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




Gloomy Winter’s Now Awa’

(Traditional Scottish Air)






Music: Alexander Campbell, 1783

Words: Robert Tannahill, 1808

Arr: Elizabeth DiPietri, 2006


            An Internet search for this tune provides an abundance of information, some of it conflicting and some confusing. Experts generally agree that the first version of this music was popularly known as Lord Balgonie’s Favorite, later renamed as Come My Bride, Haste, Haste Away. It has been stated “the music was probably composed in 1783 by Alexander Campbell,” although other names have been proposed as well. Campbell has been quoted as saying that this music was “from a very old Highland tune”. At any rate, the music was first published around 1800.


            In 1808, Robert Tannahill is said to have written lyrics to this music, renaming the song Gloomy Winter’s Now Awa’. The Gaelic/English lyrics appearing in one of the links below, describe the joy of young love among the birks and braes of the Scottish Highlands. 




            Although the initial source for this folk music may have been an “air” (music intended to be sung slowly), the version here has evolved into that of a folk dance known as a Scottish “strathspey”. This is a group dance similar to a reel, but slower. Notice the repeated use of couplets of dotted eighth notes and sixteenth notes, intermingled with couplets of eighth notes. This produces a tempo of hesitations and quick-beats (snaps) that correspond to the dance steps. Here we see a form of “syncopation” of folk music from Scotland that preceded the beginnings of ragtime tempos in American popular music. Those interested may want to check the PDF and MIDI files in our Archives to compare this music with that of Simple Melody (Irving Berlin) and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Harry Carroll), both written in the early 20th century and using this same type of syncopation as a “soft shoe” dance tempo!


            In addition to this feature of tempo, we see other forms of “ornamentation” of the melody of Gloomy Winter, characteristic of Gaelic folk music. These consist of both “grace notes” and “slurs”, used to embellish the tune. Both involve insertion of short runs of notes, as in measures 3, 4, 8, 9, 11 and 12. The playing of these embellishments on the dulcimer requires some adept fingering and practice. 


            For those who may not feel ready for this yet, we have included a simpler, slightly less-ornamented version of the files. With a little practice, the 4-note runs in measures 8, 11 and 12 are not so difficult to play - mainly because the tune is rather slow, giving you plenty of time to cross-pick each of the notes. But in measures 3, 4 and 9, those grace notes and 16th notes can be a little tricky - so try it first without them. (Listen to the attached "basic" MIDI file to see the difference.)




  Music files for download:   



GloomyWinter.pdf - PDF music file

GloomyWinter.mid - MIDI file (created to repeat the tune 3 times)

GloomyWinter.tef - TablEdit file


Easier - ornamentation removed, meas. 3, 4 and 9: 

GloomyWinter basic.pdf  

GloomyWinter basic.mid

GloomyWinter basic.tef


Historical Links:





(Strathspey, a description of the dance)







  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.  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.





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