About Us
Learning Aids
Current Tablature
Tablature Archives

Bulletin Board

Comments To Share
Contact Us








We will be adding more tablature arrangements regularly... please visit again.


A Bird in a Gilded Cage 



Words: Arthur J. Lamb, 1900

Music: Harry Von Tilzer

dulcimer arr. by Ruth Randle, 2007

The years 1837 to 1901 are referred to as the Victorian Era, during which society in America felt the influence of strong, and somewhat prudish moral standards in all aspects of daily life. The more traditional popular music of the period tended to be slow waltzes, with lyrics that addressed social issues in a serious tone. Such compositions were referred to as “parlor music”, intended to be played and sung by families in their homes. The sad ones were known in the trade as “tear jerkers”.  A Bird in a Gilded Cage by Harry Von Tilzer and Arthur Lamb was a highly successful and popular example of such music. The theme here is the plight of young women who enter into loveless marriages with wealthy, elderly husbands.




            According to historians, this song was the brainchild of Arthur Lamb, the lyricist, who wanted to write the best “tear-jerker” of all time.  He took his lyrics to Harry Von Tilzer, a young, but already prominent composer of Tin Pan Alley. As a matter of propriety, the composer insisted that the lyrics emphasize that the story was indeed about a married couple.  At the time Von Tilzer composed the music, he was already a junior partner in a publishing house in New York, thus helping assure its publication and success.


            The biographies of both men appear in the historical links below. Von Tilzer became a prolific writer and successful businessman in his later career. He was eventually inducted into the professional Songwriters Hall of Fame.  At one point, he hired and trained a young singer named Izzy Baline, teaching him both how to compose and promote popular music. Izzy later became, arguably, the most successful of all Tin Pan Alley songwriters. He is better known as Irving Berlin!




Playing Hints:


We suggest you first listen to the MIDI file (which is a little different from the simple TablEdit playback) to hear the way the music should be played. Notice the background sounds, which are heard softly as timing notes where chords are held for more than one beat. These notes are softly picked, preferably with the fingers (not the nails). Remember that this music is intended to be accompanying the voices that are singing the lyrics. The effect should be one of “quiet intensity”.


Much of the sweetness of the harmony heard here is accomplished by Ruth’s choices of color chords such as A7, A+, C#dim, D9, D(b5) and F#. Those who play from the music notation, rather than the tablature, will notice that the notation is a full octave higher than shown by the tablature. This is for space-saving only; the tablature is correct.




Download files:

Bird in a Gilded Cage.tef

Bird in a Gilded Cage.pdf

Bird in a Gilded Cage.mid

Historical Links:  





http://parlorsongs.com/issues/2004-2/thismonth/feature.asp (source of the "cover art" at the top of this page, and a great resource for more wonderful parlor music pieces) 


  Click to go to the TablEdit website and download their free demo version

If you do not have the Tabledit program, please click on the TablEdit banner to download a free .tef reader program called TefView.  It includes the ability to play this song at a slower speed (great for learning). TablEdit is a program for creating, editing, printing and listening to tablature and sheet music (standard notation) for fretted, stringed instruments.

  Click here to download a free version of Adobe Reader

Adobe® Reader® is a free software for viewing and printing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

  Our PDF music files are produced from music created with Finale® notation software.


Our .MIDI music files are produced by TablEdit notation software.





This website is brought to you by Merv Rowley,
Ruth Randle, Elizabeth DiPietri, Suzanne Campling and Gail West
Please email gwest1955@aol.com with any website questions, broken links, etc.
Copyright © 2006 GMW MarketingPLUS