Welch, Gillian - Orphan Girl Tablature - Printable PDF
Welch, Gillian - Orphan Girl Tablature - Guitar Pro file (optional)
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Hi, I'm excited to teach you "Orphan Girl". You may not have heard this song. It's not that well known, so let me play you a verse and then I'll play the chord-melody solo, which I'm going to teach you in the second half of the course.....just to give you a little taste to what the song sounds like. Here we go.
I am an orphan. On God's highway, but I'll share my troubles. If you go my way. I have no mother. No father. No sister. No brother. I am an orphan girl.
Wasn't that pretty? This isn't the most well-known song, and usually I teach songs to members that would have, you know, the broadest appeal possible, but I think it's a lovely song and it certainly sounds like it's been around 100 years, right? But I chose it primarily because I really think, at this point in your Travis picking career, this is the perfect vehicle for you to practice a couple skills that are going to stick with you for the rest of your life. They're really important Travis picking skills.
And those are really getting to know pattern number 3 from the plethora of Travis picking patterns lesson I taught you. Pattern 3 is the 6-43-6243 pattern. It's my favorite pattern, so we're going to use that one. And then you're also going to learn a super finger friendly chord shape; a chord shape that's really commonly used in Travis picking. I first learned it playing Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right". It goes by the very unfriendly name of D 7 with F sharp in the bass. And so you're going to get to know those two skills well in this lesson.
I also chose this song because I want to teach you how to play that chord- melody solo I just played for you. And so later on in this course, in the second half of the course, we're going to circle back to "Orphan Girl" and I'll teach you that solo. And I wanted to use this song because some songs lend themselves to chord-melody more than others. Some of them are easier to arrange for chord-melody, but we're going to get to that chord- melody later. For this lesson, I'm just going to teach you how to do that picking pattern number 3 and to sing over it if you wish.
There's a link to the chord chart below, and so I recommend you either print it out or bring it up on your screen so you can follow along as I teach you.
Before I show you the chords, I need to mention something about the key for a moment. So Gillian Welch originally recorded this song on capo one using key of G chord shapes, so that was like the key of A flat. When I performed it for you, I decided to go up capo of five, just because that is what worked best with my voice. I think different students are really going to use different capo positions based on their voice, and so I decided just to teach the song with no capo. And then toward the end of the lesson, I'll help you decide what key will work best for you.
Here are the three chords in the song. Two of them you probably know. One of them you probably don't. Let's start with the G chord. I recommend this fingering, if you can manage it.....with your third finger on the sixth string, third fret and your pinky on the first string, third fret. Then you damp the fifth string. The other strings ring open. And if you're not used to this chord, it can feel a little awkward. But this chord has some advantages when we're Travis picking. It's very commonly used when you're playing chord-melody, which we'll look at later on in this course. But coming up here, in this lesson, there is a smooth move you can do when moving in and out of your D 7 with F sharp in the bass that requires this fingering. It's not mission critical to do the smooth move, but if you can use this fingering, it does open up a whole new level of smoothness. And so, see if you can use this fingering....if not, other fingerings will work for this song, like this common fingering that most people learn as their first G chord.
Next chord is a standard C chord. And with the C chord, you want to damp or avoid the sixth string. If you're fretting a classical guitar, just avoid the sixth string when your finger picking. You could also fret the C chord like this if you wanted to. That would give you a little more insurance in case you hit the sixth string on accident. It's called a C with G in the bass, but most of you will fret the C chord like this.
And then the chord you're probably unfamiliar with--the D 7 with F sharp from the bass. Love this chord! If you have a big hand and a relatively narrow necked guitar like a standard steel string guitar, or if you're playing on an electric guitar, you may be able to fret it with the thumb. If so, I recommend doing it this way. So we've got the thumb on the sixth string, second fret, damping the fifth string, although that's not critical if you can't quite do that. That's OK. And then your first finger goes on the second string, first fret and your second finger goes on the third string, second fret. And if you were strumming this chord, you would want to fret the first string, second fret with the third finger, but we're never going to hit the first string--at least not on purpose--in this Travis picking arrangement we're doing here. So you can just not bother with fretting with that third finger on the first string and just leave it open or for a little extra insurance, if you want to damp it with your first finger, that would be great, too. But again, that's not necessary.
OK, so some of you are thinking now great! Brick wall! I can't fret this chord with my thumb. There is hope. You can also fret this chord quite effectively with your third finger on the third string, second fret and your middle finger on the sixth string, second fret, OK. And if you wanted to, you could sneak your pinky in. Feels a little crowded, but could get it in there on the first string, second fret. But again, this is not necessary, and I really wouldn't recommend it because it's a little awkward to get it in there. So this fingering totally works too, if you can't or don't want to use your thumb.
