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19th C. American Guitar in Scordatura,

that is, alternate tunings

Over the course of some years, I copied 19th C. American guitar works from the collection of the Library of Congress. Funny as it may sound, I was mainly interested in works arranged for the guitar. You can read some of my reasons for that in my Guitar music in the Library of Congress page.

I intend to present all of the guitar pieces I copied which are in scordatura, or alternate tunings, on this page.

Some guitar pieces in scordatura are notated at the sounding pitch, so that you have to be aware of where the new location for a given note is. Others are notated so that you can pretend the guitar is tuned normally, and the printed note, which may look like nonsense, will take you to the right spot for the desired note. For example, the two pieces by Vina Johnson in the E major tuning section below are notated in the two different styles.

I provide the undoctored, unedited original for each piece. Then I supply a fully fingered version, which also has errors corrected, and some clean-up work on the score. Somewhere along the way, I also started providing an intermediate version, in case the full fingerings are just too much.

The hope is that the full fingerings, which tell you continually the position of left hand and the finger to use for each note, will keep you on track in both styles of scoring.

About my fingering notation: Understand that "C" indicates the position (more or less) commanded by finger 1. "C" does NOT imply a barre! The fingerings, or your playing style, will tell you when to lay down a barre.

A slanted "-" dash indicates that the given left-hand finger has moved up or down the fingerboard from a fret on the same string to its new location. It implies nothing about glissando or the musical connection between the notes. It gets you to a new position. This new position is not marked with a "C", since that would be redundant.

Some other day, you can visit my page laying out my thoughts on standardized guitar fingering notation.


E B e g# b e' (open E)

E B e g# b e' (open E)

This tuning is a big, fat E major chord. Precisely tuned, it will increase the tension on your guitar by five semitones. So you might want to tune to Eb major, which will lower the total tension by a semitone.

H. Bollman: Greek March and Greek Waltz.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Compare with Grand Grecian Military March, by Emil Heerbrugger, below.
Note: Does Bollman really want you to drum the harmonics? It works poorly for me. Heerbrugger has strums.

C. H. McD. Burton: Gettysburg.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

Otto Feder: The Shamrock, a collection of Irish Airs.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
      The Blue Bells Of Scotland.
      'Tis the Last Rose of Summer, by Thomas Moore.
      Jenny Jones.
      Paddy Snap.
      My Lodging Is On The Cold Ground (a.k.a. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms).
      Kate Kearney.
Note: "Blue Bells", staff 3, m4, C-B grace notes are surely meant to be A-B.
Note: "My Lodging" includes a killer stretch. I thought alternate tunings were supposed to make things easier...

Emil Heerbrugger: Grand Grecian Military March. Two guitars.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Guitar Secondo is tuned normally.
Note: Compare with Greek March, by H. Bollman, above.
Note: Consider the instructions to "turn the left hand over" to play the harmonics. It works!

J. B. Herbert: Home Sweet Home, by Henry R. Bishop.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

Vina Johnson: Echoes From the Casino.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

Vina Johnson: Melange Plaintive.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Incorporates: Silver Threads Among The Gold, by H. P. Danks.

G. C. Lindsey: Lie Low, by Lettie Moncton. Two guitars.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)  (Cover)
Note: Contains a clash of IV and V7 chords. I'll let you decide how you want to handle it.

Antonio Lopes: The Maiden's Prayer (La Priere D'un Vierge), by T. Badarzewska.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: This piece was ubiquitous in its day among amateur musicians. I think it drove people crazy.

Antonio Lopes: Naples' Amusements (Divertimento Di Napoles).  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

M. A. Zani de Ferranti: Fantaisie Variee sur le Carneval di Venise.  (Modern tablature)
Note: Obviously not an American guitar piece, but it was programmed on turn of the (20th) century, American, virtuoso guitar programs. Be the first in a hundred years to work up Ferranti's "The Carnival of Venice"! Be the first to put it up on YouTube!

