# Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel) Tutorial

Simon & Garfunkel songs are a classic jump into the land of fingerpicking, and Scarborough Fair may be one of their simplest. That said, it’s not easy! This post is organized like this:

1. The Setup. Tuning and how to read a tab. Intermediate players feel free to skip.
2. The Tab. Here’s the full, actual, tab.
3. By Section. A walk through the tab: main riff, intro, verse parts.
4. Some theory. Discussion of extended chords, key, transposing.

Learning any song is a research experience. Depending on your skill level, learning a song may take a couple hours or a couple months. Enjoy the journey. Try looking up other tabs online, see where they differ, watch S&G play it live, try watching a cover, or try a tutorial, try fooling around with the licks, etc.

It’s all part of the fun, and you end up with a really cool appreciation of the song.

## The Setup

The song is played in standard tuning, so E-A-D-G-B-E from low (fat) string to high (thin) string. Sidenote: Feel free to use a tuner, but really work on not being shackled to one. Getting the low E to be exactly an E isn’t as important as getting all the strings to be in tune with each other – getting the intervals right. The fifth-fret trick is the best.

The song is also played with a capo on the 7th fret. You can play the song without a capo (if you don’t have one, say), or place it somewhere else to suit your voice, no big deal, it will just sound different than a recording of S&G.

### Tabs Primer

Tabs look intimidating at first, but they’re really straightforward. For example, this:

e|--0---|
B|--1---|
G|--0---|
D|--2---|
A|--3---|
E|------|


means press the A-string on the 3rd fret, the D-string on the 2nd fret, leave the G-string open, press the B-string on the 1st fret, then strum or pluck all five strings simultaneously. Hey! - that’s a C chord in tab-form. Sometimes you won’t get the labels on what each string is tuned to – assume it’s standard tuning unless specified otherwise.

There are a couple symbols used commonly in tabs, like the hammer-on (h), pull-off (p), and bend (b or ^). (Although it’s not like there’s a style manual on tabs, so sometimes you’ll see ^ for hammer-on or something weird.)

Hammer-on is plucking a note on a particular string, and then hammering your finger on a higher fret on the same string without plucking again. So one pluck, two notes in succession. Pull-off is the opposite: plucking on the higher fret and pulling that finger off to a lower fret or the open string.

e|----------|
B|----0h1---|
G|----------|
D|----0h2---|
A|--0-------|
E|----------|


Notice in this example you’re plucking the D- and B-string open, simultaneously, and then simultaneously hammering your fingers onto the 2nd and 1st fret of those strings (without plucking again). Also check out that open A-string note at the beginning – you can pluck that and let it ring while you play the hammer on chord. It’s a nice sound, and something you will see again in Scarborough Fair. Onto the song. Full tab first, then we’ll go part-by-part.

## Scarborough Fair Tab

e|---0--------------|---0--------------|--------------------|
B|------------3-----|------------3-----|---0----------------|
G|------0--------0--|------0--------0--|------0-------------|
D|---------4--------|---------4--------|--------(0)---------|
A|0-----------------|5-----------------|3-----------2-------|
E|------------------|------------------|--------------------|

Are         you
|---0--------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------3-----|------------0-----|------------3-----|
|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|------0--------0--|
|---------4--------|---------2--------|---------4--------|
|0-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|

going       to     Scar     bo rough    Fair ?
|---0--------------|-------------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------0-----|0--------1--0------|------------3-----|------------0-----|
|------2--------2--|---0---------------|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|
|---------2--------|------0--2--0------|---------4--------|---------2--------|
|0-----------------|-------------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|3------------------|------------------|------------------|

Par  sley,   sage,       rose-   ma-   ry    and    thyme.
|---0--------------|---0---------------|0-----2-----------|---0--------------|
|------------1-----|------------0------|------------3-----|------------3-----|
|------0--------0--|------2--------2---|---0-----2-----2--|-----0--------0---|
|---------2--------|---------2---------|------0-----0-----|--------4---------|
|3-----------------|0------------------|3-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|-------------------|------------------|------------------|

Re     mem         ber
|---0--------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------0-----|------------3-----|------------0-----|------------------|
|------2--------2--|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|------2-----------|
|---------2--------|---------4--------|---------2--------|---------2--------|
|0-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------0--2--|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|------------------|

me          to     one   who   lives  there
|---0--------------|0-----------------|------------------|-------------------|
|------------1-----|------3-----1-----|0-----------1p 0--|1-----0------------|
|------0--------0--|---0-----0-----0--|---0-----0--------|-----------(0)-----|
|---------2--------|------------------|------0-----2p 0--|2-----0------------|
|3-----------------|3-----2-----0-----|------------------|-------------------|
|------------------|------------------|3-----------------|------------3------|

