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Songs For Singing, Episode 9: "Bury Me Beneath the Willow"

Posted by Josh Turknett on Thursday, September 29, 2016

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DOWNLOAD THE TAB for "Bury Me Beneath the Willow"

To DOWNLOAD THE TAB for both the VOCAL BACKUP and the LEAD BREAK for "Bury Me Beneath the Willow", click the button below. You'll also get a brand new classic clawhammer song and tab delivered to your inbox every week!

Click Here To Get The Tab



EPISODE 9: Bury Me Beneath the Willow

by Josh Turknett,


Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl (or vice versa). Girl spurns boy. Boy loses all hope for the future, rendering his remaining days empty and meaningless. 

In the great catalog of song theme categories, surely none takes up more space that that of unrequited love. It may be the oldest song archetype known to man. 

Failing to include a song on the subject in one's own personal catalog of material would be a glaring oversight. 

Not to fear, "Bury Me Beneath the Willow" is here. It's not just any old song about unrequited love (of which the willow tree is apparently an ancient symbol), mind you, but one of the earliest recorded songs on the topic.​​

It happens to also work out nicely in standard G tuning and, in my opinion, sounds best with only a minimum of fanciful pickery. In fact, not a single thumb was dropped in the version played above.

So let's get down to the business of creating ourselves an arrangement of this timeless lament of love lost.


Step 1: Know Thy Melody

While technically this song as a "verse" and a "chorus" ("oh bury me beneath the willow,..."), the melody for both is the same. Easy peasy!

Listen enough times to where you can sing or hum it on your own, then proceed onward with the findings of the chords!


Step 2: Find the Chords

We're playing this out of gDGBD tuning (standard G), which means we'll be playing in the key of G.

This means that G major, C major, and D major are our I, IV, and V chords, and so will be our primary suspects in our chord finding investigations. 

As is the case with most songs, this was starts on the root chord, G major. Strum along and sing, and see if you can pick out the chord changes. Check your work below when ready. 

(RELATED: Are you just getting started, or not comfortable yet with playing by ear? Click here to take a short quiz to see if you have what it takes to play by ear, and to take the free “Getting Started Playing By Ear” course).


Step 3: Play A Basic Backup Pattern While Fingering the Chord Progression

For our initial backup, we'll last layer a bum ditty pattern (alternating our "bum" strike on the 3rd and 4th strings) over the chord progression, and -- voila! -- we've got a highly suitable backdrop against which to sing against.

Here's what that sounds like: Simple Burial.mp3

And here's that in tab:

Step 4: Add Some Easily Accessed Melody Notes

We can take things up a level by sprinkling in some melody notes on our "bum" strike, doubling the note we're singing.

And the easiest way to do so is to first just locate melody notes that require no extra work on behalf of the fretting hand. This of course requires us to know where those melody notes are located. So...

Here's the basic melody of “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” played on the banjo: The Melody.mp3

And here's the melody in tab:

Now, if we add in the melody notes that require no extra movement of our fretting hand (as it's fingering the chords), we come up with this backup pattern (retained melody notes placed in bold).

Add in some singing behind this backup pattern, and you should get something that resembles this: Singing Burial.mp3

And just like that, you've added another classic tale of unfulfilled romance to your songbook.

If you'd like to download my full arrangement as played in the video, along with the tab for the banjo solo, just click below (you'll also get a new song and tab delivered to you every week as a bonus!):

Click Here To Get The Tab


Want to view all of the prior Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series episodes?

Head over to the Core Repertoire Table of Contents


About the Author

Dr. Josh Turknett is the creator of Breakthrough Banjo, the first music beginner to advanced system for learning clawhammer banjo that incorporates the science of learning and neuroplasticity and specifically target the adult learner (click to learn more)



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