Let's look at the form or structure of the song now. And we're not going to worry about finger picking it, I'm just going to use a guitar pick and strum one strum per measure just so that we can get kind of an aerial view of the song. I'm going to show you how the intro works, how a normal verse progression works. Going to talk about what to do with the instrumental verse sections that you see in the chart and also the outro verse, the last verse is a little different than the other one. So we'll talk about that too.
So let's look at the intro. The intro is dashed out. That's the name I give the format that I use when there are no lyrics and I just want to display the guitar music. So that means there's four measures of G. And so we can just strum it like this: Two, three, four.
And then we get into the first verse and you'll see the first G there over "I am an orphan", has a 2 in parentheses next to it. That means we play that chord for two measures. So we can go like "I am an orphan...... " And then strum it again....."on gods"..... and now we switch to that D 7/F#. If you want it to sound the best, throw in that first string, second fret note.....or if you can't be bothered or it's just too much of a pain right now, don't worry about it. The chord actually doesn't sound that offensive with an open first string. Little jazzy, but it works. Anyway, I'm going to fret that string. So "on God's highway", we strum that chord 2 times also, "but I'll share my troubles, if you go my way, I have no mother". So we're going to repeat this for chord progression now from the G to the D 7/F#, "no father" back to G again, "no sister" back to C, "no brother". So, so far, we've done this four chord progression of G-D-G-C 2 times. I'm just going to call it G, because a D 7/F#, right, just call that chord D because D 7/F# is a big mouthful.
OK, so now we get to the last line of the verse and things change. We do one measure of G and we know that because you see the G chord there with no number in parentheses after it. That means we revert to the default, which is one measure per chord. That's the default of how I write out my chord charts. So just one strum of the G....."I am" ..... and then we go to the D 7/F# and you see the half next to it? We're just going to do that for two beats. So the time signature actually changes in this part of the song. We've been playing in 4/4 this whole time. But we get to that last D 7/F#, and now we go to just two beats of "Orphan Girl"..... Go right back to G. We just blow through that D really quick. I'll show you how to finger pick that. For now, you just do one strum for it and just realize that you're going to be leaving that chorus right after you get to it. And then that G, that last G of the verse, lasts for two measures.
Let's do the second verse together in this time, I'm not going to narrate. I'm just going to strum. You strum along with me.
I have had friendships. Pure and golden. But ties of kinship, I have not known them. I have no mother. No father. No sister. No brother. I am an orphan girl.
All right. Now you'll notice that the last two lines of the first verse and the last two lines of the second verse are identical, which you might be thinking, why not call that a chorus? And I think you could make a very good argument for those last two lines being a chorus. However, those lines change later in the song. And so instead of having a chorus #1 and a chorus #2, I just decided to lump those lines with the verses. Boy, the verses sure would be short otherwise too, right? So, yeah, I've organized the song as just a series of what is it? Four verses? And in between the second and third verse and the third and fourth verse, we have an instrumental verse or rather an instrumental verse where we skip the third line.
And so let's talk about what to do for that part, OK? Let's say you're just strumming or finger picking and singing the song, but you haven't learned the chord-melody solo yet, which is going to be the vast majority of students going through this course for quite a while. Because if you're beginning Travis picker, it's going to take you a while to learn that chord-melody arrangement. So in the meantime, until you can play that solo in all its glory, I would recommend skipping the instrumental verse. Of course, if you have someone to play along with you and they can play a solo, that would be super cool. But most people who are learning this are going to be playing it solo, for the most part. And so, you know, without that melody playing along, that instrumental verse is going to be kind of boring if you're just picking the chords. So, you know, trust your judgment on this. If you think it sounds good to have a little palate cleanser, a little break from the singing and just listen to the fingerpicking, you know, maybe it could sound OK. But if you're bored with that part, then you can rest assured other people will probably be bored with it too, and I would recommend probably skipping it. Other options for the instrumental part, by the way, if you can whistle or you like to hum the melody and you can do that in a pleasing way, make a little doo doo doo sound doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Kind of like that, you know that could sound cool and keep people's attention. Harmonica solo. That could be cool, too. The little one of those neck things to hold it. Otherwise, I would recommend skipping it.
