How to train your classical guitar to play “Oh Shenandoah, You Rolling River”

Traditional American folk song circa 19th century
Bjorno – 1975 Ramirez Classical Guitar Madrid Spain A=432

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you,
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you,
Away, I’m bound away, across the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter
Away, you rolling river
Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter
Away, I’m bound away, across the wide Missouri.

Oh, Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you,
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you,
Away, I’m bound away, across the wide Missouri.

Version by Stephen White

American folklorist Alan Lomax suggested that “Shenandoah” was a sea-shanty and that its “composers” quite possibly were French-Canadian voyageurs. Sea-shanties were work songs used by sailors to coordinate the efforts of completing chores such as raising the ship’s anchor or hauling ropes. The formal structure of a shanty is simple: it consists of a solo lead that alternates with a boisterous chorus. With the sweeping melodic line of its familiar refrain, “Shenandoah” is the very nature of a sea-shanty; indeed, the song’s first appearance in print was in an article by William L. Alden, titled “Sailor Songs,” published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1882.

As unclear as the song’s origin is, so is the definitive version and interpretation of its text. Some believe that the song refers to the river of the same name. Others suggest that it is of African-American origin, for it tells the tale of Sally, the daughter of the Indian Chief Shenandoah, who is courted for seven years by a white Missouri river trader. Regardless of these textual mysteries, “Shenandoah” remains an American classic.
–Library of Congress

“Virtually Virtuous” was my first new post since my YT Channel was taken down, with out notice, likely for WRONG SPEAK.

Since I directly uploaded YT videos from my cell phone and did not save them, I would like to ask anyone who may have down loaded the recorder videos with Rigel as student please contact me at bcs I would like to recover them and re-post them. Interestingly the F major scale video got over 5k views because some one kindly posted in on another recorder channel where apparently it was very popular.

In the mean time I plan to replace the missing videos with similar content though, unfortunately, Rigel is no longer available as a recorder student. Thus, whilst I work to replace the old videos with similar didactic contact, I will also be also adding new content.

Taming a Pair of Wild Viola da Gambas

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” with Rigel playing the treble viola da gamba and yours truly on tenor; recorded somewhere in Campania, Italy:

Next, Taming a Vicious & Wild Virtual Gamba Quartet featuring:

D Treble & G Tenor Viola da Gambi with Two G Violone recorded somewhere in Crete

First printed in Speyer Hymnal 1599
Parts harmonized by Michael Praetorius 1609
Sound & Video Editing © Mars

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse kam die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Röslein, das ich meine,
davon Isaias sagt,
ist Maria die reine
die uns das Blümlein bracht.
Aus Gottes ew’gem Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren
und blieb ein reine Magd.
Welches uns selig macht.

Train your recorder to play Alita Vita by G. Gastoldi with renaissance guitar accompaniment

Giovanni Gastoldi was a late Italian Renaissance composer who lived in Mantua and Milan, Italy.  In 1591 Gastoldi published a set of ballettos (dances) in five voices which became very popular for their homophonic textures and simple harmonies.  The 1591 volume, which contained Alita Vita, was reprinted ten (10) times in Venice.

I have used the Fromino mensural notation program to render the five voices whilst adding tablature for Renaissance Guitar accompaniment:

Alita Vita by G. Gastoldi

In this demonstration Rigel plays the Canto (top voice) on soprano recorder  whilst I mess about the Basso part with an alto recorder then switch to Renaissance Guitar accompanyment:

Train your recorder to row your boat.

“Row, row, row your boat” contains a well known melody which can be sung as a round. From  Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music: “A (round is a) perpetual cannon at the unison (or octave) for three or more voices.” where a cannon here may be construed as two or more independent melodies which maybe sung together harmoniously.  In other words the Row Your Boat melody is constructed in such a way it will harmonize with itself when sounded in cannon.

The wiki contains some historical information:,_Row,_Row_Your_Boat

It has been suggested that the song may have originally arisen out of American minstrelsy.[1] The earliest printing of the song is from 1852, when the lyrics were published with similar lyrics to those used today, but with a very different tune.[1] It was reprinted again two years later with the same lyrics and another tune. The modern tune was first recorded with the lyrics in 1881, mentioning Eliphalet Oram Lyte in The Franklin Square Song Collection but not making it clear whether he was the composer or adapter.[1]

If a picture is worth a thousand words then maybe a video is worth a million or ten:

Mr. Spock even got Captain Kirk to sing Row Your Boat:

Let’s train two equal recorders, and several other recorder combinations, how to Row Your Boat:

Finally lets train Fronimo to row the boat with nine (9) voices:

Church Organ, Reed Organ, Brass Section, Tubular Bells, Voice Ooohs, Recorder, Distortion Guitar, Bird Tweet & Wood Block

Train your recorder how to KISS

Let’s Keep It Simple Stupid in this post.

Well kept recorders, like many music instruments, simply require practice so it is best to KISS your recorder at all times when practicing.  Because, after all we can go a long way when we ain’t misbehavin’.

Firstly, isolate where your recorder is misbehaving and then provide proper training.

Secondly, do not play any faster than your recorder’s ability at any given time.

Thirdly, after we figure out how to train our recorder to sound something simple like C and then D on the alto by musically coordinating our fingers and KISSes, always play such as intended ergo do not practice misbehavior into your recorder!

In the short video below we demonstrate a simple way to musically train two fingering transitions on the alto; from C to D and then from D to C.  With a one, and a two and a three in mind above, sound a long C and the a D and then a C and then hold a long D.  Then go back to the C, back up to the D and finally hold another long C.

