Scarborough Fair: Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangement in Notation, Tab and Audio

Updated on February 21, 2017
chasmac profile image

Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.


The well-known English folk-song, Scarborough Fair, is a song that has appeared in countless arrangements through the years—from a capella to full orchestral versions - with everything in between. This version for acoustic fingerstyle guitar is simple enough to learn and play for anyone who has some basic fingerstyle ability. It sounds effective played on the steel strings of an acoustic guitar as they tend to preserve its 'folk-song' character quite well.

The Video

The video consists of the soundtrack played on acoustic guitar and the score, which progresses line by line as the audio track plays.

The video is recorded at 1080HD, so use that playback quality setting (or the nearest setting to it) to see the score at its clearest. The same score is also displayed underneath the video. If you're going to study and learn this version, the static score underneath is more convenient. Magnify it if necessary by clicking anywhere on the score to view it in the gallery.

Scarborough Fair - Notation and Guitar Tablature

Scarborough Fair
Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair PDF

Click to open and download this score of Scarborough Fair as a PDF file for offline viewing and printing.

Learners' Notes

The song isn't too difficult if you're already familiar with basic fingerstyle technique. Notice that there are a few tied notes in the melody. This is to copy the vocal style of anticipating notes off the beat. It produces a slightly syncopated lilting touch.

If you follow the tab only, be aware that notes being tied to are greyed out. The tie itself isn't shown. It's a tab convention to show that the previous note is still sounding and the greyed out note isn't played.

Ties and ornaments (shown by symbols on the score) can be left out until you become more fluent. Put them back in when you're able to, though, as they enhance the song's 'olde worlde' character.

The highest note is A on string one, fret 5. It's played, with your little finger, sometimes alone and sometimes as part of a 5th fret A minor chord. The tab makes clear which strings and frets to play those high A minor chords on. Use your 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers to hold down that chord. Keeping your index finger free makes it easier to transition to the next chord further down the fretboard.

Performance Notes

The version here is a short one-verse piece, but as it's a song with repeatable verses, you can play it more than once. Just don't play the two final bars after each verse until you're actually going to finish the song.

Only play a couple of verses at most if playing this solo fingerstyle piece as written, though, as there would be no variety between verses. Each repeat will be less impressive than the previous one to any listener, and by the 4th verse you'd have no listeners left (they've heard it all before... several times).

Songs avoid that problem by having different lyrics for each verse, but for an instrumental version, there would have to be some other form of variety, such as a 'theme and variations' form. If you play the verse more than once, try to vary it each time by using different embellishments, e.g., grace notes, rolled chords, etc.

Better still - play it once and use it as an intro to another song or as a short filler between songs.

Don't try to sing along with it while playing the written arrangement as it already contains the melody. If you want to sing the lyrics and play many verses, just strum the chords or use a pattern-based accompaniment fingerstyle, such as the one made famous by Paul Simon.

Scarborough Fair—First Verse and Chords

If you want to play Scarborough fair as an accompaniment to a vocal melody, here are the chords and first verse. The chords are the same for all the verses, and you can find the other verses' lyrics on Wikipedia—There are many verses, and I've never heard an arrangement where every verse is sung, so pick and choose your verses.


Make your own Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangements

For a lesson on how to approach making this kind of solo fingerstyle arrangement, see my article:

It's a demonstration of how to start with a melody and add chords underneath and spread out their notes through the bar in a flowing rhythmic style.

About Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair is a 17th or 18th-century ballad written in the Dorian mode. The composer is unknown and the origins of the tune are unclear. There's at least one 17th century Scottish song (The Elfin King) that predates it and contains lyrics that are too similar in places to be coincidental, but that song has nothing to with the northern English town of Scarborough or any fairs held there.

The lyrics of Scarborough Fair are based on the theme of having to complete some impossible tasks in order to win the affections of a suitor who's obviously playing very hard to get.

In recent times, the song was only known in folk music circles until it was recorded by Simon and Garfunkel and featured in the movie, The Graduate in the sixties. After that, it became very popular, especially among acoustic guitarists, thanks to the intricate and effective fingerstyle guitar accompaniment that Paul Simon wrote.

More Fingerstyle Arrangements to Try

Try some other folk fingerstyle arrangement - all are in standard notation and guitar tab with audio demo tracks for easy learning.

Greensleeves - Two versions of Greensleeves. One is a simple classical arrangement, while the other is a more improvised folk fingerstyle version.

Oidhche Mhath - A beautiful Scottish melody.

You can find more of my folk fingerstyle and also classical guitar arrangements by clicking through the "previous" and "next" links below this article. For a full list of all the arrangements available, see my profile.

Kimiad - A Celtic traditional song from Brittany in France


The music and lyrics of Scarborough Fair are in the Public Domain

The score, arrangement, images and audio track are by chasmac.

© 2014 chasmac


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • chasmac profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comments Hezekiah and ladyguitarpicker - Yes, it's a lovely song that has stood the test of time.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      5 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, Love this song and like to play finger-style, nice hub love the melody.

    • Hezekiah profile image


      5 years ago from Japan

      Never heard of this arrangements before, thanks for sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)