Reading My Way Around the World

Sunday 19 October 2014

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: The Sally Gardens

All the guitar song books that I've come across, for folk music or particularly for Irish songs, annotate the songs in keys that are suitable for men.   Women who are starting to play guitar and who haven't mastered the art of transposing yet ( a subject for another post) try to play the songs and give up really quickly because either the song is way too low or way too high.  
Several of my female students ask me for the chords of songs so I thought it'd be good to start a series here with particular focus on Irish songs, both traditional and contemporary.  These keys are the keys in which I play and sing the songs.   If you need to go a little bit higher, add your capo to the first or second fret.

The Sally Gardens
written by W.B.Yeats in 1889 
The tune is traditional (The Maids of the Mountain Shore)

              G                 D      C     G
It was down by the Sally Gar-dens
         C         D          G
My love and I did meet.
G              D        C   G
She passed the Sally Gar-dens
            C     D                G
With little snow-white feet
        Em      Am          D
She bid me take love easy
             C                 D        G
As the leaves grow on the tree.
       G            D              C   G
But I being young and fool-ish
                 C          D    G
And with her did not agree.

G             D       C     G
In a field down by the ri - ver
         C         D          G
My love and I did stand
        G          D          C      G
And on my leaning shoulder
        C           D                 G
She laid her snow-white hand.
        Em      Am         D
She bid me take life easy,
             C               D            G
As the grass grows on the weirs,
       G         D             C      G
But I was young and fool-ish
        C             D        G
And now am full of tears.

Repeat Verse 1.

Here's a beautiful version of this song, sung by Maura O'Connell and Karen Mathieson on the wonderful TV show, the Transatlantic Sessions.   
The key above is the same as they're singing in here.

This blog is Day 8 of Sarah Allen's 30 day blog challenge


  1. Something I didn't know about. I didn't realise songs could be written for different voices and then transposed.

    1. Oh yes Jo, any song can be sung in any key. It's not usual in classical music to have the key changed but even from that genre some pop and jazz and folk performers have done wonderful renditions in their own keys. If a man sings a woman's song, or vice versa, then the key always has to be changed.

  2. I love the song and will be trying it out later with your suggested chords. I totally agree that many times when singing I am a full octave above as I cannot reach the low notes and that causes problems when the song then goes high!

    1. Let me know if the chords work for you Pempi or if there are other songs you'd like transposed. I really want to make this a series, as a resource for other singers.


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