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Scarborough Fair is a great example of a melody written in the dorian mode. What does that mean? The quick answer is – tune your harp to a major scale and then start playing from the second note. If your harp is in C major, for example, then start your scale on D (d e f g a b c d) and you are now playing in D Dorian mode.

Download the sheet music for this tutorial: Scarborough_Fair_dorian


Start with a root-position triad (a chord with three notes, one string between each). Remember:

  • Thumb is higher than the fingers
  • Fingers point across the strings or just a little downwards
  • Fingers are curved
  • The hand is relaxed
  • Elbows are lifted so that the hands are free to move easily and quickly

After playing these chords, either one hand at a time or together, take the second finger off the strings and play just the fifth using thumb and third finger. Second finger should just hang, curved and relaxed, without touching the strings.

This shape is then used for the left-hand accompaniment to the melody.

Further reading:

You can find Dorian in this list of musical scales and modes.
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