All right, now, let's look at the outro. The outro verse has what's called a tag. Tags are very common in country music. This is obviously a country song where you repeat a portion of the chorus, the last time around. We're calling all these verses, but like I said, those last two lines can serve as a chorus. So let's look at this. Last verse, it goes, "I am an orphan girl". So this is all same. And then the second time around, we tag it when we go.... "I am an orphan girl". Two measures of C, and then G. And end it in the second measure of G, right there. So tagging that last line, it's basically just repeating the last line of the verse. But you play a C chord instead of a G chord and then you end the song on G.
OK, now let's bring in the picking pattern. Like I said, this is picking pattern number 3 from the plethora of Travis picking patterns lesson. It's the 6-43-6243 pattern. And let's practice it. Let's just review it over the G chord. Grab a G chord and remember to tilt your wrist. Make a cross and hold a lemon. Plant before you play. So stick your thumb on the sixth string and your first finger on the third string. Second finger on the second string and the pattern goes like this. 6-43-6243. 6-43-6243. Remember, this is the pattern that has that rest in it after you play the first note, so you can do a little placeholder like this. 6-rest-43-6243. 6-rest-43-6243. If I'm playing too fast, practice it at your own speed to get it back under your fingers. Let's do it just a little bit more. We'll do four more measures.
One and two and three and four and...... 6-rest-43-6243. 6-rest-43-6243.
OK, so now let's look at what it'll be like to play this pattern over the different chords. We've already done the G chord. For the other two chords, well, let's start with D 7 /F#. Can you tell what bass note are we going to start on with the D 7 /F#? It's going to be the sixth string also, so the picking pattern is actually going to be the same as the G chord, it's still 6-43-6243. So why don't you grab that D 7 /F# and pick it along with me 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 6-43-6243. 6-43-6243.
Good, and then the last chord, the C chord. Do you know what root or rather what bass note we're going to start on for that chord? It's going to be the fifth string, Uh, C lowest C note in the chord is on the fifth string. So that's typically where we'll start and we're going to be alternating between fifth string and fourth string with our thumb. So it's going to go 5-43-5243 like that. So let's do that together, plant before you play. But now your thumb is going to be on the fifth string because that's where we're going to start. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5-43-5243. 5-43-5243.
OK, so that picking pattern is going to serve us well through basically the whole song, except for one little spot, and that's that last D 7 /F# in each of the verses that only lasts for a half a measure.....for two beats. And you can see how we're going to need to come up with some plan for that because our picking pattern, our pattern number three, lasts for a whole measure. So what do we do when we only play a half measure that D chord? I think the simplest way to deal with this, in a way that still sounds good, is just to pick the first two notes of the picking pattern. And we're playing over this D chord, which has a sixth string bass note there, right? We're not going to call it a root because it's actually not a root note. This is called an inversion. It's a little bit of a weird chord. And so when we get to this chord, we're just going to do...... We're just going to play the sixth string and then the fourth string and then go back to the G.
So let me show you how this sounds in context. OK, I'm going to pick the one measure of G before that half measure of D. And then I'll pick a measure of G after it, so I'm going to bookend this chord with two G chords played for one measure each, so you can hear the transition in and out of this funky D 7 /F# .
So here we go. 6-43-6243. And then D. Bum....bum. See, that's why I go 6-43-6243. 6-4-6-43-6243. So it's going to be this 6-4 and that 6-4 is the same rhythm as all your other bass notes that you're picking in the song, you know. If you took away your fingers, your thumb would be going like this, the whole song, that's the rhythm of your thumb part at a slow tempo, of course. So when you get to that last measure, it's going to be. See how that works?
Now, I want to help you with smoothing out your chord changes in this song. Remember in the last lesson where I told you that the main part of your picking pattern that you need to look at when you're trying to smooth out your chord changes is the very last note in the patter--the note that you hit right before you change chords, basically. So if we look at this 6-43-6243 pattern, the last note that we're hitting is that third string, right? So we want to look at what that string is doing as we move from chord to chord. If we go from a G chord to a C chord, for example, that open third string stays the same, so there's no danger of cutting off that note other than accidentally touching that string. And so, before I show you these two smooth moves, I just want to highlight that need to move to your C carefully and accurately or else you're going to cut off that third string.
If you touch it accidentally you're going to be able to hear that. And it's going to make your chord change sound a little choppy. So I like to use the image of that--I don't know if you've ever played that old game called Operation, where it's like a person's body. With all these holes in it, it sounds a lot more gory than it was. And you have a little pair of tweezers and you try to pull things out of the different holes, different objects, and if you touch the side of the hole, his nose lights up. And so I think it's helpful to imagine that with these chords where you have to really fret carefully and not touch one of the strings that's ringing, you don't want to disturb it, you want to let it keep ringing. So play that game of Operation as you move to your C chord.
