Skill Level: Beginner
Keys of C and D
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This popular tune is the basis of quite a few folk songs. Two of the oldest and most popular are “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” (Scottish) and “Red is the Rose.” (Irish).
Many musicians will modulate on the last verse. I teach this song in C going to D. To play the song in F going to G, simply play the tabbed version on the lower three strings (GDA) instead of the upper three strings (DAE).
Video #1: Here is a video of me recording “The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.”
“The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, or simply “Loch Lomond” for short, is a well-known traditional Scottish song (Roud No. 9598) first published in 1841 in Vocal Melodies of Scotland. In Scotland, the song is often the final piece of music played during an evening of revelry (a dance party or dinner, etc). Loch Lomond is the largest Scottish loch, or lake, located between the counties of Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire. Ben Lomand is a distinctive peak on the east shore of Loch Lomond.
The original composer of the tune is unknown, as is definitive information on any traditional lyrics. There are many theories about the meaning of the song. Most are connected to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, and alternate lyrics have been composed based on this battle. One interpretation of the ‘Low Road’ is that it refers to the traditional underground route taken by the fairies who transported the soul of a dead Scot who died in a foreign land – in this case, England – back to his homeland to rest in peace. The “High Road” is probably the high road that linked London and Edinburgh. In this case, a dying soldier is telling a friend that they will both return to Scotland, but he will go on the ‘low road’ or that of the dead, and be home first.
The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomon' C F By yon bonnie banks an' by yon bonnie braes C Am F C Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond F C Dm F Where me and my true love were ever wont tae gae G C Am G C On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'. Chorus: O ye'll tak' the high road, and Ah'll tak' the low (road) And Ah'll be in Scotlan' afore ye Fir me an' my true love will ne'er meet again By the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'. 'Twas there that we perted in yon shady glen On the steep, steep sides o' Ben Lomon' Whaur in (soft) purple hue, the hielan hills we view An' the moon comin' oot in the gloamin’. Chorus The wee birdies sing an' the wild flouers spring An' in sunshine the waters are sleeping But the broken heart it kens, nae second spring again Tho' the waeful may cease frae their greetin'. (alternate: Tho' the woeful may cease from their grieving) Chorus
The Irish variant of the song is called “Red Is the Rose” and is sung with the same melody but different (although similarly themed) lyrics. It was popularized by Irish folk musician Tommy Makem. Even though many people mistakenly believe that Makem wrote “Red is the Rose”, it is a traditional Irish folk song. The theme is the same as “Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond:” A soldier is leaving and fears he will never again see his loved ones.
Red is the Rose D G Come over the hill, my bonnie Irish lass D Bm G A Come over the hill to your darling G D Bm G You chose a rose love and I'll made a vow A D Bm A D That I'll be you true love forever Chorus Red is the Rose that in yonder garden grows And fair is the lily of the valley Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne But my love is fairer than any. T'was down by Killarney's green woods that we strayed And the moon and the stars they were shining The moon shone its rays on her locks of golden hair And she swore she'd be my love forever. chorus It's not for the parting that my sister pains It's not for the grief of my mother It is all for the loss of my bonnie Irish lass That my heart is breaking forever. chorus