Scarborough Fair (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Scarborough Fair

In this lesson, Matt introduces the A Dorian mode. He applies it to the song "Scarborough Fair".

Taught by Matt Brown in Reading Music and Rhythm seriesLength: 16:29Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:27) Lesson Introduction Welcome to lesson 12! In the past three lessons, Matt demonstrated fretboard patterns for the natural minor scale. He also explored important theory concepts pertaining to this scale. A few new written scores provided reading practice in minor keys.

In lesson 12, Matt switches gears to a new type of minor scale. This scale is referred to as the Dorian mode. In the scenes that follow, you will learn basic theory concepts pertaining to the Dorian mode. Matt also provides a comparison of this new scale to the natural minor scale. As usual, fretboard patterns are discussed in detail. Finally, your comprehension of the lesson material is put to the test by reading through a new melody.
Chapter 2: (00:54) Dorian Minor Scale The melody to "Scarborough Fair" represents a common application of the A Dorian mode. The term "mode" refers to a scale that is derived from another scale. The A Dorian mode is derived from G major, a scale discussed in past lessons.

Note: Watch lesson 26 from Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Classic Rock set for another great lesson on the Dorian mode.
Chapter 3: (02:44) A Dorian Mode We've already learned the G major scale. This scale consists of the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, and G. If the notes from this scale are rearranged in new order, a new scale is created. For example, begin the G major scale on the second note, A. This rearrangement of the scale produces the following notes: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A. The resulting scale is the Dorian mode.

Comparison to the Natural Minor Scale

Compare the spelling of the A Dorian mode to the spelling of the A natural minor scale.

A Dorian: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A
A Natural Minor: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

The two scales differ only by the sixth degree. In comparison to the natural minor scale, the sixth note in the A Dorian mode is raised. A distinct new flavor is produced by the raised sixth. Listen carefully as Matt plays these two scales back to back. How would you define the differences that you are hearing?

Key Signature for Dorian Pieces

Pieces composed in the Dorian mode are either notated one of two ways. Since the A Dorian mode is derived from its parent G major scale, this mode is often written with the same key signature as G major. However, A Dorian is frequently notated with the same key signature as A natural minor.

Practicing the Dorian Mode

Before proceeding to the next scene, familiarize yourself with the Dorian mode in first position. Simply remember to sharpen the sixth note in the A natural minor pattern.

Note: Tablature and notation to the Dorian mode in first position can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

When practicing any scale, always begin on the lowest root note. In this case, the open A string is the lowest root note. Then, ascend to the highest note available in the position. The highest note in first position is G, played at the 3rd fret of the first string. Next, descend the scale to the lowest root note in the pattern. This note is open E, played on the sixth string. Finally, ascend the pattern back up to the root note.

Picking Practice

Also, practice through the pattern using a variety of picking techniques. Use the following picking patterns when practicing all scales:

1. All Downstrokes
2. All Upstrokes
3. Alternate Picking Beginning with a Downstroke
4. Alternate Picking Beginning with an Upstroke

Rhythm Practice

Once you have mastered the Dorian pattern, apply the rhythm exercises presented in past lessons. Insert this type of scale practice into your daily warm-up routine.
Chapter 4: (02:35) Scarborough Fair Melody Remember to follow these important steps before you dive into playing a new piece:

1. Make a note of the official title and composer. The official title of this song is "Scarborough Fair." The composer of the melody is unknown.

2. Examine the key signature. There is one sharp in the key signature. As a result, it can be determined that the song is either in the key of G major or one of its modes. So far, two modes of the G major scale have been discussed. A Dorian and E natural minor are both modes of the G major scale. Analyze key features of the melody to determine which scale or mode the song is played in. Most melodies typically begin on the tonic note. However, this isn't always the case. Next, take a look at the chord changes listed above the melody. Since the chord progression begins and ends with an Am chord, it's pretty safe to assume that the melody is played in A Dorian.

3. Note the time signature. This song is played in 3/4 time. Remember the rules of time signatures! The top number indicates three beats per measure. The quarter note receives the beat. 3/4 produces a waltz time feel. Count "1, 2, 3" for the quarter notes of each measure.

4. Note the tempo and style of the piece. No style is listed. You have probably heard performances of this song before. Use these recordings as a reference when practicing this melody. What emotion is evoked by the melody? Add these elements as you work through the song.

5. Study the melody for any important features such as pickup notes. None are present. The first measure is a complete measure.
Chapter 5: (06:55) Scarborough Fair Phrases Phrase 1

The first phrase lasts for a total of four measures. The lyrics that accompany this phrase are listed below:

"Are you going to Scarborough Fair?"

Since this is the first phrase of the melody, we shall refer to it as "a."

Phrase 2

This phrase begins on beat 2 of the fifth measure. Do not skip over the rest! Remain silent for the duration of the full first beat of the measure.

Position Shift

The second phrase forces you to shift up to second position. When playing in this position, the first finger plays all notes at the 2nd fret. The middle finger plays at the 3rd fret, and the pinkie plays at the 5th fret. The position shift is used to accommodate a new high note. This note is A, located at the 5th fret of the first string. This note appears on the first ledger line above the staff. Remember that the ledger lines are the small lines that are written above and below the staff.

The F# note within this phrase is what gives the melody its distinct Dorian sound. How would the melody sound if all of the F#'s were changed to F naturals?

Phrase Label and Lyrics

This phrase is labeled "b." It features brand new melodic material.

The lyrics for the second phrase are listed below:

"Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme."

Phrase 3

The third phrase begins on the last beat of measure eight. The left hand remains in second position for the start of the phrase. However, a shift back into first position occurs at the end of the phrase. When the open E note is played, quickly shift the left hand back into first position.