NOTE: While you are in this tuning, you can also play the pieces in the next tuning, a big D major chord, since the intervals are exactly the same.


D A d f# a d' (open D; "Sebastopol", or "'Bastopol")

D A d f# a d' (open D)

This tuning is a big D major chord, also called Sebastopol tuning. Note that the intervals are exactly the same as in the E major tuning above.

C. S. De Lano: Eveline Waltz.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)  (Cover)

C. S. De Lano: Last Rose of Summer, by Thomas Moore.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)  (Cover)

Andre de l'Orme: The Forge.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)   Incorporates:
      The Anvil Chorus, from Il Trovatore, by Giuseppe Verdi.
      Galop (a.k.a. Cancan), from Orphee aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld), by Jacques Offenbach.
      Old Folks At Home (a.k.a. Swanee Riber), by Stephen Foster.
      Home Sweet Home, by Henry R. Bishop.
Note: In the "Heavy Hammering" section, consider pulling bass strings out to let them slap against the frets.
Note: In "Old Folks At Home" I moved melody notes to where I feel sure they were meant to be sounded.


D G d g b d' (open G; "Spanish tuning")

D G d g b d'

This tuning is a big G chord starting with a low D. Apparently it is sometimes called "Spanish tuning" because it's the tuning for the well-known "Spanish Fandango" (read on). It's the same as the Russian 7-string guitar tuning without the low B string.

I put James Ballard's "Fandango" at the top of the list because it might be the granddaddy of all American guitar pieces in this tuning. Also, you'll find the Fandango essence infusing many of the other pieces here.

In this section I start to offer an extra, intermediate version between the original and fully fingered versions. I wish I had thought of this from the beginning for the sake of those who might feel the fully fingered versions to be overdone. The intermediate version generally has the originally supplied fingerings, perhaps with some boosters, and perhaps with some modernization of the notation of the supplied fingerings.

James Ballard: Fandango.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: In the Summer 1999 Soundboard magazine, Peter Danner discusses the ubiquitous "Spanish Fandango" played by American guitarists. This example from James Ballard's "Elements of Guitar-Playing" (1838) is the earliest one Danner was aware of. He speculates that it may have derived from a European guitar work in this tuning, Luigi Castellacci's "Bolero", with the Americans adding the barre chord on the 4th fret to the progression.
Note: See also Eulenstein's "Spanish March" below. In addition to the tuning and the use of the big barre chords, the music itself is strikingly similar to Castellacci's "Bolero".
Note: For other settings of the Spanish Fandango, see Holland and Worrall below.

Daniel Acker: Adelphia Waltz, for one or two guitars.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)

J. Adrian: Danish Dangbango. Two-Step.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)

Mrs. S. T. Brown: Battle of Santiago.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Mrs. Brown's middle initial is given as "F." on the first page of music.
Note: Intermediate hardly looks different from Original, but has some corrected notes and accidentals, filled-in staff lines, and clarified fingerings in the "Drums" section.

C. H. McD. Burton: Dar's A Wrinkle In De Banjo.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Don't let the 32nd-note beams scare you; it all boils down to a dotted 16th rhythm: dum-di-dum-di-dum-di-dum-di...

Alfred Chenet: The Merry Makers. Lancers.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Good study for controlled strums with i finger.

C. Eulenstein: Spanish March.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: The tuning indicates a low E for the 6th string, but the 6th string is not utilized at all.
Note: In addition to the G major tuning, this piece has striking musical similarities with Castellacci's "Bolero". See the note under Ballard's "Fandango" above. It makes me wonder if the "Spanish March" preceded the "Spanish Fandango" on the American guitar scene.
Note: Castellacci wrote another Bolero for guitar and piano (not a transcription of his Bolero for solo guitar.) It has even closer musical ties with Eulenstein's "Spanish March". This Bolero even uses the 4th fret barre chord, right near the end. Here is Castellacci's "Bolero pour Pianoforte et Guitare", which you might as well play now since you're all tuned up for it!

