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Nov 29, 2019 - 10:42:48 AM
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6389 posts since 6/27/2009

Several songs and tunes on banjo evoke a surprise from the listener who assumes the music was not intended for banjo, but actually sound nice.  I’m of the school of thought that allows banjos to play whatever music the player wishes to play.  Ashokan Farewell’s beauty can be expressed in clawhammer and picking, too.

 

Ashokan Farewell is often thought to be old-time, but it’s fairly contemporary.  Jay Ungar wrote it in 1982, playing the fiddle with his wife, Molly Mason, on piano, and using it to end each session of their family-run Ashokan Music and Dance camp in New York.  The melody was meant to express the “sense of loss and longing” as the camp sessions finished their course and participants parted.  

 

Ken Burns, who produced The Civil War mini-series in 1990 heard the tune and utilized it twenty-five times in the series for a total of an hour’s worth of playing.  The music accompanied the reading of a poignant letter by Major Sullivan Ballou and was even played on country radio and also accompanied the United States’ entry in Operation Desert Storm.  Read more about the history of Ashokan Farewell in this Wikipedia article.

 

Major Ballou’s actual Civil War letter includes these words: “If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that, when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.”  Jay Ungar was able to capture in his melody a deep and languishing sentiment. It’s said that his composition echoes the style of a Scottish lament.

 

Original recordings:

 

The original Ken Burns Civil War mini-series version

 

Jay Ungar and his family band

 

On Banjo Hangout there are several versions.  Here are just a few:

 

Ashokan Farewell with lyrics (no banjo)

 

3-finger picked Ashokan Farewell by Chris Cooper

 

Clawhammered on a cello banjo (my arrangement)

 

Bluegrass band with solos

 

Adam Hinkel's clawhammered Ashokan Farewell

 

So why not try it in your own style?  Such a beautiful tune!


Nov 30, 2019 - 5:00:37 AM
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dbrooks

USA

3726 posts since 3/11/2004

Wonderful tune, Janet. I have been frustrated that I have been unable to work out a satisfactory clawhammer arrangement in D. Your arrangement in G is quite nice and may inspire me to try again. It would be worth the effort. We do play this at the contra dances frequently.

David

Nov 30, 2019 - 7:43:32 AM
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DC5

USA

9145 posts since 6/30/2015

One of my favorites, thank you Janet

Nov 30, 2019 - 1:57:02 PM
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203 posts since 7/3/2009

Thank you for posting, Janet. I really like Mike Scott's version from his Home Sweet Home album.

Dec 1, 2019 - 7:16 AM
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RV6

USA

1287 posts since 2/3/2012

Janet,   I really like this tune.  The jam I used to go to had a couple of fiddle players who played the tune well.   I was the only banjo player in the group and couldn't figure out how clawhammer banjo fit in so I just sat and listen so I wouldn't foul up a pretty tune.

Later, I downloaded some tab and got "half way there" but preferred playing regular old time tunes so Ashokan fell by the wayside.

Now, I'm learning to play it on my fiddle.  It's easier to play on the fiddle than it was on the banjo and sounds better, too.

I'm going to give your tab a shot with the banjo so thanks for that.

Dec 2, 2019 - 4:11:53 AM
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janolov

Sweden

40145 posts since 3/7/2006

There is a tab by Hugh Strawn in Banjo Newsletter December 2019: https://banjonews.com/2019-12/ashokan_farewell.html. Good timing!

Dec 3, 2019 - 11:24:23 AM
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8111 posts since 3/17/2005

A tune I love to play! Here's my take on it ...

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=

Dec 8, 2019 - 10:43:15 PM

6389 posts since 6/27/2009

Thanks for your comments and contributions, especially Chip’s nice arrangement. David, I tried playing Ashokan Farewell in double D tuning and prefer the open G tuning. If you needed it in the key of D, I’d play it tuned down on a cello or minstrel banjo.

Dec 9, 2019 - 1:40:46 AM
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janolov

Sweden

40145 posts since 3/7/2006

I have started working on a version in open D tuning (aDF#AD). I have a six string banjo tuned f#ADF#AD (a guitar-banjo with the sixth string changed to a first string and I use a fifth string capo). The low extra bass string makes it possible to play the lower parts. Otherwise there are some versions with ordinary  five string but where some phrases are raised an octave.

