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

Rock-A-Bye Baby

Words & Music: Effie I. Canning (1857-1940)
Arr: Merv Rowley

Nearly everyone has heard and sung Rock-A-Bye Baby, both as children and adults, and we think of it as a “traditional” folk tune. Actually it is a nineteenth century composition that was once copyrighted and published, and has verses to accompany the lullaby itself. Almost no one can remember having heard the verses!

One reviewer of nineteenth-century popular music has explained that before 1890 there was no such thing as “popular” music in the USA, nor even a viable “publishing” business, with its system for promotional advertising and mass printing. The few existing publishing houses were located mainly in Boston, New York City, Chicago and Cincinnati. Music tended to follow the tradition of the Victorian era (1837-1901), with its themes of truth, love, honor and home. Rock-A-Bye Baby, written in 1886, was first published as part of a folio of some 11 songs whose theme title was Songs of the Old Homestead. These were published in Boston by Chas. D. Blake & Co., in 1887. The title page of this old song book is shown in one of the links below.

The composer/lyricist of record is Effie I. Canning, a pseudonym for Effie I. Crockett, (a relative of Davy) whose career combined that of actress and governess. A search of the records shows that Effie was actually Mrs. Harry J. Carlton. She chose her song title from a book of children’s poems by “Mother Goose”, printed about 1755. (It should be noted that the verses of the poem are entirely different from the lyrics of the lullaby). There has been speculation that the music was borrowed from the tune, Lilliburlero and that the lyrics of the lullaby may have been written by a young passenger on the ship, Mayflower. Neither of these ideas has been substantiated, however.


This arrangement is written in the key of A, using a D-F#-A tuning. As you play and listen to the introductory verses on the first page, we think you will be impressed by the lovely sound of the music, which requires several chromatic notes, including D#, A#, F-natural and C-natural. Notice measure 8, where a C-natural passing note is required, as shown on fret 13 of the bass string. This is not really awkward to play, however those having an 8+ fret on their dulcimers may wish to play this note at that fret on the treble string. We hope you enjoy hearing this oldie on the dulcimer and playing it for friends.

 Your 1-3-5 Team

 Download links to files:

RockabyeBaby with lyrics.pdf 



Songs of the Old Homestead - songbook cover

  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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