Charles Henlein: Twilight Polka.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: I suppose the bold X symbol below the 6th staff means to play the low A which the engraver couldn't fit in?

J. B. Herbert: Blue Bells of Scotland.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

Justin Holland: Spanish Fandango.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: The harmonics are not notated entirely consistently; a few harmonics were notated at the sounding pitch when they should have been notated according to the expected note in regular tuning. This should cause no difficulties.

G. C. Lindsey: My Rocky Mountain Home.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Not a big deal, but one might expect mm37,41,65 to be identical. Are the differences intentional, or just carelessness?

G. Morris Repass: American Fandango.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)

Edw. Schoenefeld: Nearer My God To Thee, by Lowell Mason.  (Original)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Page includes two pieces in standard tuning:
      Then You'll Remember Me, from "Bohemian Girl" by Balfe
      Soldier's Farewell

J. C. Smith: Sweet Home Variations ("Home, Sweet Home", by Henry R. Bishop.)  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note that J. C. was a one-man show: composer, artist, engraver, and publisher. Good for him! (Too bad he puts fingering information behind the notes and below the staff.)
Note: I think I made the right fixes in the harmonics section. Somebody double-check me.
Note: For the first time, in all my decades of fingering guitar music, I used notation indicating the fret where the action is ("17th"), as opposed to position notation ("C15" or "C16") showing where finger 1 would be located if it were doing anything, which it isn't. I think it works.

J. C. Smith: Grand Opera March.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Unfortunately, the music is too tight for full fingering. You'll find lots of parallel chords going up and down using the same fingers.
Note: Over-sized numbers (without the "-th") indicate the fret where the action is. See the note under J. C. Smith's "Sweet Home Variations".

Ch. Ph. Winkler: Le Reve. Romance.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: The 3-note chords in harmonics in the 3rd staff from the end can be played without the bottom note with negligible loss of effect.

Henry Worrall: Violet Waltz.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: This is really just variations on "Spanish Fandango". See Ballard's "Fandango".
Note: Did Worrall perhaps intend for the harmonic section to extend to the high D with the fermata? That harmonic would be found at string 1, fret 5. It sounds much better to my ears.
Note the inconsistency between mm7,8,15 of the Waltz and the corresponding measures in all the variations. I had figured there was a transcription or engraving error in the Waltz and "corrected" those spots. Then I had to undo my corrections when I saw the Theme at the end had the exact, same notes as the Waltz. Oof...


C G d g b d' (Saxton System)

C G d g b d' (Saxton)

This is the same as the previous tuning, open G, with the 6th string lowered another step, from D down to C. Obviously, Johnson Bane was a great booster of this tuning; was it his own brainchild? Where does the name come from?

The pieces in the first three publications below were originally presented in tablature. I've worked them up into a standardized, modern tablature format that places the fret numbers clearly in the 6 spaces and supplies clear and complete rhythmic information. I think the Bane tablature provides a good argument against slashing the fret numbers through with the tablature line, which can make 0, 3, 6, 8, and 9 a bit tough to differentiate.

Unknown composer (Bane? Herrington?): April Showers. Two guitars.  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)  (Notes and old ASCII tablature)
Note: The title page was missing, so the composer, publisher, date, etc., is unknown to me.
Note: The original score was huge. This has been resized to about 70% of the original.

From Self Instructor for the Guitar, Figure Form Notation, Spanish Key by J. W. Herrington:

J. W. Herrington: Moonlight on the River. Two guitars.  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)
Note: See Peter Danner's article about J. W. Herrington's "Self Instructor for the Guitar" (1910), in Soundboard magazine, Summer 1987.
Note: I left the clash in m14 thinking it very well might be intentional.

