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Song analysis of Scarborough Fair

September 1, 2016

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Scarborough Fair is a folk song of English origin. The verses ask for completion of impossible tasks by the narrator's lover who, in reply, reciprocates with her own set of impossible tasks. This not an original folk idea. It is preceeded in an earlier Scottish folk tune The Elfin Knight and followed by the American The Riddle Song.

The tune is in dorian mode and the accompanying chord progressions follow: i - v - i and i - IV - i. The ending cadential pattern is i - bVII - v - i. The bVII - i is seen in many modal songs, making this, along with the raised 6th scale degree in the melody, a nice introduction to the dorian mode.

There is a poignant appoggiatura figure in the eighth measure that resolves stepwise from the 5th scale degree to the natural 6th scale degree up to the third of the major IV chord.

The 3/4 time signature lends itself for students to accompany the melody with an eighth note arppeggio figure. This may also be counted in a traditional 3/4 stlye and moves also very nicely in 1.

The song, keyed in d, e and c dorian, may be found here:

Lead Sheet, Lyrics and more info -



















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