune. Played in D major, mostly in 2nd position, lively and upbeat. A lower intermediate level of technique is required to play it.

Midnight (also known as Mr Dowland's Midnight) - This is an Elizabethan lute piece by written by court composer John Dowland. It's played in the key of A minor with a slow and sad feel to it (like most of John Dowland's music). It's around upper beginner level of difficulty - definitely not for complete beginners.

Etude in A minor - A popular 18th century classical guitar study by the Italian composer and guitarist, Mauro Giuliani. This piece is popular among beginners because it has a fast Spanish, almost flamenco, sound to it that makes it sound more difficult than it actually is. It's quite simple and shouldn't take too long to master.


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    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 12 months ago from UK


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      c.owen 12 months ago

      very nice arrangement