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

Updated on November 1, 2018
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Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.


"Lovely Joan"

For fingerstyle and classical guitar players, here's a fairly simple guitar arrangement that 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 line by line while listening to the audio track, on the video as it plays or, alternatively, you can follow the printed score below the video.

To see the score in the video clearly, select the highest playback quality setting. The quality setting control is the cog-shaped icon at the bottom right of the YouTube video player that appears after you click 'Play'.

Lovely Joan - Audio, Notation and Tablature

Notes on Playing Lovely Joan

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

Aim to give Lovely Joan 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 the audio track, and use slides and slurs (hammer-ons and pull-offs) wherever you feel they enhance the overall sound of the song.

Even if you read the tab staffs rather than the standard notation staffs, you should still refer to the notation and treat notes with upward pointing stems as melody notes. Try to give them an expressive singing quality so that they can stand out and be heard clearly above the underlying bass and harmony notes. Bass and harmony (chord) notes are mostly notated with downward pointing stems and need to be played with your thumb (for bass notes) and one, or at most two, fingers for the inner harmony notes.

As Lovely Joan is just 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. You can do that in several ways.

  • Add more ornamentation such as slides and slurs.
  • Add more fill-in harmony notes between the melody notes.
  • Add some more passing notes to the bass part.

The song also works well when played just once as an intro or as a prelude to another piece in the key of A minor or A Dorian (see below for 'mode' info).

About the Music

Lovely Joan is a traditional, 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

In standard music notation, 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 or home note) and overall mode (major or minor). In this case, it's A minor, which uses the key signature of zero sharps or flats. In A Dorian, all the F notes are to be played as F sharp and each sharped F note is shown by an accidental in the score in front of the affected notes rather than in the key signature. Tab readers can ignore this requirement completely.


Lovely Joan is a traditional folk melody and is in the Public Domain. The score, musical arrangement and images are by Chasmac and were produced using Guitar Pro, Goldwave and Photoshop, respectively.

© 2012 chasmac


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