Try using the following articulation:

“(C)Doooooooooo, (D)doo, (C)ull, (D)doooooooooo, (C)doo, (D)ull, (C)doooooooooo” etc

Here are several other articulations to try:

“(C)Doooooooooo, (D)joo, (C)ull, (D)toooooooooo, (C)joo, (D)ull, (C)doooooooooo” etc

“(C)Toooooooooo, (D)joo, (C)ull, (D)loooooooooo, (C)joo, (D)ull, (C)toooooooooo” etc

Once your recorder has been trained to KISS C and D on the alto also try to KISS G and A on the soprano.  Use this method to KISS, articulate and sound more difficult fingerings such as from the low Bb on the alto to C or F to G on the soprano.

Train your recorders “a cappella”

Please forgive me this morning for a little play on words, or double entendre, with today’s post.

Most normal folks, and even musicians, understand a cappella, or in the chapel (google translator likes “nella cappella”), superficially to mean “sung only and without instruments”, implying choral music and further implying no instruments allowed nella chiesa (in the chapel).  Even my Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music states:  “Term for choral music sung without instrumental accompaniment.”  However, in my Larousse Encyclopedia of Music we find in the Glossary of Technical Terms:  “The term is used to describe unaccompanied vocal music although, of course, the use of instrumental accompaniment has been known in church music since the middle ages.”

The long answer is more complicated, including portative (small moveable) and built in church organs not to mention women were sometimes not allowed to sing in the church,  but at least we have a wee justification for sneaking our recorders into the chapel without causing too much commotion.

In any event we have thus managed to sneak in the door, however, before making a dash for the organ and choir loft, it might be fun to learn some modern church modes which have been conformed into diatonic scales (  Again, from Norton/Grove:  “(Church mode) A term used for the scalar and melodic categories into which Gregorian chant was classified from about the 8th or 9th century; . . .”  So far we have only considered the C major scale, which is a diatonic scale as well, but it is not one of the church modes.  However, our C major scale illustrates how we can understand and easily sound some modern church modes (for more somewhat complicated info see  For visualization, if we sound a C major octave scale on a piano we simply play all the white keys in succession obtaining eight discrete tones: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, & C.  We also note there are five (5) unused tones, the black keys: C#(sharp or Db), D#, F#, G#, & A# and we also note there is no black key between E & F and B & C.  If we have practiced a little we can play this C major scale on our soprano recorder.  Next let’s understand the sonic distance between white key tones separated by a black key is referred to as a whole step, from say tone C to D or A to B etc, whilst the sonic distance from E to F and B to C, where we find no dividing black key, is referred to as a half step.

With all this in mind, if we look at the successive pattern of whole and half steps in our C major diatonic scale, we find the following:


or             1      –      1     –   1/2   –      1      –       1       –       1     –   1/2

So, any major scale can be built this way using any tone from the twelve (12) available tones as a basis.  Thus when we sound all such major scales they will have a similar aural quality when compared to say a modern church mode which we will mention shortly.  There is of course quite a bit of western music composed around this scale wherein the basis is the tone C.  In fact we would usually say such music has a tonal center or tonic of C (there are C minor scales too but let’s save such discussion for later).  For our F recorders, such as the alto, let’s build an F major scale and see what happens using our series of whole and half steps as it applies to all major scales built around any tonic tone (if we merely write F, G, A, B, C, D, E, & F we will encounter a slight problem which needs to be sorted because from A to B is a whole step but our series requires a half step).  Here is the solution:


or             1      –      1      –   1/2     –      1      –       1       –       1     –   1/2

Thus, to make our series work out, we have to lower the B to Bb (flat – using the black key on the piano) thereby giving us the required half step from A to Bb which then also makes the sonic distance between Bb to C a whole step and shezzame it all works out by lowering lowering the B to a Bb.  Now the really interesting thing is, to play a C major scale on a “C” recorder (soprano, tenor or great bass) requires the exact same fingering as playing an F major scale on an F recorder such as the sopranino, alto or bass.

We still have not quite found a good time to dash to the choir/organ loft so we have just enough time to learn the first modern church mode before we have to perform it!

The church modes are merely scales which also tend to have a tonal center or tonic but these modes provide some spice to music and are used in many ways in Jazz, so called “Pop” and classical music too.  And, like our C major scale, these modes can be built using any of the white or black keys as a basis.  So let’s consider the first church mode dorian, which is an awesome mode you will probably recognize when we listen to some examples.  Here is the dorian mode or series though note it is structured very similar to our C major scale as we shall see:


or             1     –  1/2   –      1       –      1       –       1     –   1/2   –      1

I know this looks really complicated but it is child’s play to sound on the soprano recorder.  Simply omit playing the low C tone and begin the scale on D and play all the successive tones, as if playing an C major scale, but instead of landing on the upper C, play the next tone which is D.  You did it!

For our F recorders freinds, instead of trying to sound C dorian right off let’s sound G dorian.  Play your F major scale BUT forget the low F and start on the lowest G and play to the G above.  Here is what it looks like:


or             1     –  1/2     –      1       –      1       –       1     –   1/2   –      1

Ooops, time to dash and play!

Here is a well known melody using our dorian mode.  The music starts with dorian in C (C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb & C) and then moves to dorian in E (E, F#, G A, B, C#, D & E).   Note the instrumental solo on the penny or “tin” whistle ( which is a whistling beast very similar to the recorder.