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Green Sleeve

"Green Sleeve - Traditional English folksong at least as old as Shakespeare..."

The phenomenon of this piece continues unabated from the renaissance right up to the present day, and its popularity has never really waned. Green Sleeve, or Greensleeves is a traditional English ballad written by an anonymous composer and has become a most famous piece in terms of guitar history. It is often said that King Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves about Anne Boleyn, but this isn't really probable due to stylistic differences of the time.

 

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Back to Green Sleeve...

My main reason for choosing this piece for study, other than its popularity and hence its enjoyment, is:

  • Its (reasonably easy) extensions of the left hand
  • The use of dotted note rhythms;
  • The chance to play and "roll" selected chords. I say selected because if the rolling technique is overdone it really sounds quite tiresome. Played judiciously their effect is quite marked;

Having said that, you need to ensure all other chords are played "together". Indeed, the tune is quite chordal and you need to be aurally aware of what you're doing with the tune;

Being in the key of A minor also gives it a melancholy twinge which is quite appealing. Play this tune at a leisurely pace. First of all you'll need to master is in the 8th and 16th bars. You need to hold the G sharp with your first finger whilst you reach out with the 4th finger of the left hand and play the F sharp on the fourth string, fourth fret.

The G sharp is played again immediately after the F sharp so you'll have to hold onto the note by extending or stretching.

If you have difficulty doing that, you'll need to practice those bars often and slowly. Using a book like Pumping Nylon or Kitharologous could help your greensleeve rendition... Be careful when playing the Green Sleeve tune that you get the dotted rhythms right. The time signature is 6/8 and the rhythm or count (minus the anacrusis) are often 1 2 3 4 5 and 6...

See how I've made orange the counts that are played. More importantly notice that the 5 is not played but the and of the 5 which is what gives it its dotted rhythm. You'll notice in the video (see below) that I employ the use of two types of rolled chord in the piece. The first is a thumb-strum where my right hand thumb glides quickly across the strings on the "G" chord in bar 10. You can see the rolled chord symbol in front of the chord in the notation version. For the uninitiated, it looks like a kind of wriggly worm :))

The next roll I employ is in bar 14 where the same "G" chord is played. The difference is that my thumb and fingers are sounded on the strings slightly one after another. It takes a bit of skill and practice to make achieve a consistent "roll' like this but it is a skill certainly worth the effort.

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Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

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