Phrase Label and Lyrics

This phrase is labeled "c." The lyrics for the third phrase are listed below.

"Remember me to one who lives there."

Phrase 4

Phrase 4 begins on the downbeat of measure 13. It features completely new melodic material. Consequently, the phrase is labeled "d." Notice how none of the phrases in the melody repeat.
The lyrics accompanying this phrase are "She once was a true love of mine."
Chapter 6: (03:01) Play Along and Wrap-up Before attempting to play along with the lesson video, practice the melody on your own with a metronome. Start at a slow tempo such as 60 or 70 beats per minute. Do not neglect key rhythmic features such as rests. After mastering the melody at a given tempo, increase the metronome speed by a few increments. Once you have reached 118 beats per minute, return to the lesson video and play along with Matt. This pushes the tempo faster than previous lessons. Remember to keep going if you make a mistake. After completing the entire melody, go back and address any errors.

Preview of Next Lesson

Matt runs through one more minor key song in the following lesson. In later lessons, he begins to advance up the fretboard. Second position scales and melodies will be demonstrated in detail.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

jjod4jjod4 replied

I am sorry. I can't go on with this guy.

RidestructorRidestructor replied

Matt, in scene 4 when you strt discussing the score you say that there is one sharp in the key signature however the score in the supplemental materials contains no sharps or flats in the key signature and the f notes in the score are sharped instead.

waldo48waldo48 replied

Matt I notice that we have an F Chord in the song. Is this correct as there is an F# not an F in the A Dorian Scale. The F Chord is F A C. Is this acceptable in the A Dorian Scale?

mattbrownmattbrown replied

First off, the melody is always the most important factor in determining which tonality a song is in. More often than not, you'll see some notes in the chords or melody that are outside of the overall tonality that you're in. Sure, a lot of simple songs are completely diatonic to a certain scale or mode, but most songs are not. With this song, you could harmonize the F major measure with an Am chord. It makes the song a little more interesting if you don't though. Since the F chord works well with the melody here and the overall vibe of the song, you can definitely use it here.

cobramancobraman replied

I don't really understand what you are trying to do with this lesson. You show the Dorian scale, but the Scarborough song has notes that are not shown in this scale. For example the note for "sage" is nowhere in the scale you show.

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Hi! In Scene 3, I demonstrate a one octave A Dorian mode (A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A). The melody to "Scarborough Fair" uses this mode. The melody is just played in a range that is an octave higher from how I played the scale in Scene 3. I'm guessing that is what might be confusing you.

telboytelboy replied

Good lesson Matt. The "incantation" as dj mentions, is the engine of the song and fair thumps the melody along. That line conjures up beautifully the image of a fair...those were the spices of the middle ages. A time delightfully revisited for us by Simon & Garfunkel.....I'm years late making this comment....anybody listening....Matt?

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Don't worry! You're not late to the party ;) The admins. of the website generate a list of lesson comments for me that I check about once a week...Yeah, the Simon and Garfunkle version is great!

ronin808ronin808 replied

great lesson. I hope ther are more... I will be on this one for a while but look forward to more.

btn7025btn7025 replied

Is it possible to post the tabs for Scarborough Fair? The supplemental content only contains the sheet music which I cannot translate.

mattbrownmattbrown replied

The whole purpose of this lesson series is to help you learn how to read music. I think that posting tablature would kind of defeat the purpose.

btn7025btn7025 replied

What about Cliff notes??

djmckenziedjmckenzie replied

Scarborough Fair is a old English folk song, not by simon and garfunkal. "Remember me to one who lives there" refers to the one who lives in Scarborough. I read once that "Parsley,sage rosemary and thyme" was from an incantation. Its also good on roast chicken :-) I do not know why it was put in this song. I have not reseached this song on the net. My understanding comes from 20yrs ago from a British Folk Music singer.

Reading Music and Rhythm

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Matt brings all of his years of education right to you with this fantastic series on how to read music. You will start with the very basics and work up to some very advanced concepts.

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Intro to Reading Music

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Length: 15:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Reading MusicLesson 2

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Rhythm and Time SignaturesLesson 3

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3/4 Time SignaturesLesson 4

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Reading Music PracticeLesson 5

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Amazing GraceLesson 8

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Minor Key and Aura LeeLesson 11

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In this lesson Matt Brown covers the first minor key song in this series, "Aura Lee".

Length: 12:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Scarborough FairLesson 12

Scarborough Fair

In this lesson, Matt introduces the A Dorian mode. He applies it to the song "Scarborough Fair".

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Second PositionLesson 13

Second Position

In lesson 13, Matt Brown discusses and demonstrates second position.

Length: 29:52 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
RhythmLesson 14


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Length: 20:17 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
On Top of Old Smokey ReviewLesson 15

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Matt Brown reviews "On Top of Old Smokey". This time around, the melody is played in second position.

Length: 7:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Reviewing Angels We Have Heard On High Lesson 16

Reviewing Angels We Have Heard On High

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Shoo, Fly ReviewLesson 17

Shoo, Fly Review

Matt Brown reviews the song "Shoo, Fly" in second position.

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Rhythm StrummingLesson 18

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Down by the RiversideLesson 19

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Length: 15:02 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
AccompanimentLesson 20


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Length: 12:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
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Fur Elise Pt. 2Lesson 22

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The Entertainer Pt. 2Lesson 24

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Stars and Stripes Forever Pt. 2Lesson 28

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Danny Boy Pt. 2Lesson 31

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Silent Night Pt. 2Lesson 33

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Funiculi Funicula Pt. 2Lesson 35

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Song of the Volga Boatmen Pt. 2Lesson 39

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Matt Brown

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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