Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
Learn to Play "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home" on Guitar
The Scottish folk song "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home," also known in Gaelic as "Chi mi na Morbheanna," is a song that lends itself well to fingerstyle guitar arrangements. This particular arrangement that I've made is around the lower intermediate level of difficulty.
The video contains the tab and notation staffs, along with a score-generated audio track. The complete tab and notation are also shown below the video. At the bottom of the score, there's also a link to a PDF file so that you can download the score and study it offline or print it out.
If the video's pages appear fuzzy or unclear, increase the quality with the 'video settings' control. You can see that in the bottom right-hand corner of the video screen (although it sometimes doesn't appear until you click 'play'). Choose 1080 HD if you can, as that's what the video was recorded in.
Guitar Tab and Notation for "Chi mi na Morbheanna"
Click the link to download a free PDF version for offline reading or printing.
Learners' Playing Tips
Below is some advice for learners approaching this intermediate-level arrangement.
Read More From Spinditty
As "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home" is originally a vocal rather than an instrumental melody, try to convey some vocal qualities to it with vibrato, slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs. The melody is shown in the notation with upward-pointing stems.
You can see many instances in the score where the last note of a bar is tied to the first note of the following bar. It's a way of bringing the first note of the bar in early for a more expressive effect. This, too, is to capture the singing quality of the melody, as it's what singers tend to do even when it's not written in the music like that.
The arrangement stays mostly within the first position of the guitar, but it moves to the 3rd position when the C major chord is followed by the same-shaped D major chord in bars 9–10, and again in bars 25–26.
The chords are all simple and familiar chord shapes. Most are cut-down versions of the chords in order to accommodate the melody notes and ensure that they're always the highest notes of the piece. Although your fretting hand doesn't have a lot to do, your picking hand has to keep the rhythm flowing and uninterrupted while you pick out the melody.
You can spread (roll) some of the chords as I've done. I've left those 'rolls' (normally a squiggly vertical line) out of the notation, as choosing which ones to spread is a matter of personal taste. Choose different ones if you prefer. Don't spread every chord, though, but do spread some. It suits the folky style of the accompaniment.
The bass is simple. It's usually just the root of each chord with a couple of passing notes between the roots of each chord (e.g., where the bass passes through F sharp to get from G to E as the chord changes from G major to E minor).
The song is in two sections that are very similar to each other. Section A is 16 bars long. Section B starts with the last two notes of bar 16 (notes C & E). You can use that as a repeat point, so you'll have section A played twice and section B played twice. The recording has each section played once only, but you can repeat the sections to extend the duration of the piece as it's quite short.
About the Song
The song was written by John Cameron in 1856. The lyrics were written in Gaelic and titled "Chi mi na Morbheanna". The title translates into English as "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home". That's how it's most commonly known now, and any recordings of it usually go by that title rather than the Gaelic title. There are many arrangements of the song available, especially for fiddles and flutes.
As the song's title suggests, it's a song about homesickness and homecoming. You can find the original Gaelic lyrics and their English translation on Wikipedia (under the Gaelic title).
The song is modal rather than tonal or key-based. That's common for folk songs of that period in Britain and Ireland. The mode is Dorian, and for this arrangement, I've chosen A Dorian. A Dorian is very similar to the key of A minor, except it has a raised 6th note, which is F# instead of F. It also avoids any use of a raised leading note (G#), which is a hallmark of minor key music.
Coincidentally, the mode A Dorian has exactly the same notes as G major (all natural notes except for F#). In tonal or key-based music, A Dorian is seen as the 2nd mode of G major. In modal music, it's not. It's its own mode and nothing to do with G major. It's far more closely related to A minor.
So, make sure you emphasise the note A as the tonal centre of the song and also make the most of F sharp and G natural notes to capture and convey the Dorian quality of the song.
The John Renbourn Version
The late, great English fingerstyle guitarist, John Renbourn, has the widely acknowledged definitive guitar arrangement of "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home," which appeared on his Black Balloon album. He also produced an excellent tutorial DVD with a book containing notation, tab and video demonstration of this song and other folk guitar pieces using altered tunings. The tuning he uses for this song is 'open G minor' (D G D G Bb D). The DVD and book are highly recommended if you want to explore the art of folk fingerstyle guitar more deeply.
Make Your Own Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangements
This kind of fingerstyle guitar arrangement is quite easy if you approach it in steps, starting with the melody and adding chords, bass and rhythm. You can see how it's done in the tutorial I've written titled "How to Make Solo Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangements of Simple Songs."
© 2014 Chas Mac