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“Mother’s Plea For Her Son” how-to

It was the overwrought pathos of Mother’s Plea For Her Son that pulled me in and made me sing along. I couldn’t not.

And then it took a while to get the words right, because that old recording is so murky, so I figured I would write them down. And given that I was writing down the words I ought to do the guitar chords. And then I wanted to know how the guitar does the bass line and that naturally led to figuring out the fiddle part. One thing led to another and then I had the thing transcribed. This post is to share the transcription in case anybody wants to use the song for their own music.

There are three versions and a master from which you can generate your own. One version is a condensed summary for singing guitar strummers. One is a lead sheet for instrumentalists. One is a note for note transcription for serious fiddlers and guitarists. And the master is a Sibelius file with a lot of detail in it, for people who want to modify the sheet music.


The condensed summary for singing guitar strummers is what most people will want. It has the words, guitar chords, and melody. The melody is written in both music notation and guitar tablature. The guitar chords are named, or you can use the voicings I provide.

It looks like this:

It is in the key of A, which I picked because it works for my own voice. Your mileage will vary.

  • PDF for people who want a print out.
  • PNG page 1 and PNG page 2 for people who have a problem with PDF.
  • MIDI for remixers and other music makers who need digital sources.
  • Sibelius for people who want to modify the sheet music.

The lead sheet for instrumentalists is for jamming or quick learning. It’s a one-pager with the melody and chords. The notation is big and easy to read, in a similar style to the Real Book.

It looks like this:

It is available in two keys, A and E.


The note for note transcription is for players who want to learn about exactly what Charlie Poole’s band were doing. My motivation was to be able to play in the style of his guitar player. This transcription only covers the intro and first verse, since there isn’t a lot of variation after that.

It looks like this:

It is available in two keys, A and E. The key that Poole’s band used was E.


The master Sibelius file is for people who want to modify the sheet music, for example to transpose to a different key or to use different chord voicings, and who find my original master the best place to start. All the other Sibelius files were generated from this one, so it has the most detail:

If you only want to transpose or do interactive playback of the sheet music, you don’t have Sibelius, and you can install the Scorch plugin, go to this web page:

Scorch version of the summary sheet for singing guitar strummers, in A


This is the third post in my series on “A Widow’s Plea for Her Son.”

The original composition here is in the public domain. My own work on this song is all under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license per my boilerplate licensing statement.

10 replies on ““Mother’s Plea For Her Son” how-to”

Thanks for the hat tip, gurdonark.

Supporting DIY music is central to this project, but in practice I don’t get results from transcriptions. The Kristen Hersh transcription was the same way.

I know that I’m doing it the hard way, I just don’t know what the easy way would be.

Hello,

I personally currently have a private music classroom and so at this moment buidling a web-site to give support to my kids here http://readmusic.org

Will you mind if in case I quote a several of your articles as long as My partner and I include credit along with references back to your website? Our websites is in the exact same area of interest as yours and our students would certainly gain from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you.

Thank you!

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