But let's look at the moving in and out of the D 7 /F#. So as we're going from the G to the D7, we hit that open third string and then we fret our D 7 /F# and putting our finger down on that third string is going to kill that note for a moment. And so the solution to this problem, one of the solutions is to fret that third string, second fret early...... to fret it right at the end of our picking pattern when we're picking over the G chord. So we go 6-43-624 and then we fret that that third string, second fret with our middle finger and then build the rest of the D7 chord after it, so let me show you what that looks like again in the new try. By the way, you have to use this, this fingering for G chord that I showed you earlier in order to make this move. If you don't use that fingering, then you've got fingers tied up that make it impossible to make this smooth move.
And so not the end of the world if you don't use this fingering, but assuming that you do, you're going to go like this 6-43-624 and then fret that third string, second fret with your middle finger and then you're going to build the rest of the chord, but let's not worry about that right now. Let's just practice hitting that note. OK, so let's try it again. 3 and 4 and 6 rest 43-624-fret. That's called the smooth fret there. Let's do it again: 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-fret. 6-rest-43-624-fret.
OK, now let's add the bass note on the sixth string, second fret, which is the next note coming up as we pick our measure of D 7 /F#. It'll sound like this. We're going to go 6-rest-43-624-fret. And then that thumb note, OK, so you're going to have to grab this third string second fret with your middle finger and then grab this note with your thumb right after it. Here we go: 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-fret-duh. Let's do that again. 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-fret-duh. One more time. 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-fret-duh. OK pause this if you want now and repeat this a bunch more until you've got that under your fingers. And next, we'll try picking the whole measure of D 7 /F#.
OK, so if you're ready to try that now, this is what it's going to sound like. Yeah, that works. Try it with me. 6-rest-43-6243. 6-rest-43-6243. One more time, 6-rest-43-6243. All right, pause the video again and work on that smooth fret transition into the D 7 /F#. And next, we'll work on the smooth lift.
So now let's look at how to get out of the D 7 /F#. Let's say we're already picking a measure of D here, and in order to get back into G, what we're going to do is like the opposite of what we did with a smooth fret. Now we're going to do a smooth lift. We're going to go 6-43-624 and then we're going to lift our hand and hit the open third string and will be moving back to the G chord there. But let's not worry about that move yet. Let's just practice lifting our hand. OK, so grab your D 7 /F# and let me count us in and then it's going to sound like this. Just like that, we're going to hit that open third string.
OK, here we go. 3 and 4 and 6-43-624-lift. Let's do it again. 3 and 4 and 6-43-624-lift. Again. 3 and 4 and 6-43-624-lift. So if you want pause and repeat this some more until that feels doable. And next, we'll just practice grabbing that G bass note for the next note that we play in our picking pattern. It'll sound like this. Just add that G bass note.
OK, here we go, grab your D 7 /F# 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. And G. Again, 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. And G. One more time, 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. And G. All right, pause the video again and practice that until it feels reasonable, and then we'll try picking a whole measure of G. It'll sound like this. Oops sorry. Start on D.
OK try it with me. Grab your D7, 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. 6-rest-43-6243. Let's try it again. Grab your D7, 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. 6-rest-43-6243. One more time. Grab your D7, 3 and 4 and 6-rest-43-624-lift. 6-rest-43-6243.
Next, I want to help you learn how to sing the song, but if you are not into singing the song, you can skip that next section and go straight to the practice tracks that I've created for you. I've got a slow picking track that you can play along with. That's me playing a verse progression at a slow tempo that you can loop over and over as you build muscle memory. And then I've also recorded a performance track and I'm performing it capo five just because that's what I'm most comfortable with. And so once you're ready, you can start practicing along with that track. It'll be at a faster tempo. And if you like that key, you can sing along with me.
OK, now I want to help you with your singing. Let's try to find a good key for your voice. Now most of the songs that I've taught on the site so far have been sung by men, at least in the original recording. And so, you know, in those lessons, often the men are able to sing in the same or similar key as the original singer, and I'm asking the women to be flexible and find their own key, rather a rather different key than the original.
Well, guys, this time it's our chance to be a little flexible. A lot of women are going to feel comfortable singing in the same key as Gillian Welch. Maybe a little higher. She sings capo one. Us guys will need to probably make a more radical change to the capo. But let's start just by seeing what notes your voice likes to hit, and let's start with the guys.