J. W. Herrington: Louisiana Patrol.  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)
Note: I leave it up to you to decide where to come in when the beats don't add up across measures.

J. W. Herrington: Snowflake Schottisch.  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)
Note: I was ready to write, "Of course, since this is a schottisch, you'll want to play the 8th notes dotted." But when I went to check my music reference books for confirmation of my belief that schottisches are based on skipping rhythms, not one of them mentioned it. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I went through half of my 19th C. American guitar music digging out the schottisches, about 30 of them. Turns out I'm not crazy (at least, in this regard); almost all of them make pronounced use of the dotted-8th rhythm. (A couple use the Scotch snap, and a few had no dotted rhythms.) It must be that I'm the only person who plays this nutty stuff. Do I get an honorary doctorate or something for knowing something about music that nobody else, not even Grove's, knows?
Note: Herrington marks this as an arrangement, but a web search (Sep 2017) failed to turn up a Snowflake Schottisch to match this.

From Guitar Compositions and Arrangements in Simplified Figure System by Johnson Bane:

Johnson Bane: Valse Caprice.  (Cover and intro)  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)

Johnson Bane: Spanish Dance No. 1, by Moszkowski, Op. 12.  (Cover and intro)  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)
Note: Grace notes are indicated by fret numbers with no rhythm stem. They count for no time; get it?
Note: What Bane means by, "Use secondo piano with this dance" is a mystery. The last section in octaves seems particularly lacking to me, which is why I suggest an early stopping point.

Johnson Bane: Gavotte No. 2.  (Cover and intro)  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)

Johnson Bane: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni.  (Cover and intro)  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)
Note: What Bane means by, "Play with secondo Piano" is a mystery.

Johnson Bane: Mazurka No. 2.  (Cover and intro)  (Original tablature)  (Modern tablature)

Johnson Bane: Polish Dance.  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Sure sounds Spanish to me.

Johnson Bane: Nocturne. Op. 9. No. 2. by Chopin.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Intermediate)
Note: I stopped with the intermediate version here figuring that's good enough to get someone going on this piece, and if he wants to work it up, he's a much better guitarist than I, and wouldn't need or want my complete fingerings.
Note: You'll find an extra f at p1s3m1. I didn't know what to do with it.

Johnson Bane: Valse. Op. 34. No. 3. by Chopin.  (Cover)  (Original)
Note: And here I couldn't even push myself past the first few measures putting in some starter fingerings. I could not get those 8th notes to sound like much of anything. To be honest, these big, fat, virtuosic arrangements by Bane in the Saxton System rank up (down?) there with the least pleasure-giving pieces in my huge collection of guitar music. I wonder if a single guitarist besides Bane, himself, ever worked them up. Any guitarists out there with chops inclined to give J. B. a fair hearing today?

Johnson Bane: Valse. Op. 70. No. 2. by Chopin.  (Cover)  (Original)
Note: ditto.

Johnson Bane: Spanish Dance No. 2. by Moszkowski.  (Cover)  (Original)
Note: ditto.

Johnson Bane: L'Ingenue Gavotte. by Arditi.  (Cover)  (Original)
Note: Maybe this one's not so bad. I might work it up for you when I'm in a better mood.

J. Henry Brady: Spring Song, by Mendelssohn.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: Ok, regular mortals should be able to make these arrangements by J.Henry Brady sound like music (albeit very tubby sounding music in this Saxton tuning), but I have to wonder if Wulschner even managed sales numbers in double digits with this oddball stuff.
Note: I see now there is an alternate fingering for that 4-note C chord with the horrible stretch. You can play it at C8 with fingers 1032 on strings 2-5.

J. Henry Brady: Flower Song, by Gustave Lange.  (Cover)  (Original)  (Intermediate)  (Fully fingered)
Note: I believe Lange's "Flower Song" was enormously popular in its day. I have ten arrangements of it in my collection of guitar music from the Library of Congress.


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