Dec 10, 2019 - 8:53:37 PM

6389 posts since 6/27/2009

That sounds good, Jan. Hope you’ll post this arrangement. Jumping an octave is a last resort for me, but getting to the low note with the additional string would give the 6-string banjo an added benefit.

Dec 11, 2019 - 7:09:14 PM

1014 posts since 6/20/2014

I love this tune, but cannot play it. I have looked at multiple versions.

Mike Iverson had a nice one, but my links to his website no longer work.

Charlie

Dec 11, 2019 - 8:47:31 PM
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6389 posts since 6/27/2009

quote:
Originally posted by CEParagon124

I love this tune, but cannot play it. I have looked at multiple versions.

Mike Iverson had a nice one, but my links to his website no longer work.

Charlie


Would a simpler tab and instructional video help?  

Dec 12, 2019 - 8:40:40 AM
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1014 posts since 6/20/2014

After forty-one years of tying one and two hand surgical knots, my hands are pretty stove up. One of the reasons I retired was loss of hand skills, I didn’t want to cause harm.

My ability to fret intricate chords is limited, as is the reach with the pinky.

For me, more simple is always better and as I almost never play in the presence of anyone except Sarah and the dogs, no one can judge.

So, yes, a simple version in G would be nice.

One of my favorite songs to play is David Brooks’ version of Hard Times in Double D and a playable version of Ashokan Farewell would be comparable.

Thank you, Janet.

Charlie Noyes

Dec 12, 2019 - 10:20:52 AM
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1014 posts since 6/20/2014

Actually, your arrangement in G seems doable for me, as soon as I figure out the fingering for both hands.

Charlie

Dec 12, 2019 - 10:32:01 AM
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3891 posts since 11/29/2005

Charles, you might try this link for Mike's website, banjoutah.com/

Dec 12, 2019 - 12:11:15 PM
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6389 posts since 6/27/2009

Thanks, Fred, for Mike's new website link. I don't see Ashokan Farewell yet on the new site, as Mike is re-formatting his tabs, a daunting task, as he says:  Mike Iverson's Clawhammer Tabs.  Maybe we can request that one.

Here's a simplified arrangement of my clawhammer tab. I call these videos "Tabtorials" because they use the tab to show how to play it. You can print the tab below or get it on my site here:  Ashokan Farewell, simplified tab.

 


Edited by - JanetB on 12/12/2019 12:12:44

Dec 12, 2019 - 5:50:11 PM

banjoy

USA

8684 posts since 7/1/2006

I know this is the clawhammer and old-time area ... but I thought I'd share my 3-finger take on this tune, here I'm picking with with a fiddler from up north I used to jam with from time to time...


Edited by - banjoy on 12/12/2019 17:52:49

Dec 12, 2019 - 6:28:48 PM

6389 posts since 6/27/2009

That was beautiful, Frank! This forum didn't used to include the words "and Old-Time Styles." It was added because of 2 and 3-finger picking that didn't fall under the bluegrass genre . I play that way, too. If you search Ashokan Farewell in the MP3 media archive the bluegrass genre is the most selected for "likes", but they don't really sound like bluegrass to me. Here's my Ashokan Farewell with 3-finger picking. It sounds more like old-time picking.


Dec 13, 2019 - 4:44:41 AM
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8111 posts since 3/17/2005

If we can get Don Borchelt's attention, he'll post his beautiful OT 3-finger version, which was my inspiration for my 2-finger rendition.

Dec 13, 2019 - 7:34:58 AM
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Players Union Member

atleson

USA

280 posts since 3/22/2005

Janet,  the easier tab is a wonderful idea.  I try to get more tunes by ear these days, but, when I"m stuck, more difficult tabs are not that useful for those tricky portions. 
Originally posted by JanetB

Thanks, Fred, for Mike's new website link. I don't see Ashokan Farewell yet on the new site, as Mike is re-formatting his tabs, a daunting task, as he says:  Mike Iverson's Clawhammer Tabs.  Maybe we can request that one.

Here's a simplified arrangement of my clawhammer tab. I call these videos "Tabtorials" because they use the tab to show how to play it. You can print the tab below or get it on my site here:  Ashokan Farewell, simplified tab.

 


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