Now, if you have a fairly low voice, gentlemen, you might try singing the song without a capo. But the lowest note in the song is going to be pretty low in that key. The lowest note with capo 0 is going to be on the sixth string, third fret, and that will be the first note that you sing in the song like: "I am an orphan". There's that low note. So for most men, you really have to relax and use kind of a murmuring or a sighing or groaning level of energy to hit that note. Like, I had a terrible day at work. Uh, that's anyway what I have to do to hit that note. That's about the lowest note I can possibly hit without it really not sounding good.
And then the highest note would be the open second string, and that would be like, it's actually the word no, no, brother. So the word, no, you sing "no brother, I am an orphan girl". And so that will be your highest note, which should be manageable by most men. And so I think the question with this key is, can you hit that low note? If you can't, if that key is too low for you and you're still able to hit this high note comfortably, I recommend starting to creep up the neck and find a good key for you. It's probably going to be somewhere between open and fifth fret and the guidelines of what your lowest and highest notes are still apply in the sense that, like, let's say you're doing second fret, you're still going to look for that low note on the sixth string, three frets up from the capo, which is now going to be this one. "I am an orphan". Here's your low note, and your high note. I like the no and no brother is still going to be open second string, but now it's going to be "no brother, no brother. I am an orphan girl." So that is probably going to be somewhere around the sweet spot for, I think a lot of men somewhere around second fret, third fret. I like fifth fret and I don't have trouble hitting this E up here. So if you like this note "laaaaaa", then you might like playing up this high.
Women, as I said, you might like Gillian Welch's key. She sings capo one, but most women are going to want to sing a whole octave higher than what I was just demonstrating from the guys. So actually, let me just take off the capo and demonstrate it with capo zero. Women are probably going to be a whole octave higher. Their G is going to be on the open third string. So women, this would be your low note with no capo like "I am an orphan, on God's highway". And then your high note is the first string seventh fret like "no brother". I have to go up in my falsetto, so that's out of my comfortable range, at least for this song. So see if those notes work well for you if that feels a little low, you could capo one. That's Gillian Welch's key. Still open third string. And now the high note would be on the first string, eighth fret. And so as you move the capo up women, if you want to try something even higher again, these general guidelines apply where it's going to be the open third string and then the first string seven frets up from wherever your capo is. Those will be the lowest and highest notes.
Now, normally when I'm choosing a key for myself or for my students and the vocal range of the song, which means the distance between the lowest note and the highest note in the singing is too great...... where you kind of have to choose, like, do I want to be able to hit the lowest note in the song? Or do I want to be able to hit the highest note because I can't do both at the same time in one key? My general approach is to prioritize the highest note in the song. You want to be able to nail that high note. And if you have to kind of mumble the lowest note in the song? Usually it's not a big deal in this song, though the lowest note is the note you start with in the song, and there's something to be said for starting off strongly in a melody. You know, sometimes the lowest note is kind of in the middle of a melodic line, and it's not very prominent. But in this song, I'd say that low G, at least if you're playing no capo, that low G is a very prominent note. And so I would prioritize being able to hit the low note fairly strongly. And if you can't hit the high note, you could change the melody to make it easier, for example. Let's see...." da da I have no mother. No father, no sister. No, brother, I am an orphan girl". See how that works? Just bring that one line down and find an alternate melody that's easier to hit.
OK, now it's time to build some muscle memory. Your job now is to practice your finger picking until you can play along with the slow practice track that's coming up next in this course. And once you can keep up with that, just repeat that slow practice track over and over to build more muscle memory. Remember to use proper picking hand positioning, hold a lemon, tilt your wrist, make a cross, plant before you play. Hover as you play. Pick with your thumb at the lowest point. Keep checking on your picking hand to make sure you're using good technique and practice doing those smooth frets and smooth lifts and play the game of Operation as you grab your C chord. Try to build the best muscle memory. You can practicing with that slow practice track. Try to avoid mistakes when it all possible. And then once you're ready, you can graduate to the performance track and you'll be playing at a faster tempo there.
As you work on weaving in your vocals, just remember that it works best to practice your vocals separately from your guitar playing. So try singing along with Gillian Welch or sing along with me in the performance track and do that separately from playing guitar. If neither of those recordings are a good key for your voice, play the guitar, but just do simple like one strum per measure to just use as a reference so that you stay on key as you sing, but keep the guitar as easy as possible so that 99% of your focus can be on your singing. And then once you've got the singing part down really well and the picking part down really well, then you start bringing the two together, just as you do when you're learning how to strum and sing at the same time. OK, good luck with your practice and enjoy.
How's it going?
Are you loving the lesson? Confused? Have a suggestion? I'd love to hear from you.