She         once   was         a      true  love  of
|---0--------------|------------------|------------------|
|------------0-----|0-----------1-----|0-----0h1p0-------|
|------2--------2--|---0-----0--------|------------0-----|
|---------2--------|------0-----2-----|0-----0h2p0-------|
|0-----------------|------------------|------------2-----|
|------------------|3-----------------|------------------|

mine
|---0--------------|---0--------------|-------------------||
|------------3-----|------------3-----|---0---------------||
|------0--------0--|------0--------0--|------0------------||
|---------4--------|---------4--------|-------------------||
|0-----------------|5-----------------|3-----------2------||
|------------------|------------------|-------------------||


## By Section

### The Main Riff

  t  r  m  i  r  m   t  r  m  i  r  m
e|---0--------------|---0--------------|
B|------------3-----|------------0-----|
G|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|
D|---------4--------|---------2--------|
A|0-----------------|0-----------------|
E|------------------|------------------|
m  i            m  r


Get these two bars under your fingers, get comfortable with them. A couple notes:

1. Right fingering is along the top (t=thumb, i=index, m=middle, r=ring, p=pinky), left hand fingering along the bottom.
2. When you play these kind of licks, remember you’re just picking out notes of a chord. Your left hand is basically holding chords while your right hand picks out the notes instead of strumming them. So don’t press the 4th fret on the D-string to pluck it and then let go – you should hold that 4th fret on the D-string for the entire measures.
3. Note that the middle finger doesn’t leave the D-string. That means you don’t have to lift it, you can slide it up and down and use it as an anchor between the two chords.

Once you’re kinda comfortable with that pleasant little riff, we can dive into the song.

### The Intro

  t  r  m  i  r  m   t  r  m  i  r  m   t  r  m (i) t
e|---0--------------|---0--------------|--------------------|
B|------------3-----|------------3-----|---0----------------|
G|------0--------0--|------0--------0--|------0-------------|
D|---------4--------|---------4--------|--------(0)---------|
A|0-----------------|5-----------------|3-----------2-------|
E|------------------|------------------|--------------------|
m  i      r        m  i      m           i


Your hand is making an Am7 kind of shape, then a C-chord shape, then kind of a walkdown to a G-shape in this intro.

Get the hang of this intro pretty well before moving on. Make sure you can play it with an even rhythm, just like the song. Make the transition between measures smooth. Pay attention to the timing in the third measure, when it slows down – you’re holding that 2nd fret A-string for a full beat. Listen to the song to get it right.

Try recording yourself on your phone and play it back – that’s always a revealing exercise.

Neurologists studied the brains of amateur musicians performing a song, and their brains were primarily firing in the section devoted to muscle control. When they watched the professional musicians’ brains during a performance, it was primarily in the sections devoted to listening.

It’s hard when learning a song to “hear yourself,” so that’s why most music teachers will record you and play it back for you, so that you have that “oh man, I didn’t realize my rhythm was so off in that section” or “I didn’t realize I sounded so tense” or whatever.

### Verse (Part I)

                                       Are         you
|---0--------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------3-----|------------0-----|------------3-----|
|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|------0--------0--|
|---------4--------|---------2--------|---------4--------|
|0-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|
m  i            r  m     r

r        r  r
t  m  i  i  i
going       to     Scar     bo rough    Fair ?
|---0--------------|-------------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------0-----|0--------1--0------|------------3-----|------------0-----|
|------2--------2--|---0---------------|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|
|---------2--------|------0--2--0------|---------4--------|---------2--------|
|0-----------------|-------------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|3------------------|------------------|------------------|
r        i
m

Par  sley,   sage,       rose-
|---0--------------|---0---------------|
|------------1-----|------------0------|
|------0--------0--|------2--------2---|
|---------2--------|---------2---------|
|3-----------------|0------------------|
|------------------|-------------------|

*     *
ma-   ry    and    thyme.
|0-----2-----------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------3-----|------------3-----|------------0-----|
|---0-----2-----2--|-----0--------0---|------2--------2--|
|------0-----0-----|--------4---------|---------2--------|
|3-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------------|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|
r     m  i  r  i


Hopefully you got a good hang of the picking pattern in the main riff and intro before tackling the verse! It’s the same picking pattern here, just different chords. Except for a tricky part on “Scarborough” and in the measure with “ma-ry and.”

This whole section is mostly two chords: the weird x04030 chord and the x02200 chord (more about those in the theory section). Notice how your middle finger doesn’t have to lift off the D-string when switching between these chords. Then a C-chord for “Parsley,” and the two tricky measures mentioned above. Let’s talk about those two tricky parts.

The “Scarborough” measure starts differently: you’re playing two notes simultaneously, and then two notes at a time again, twice, on “borough.” Sometimes this is called a “double-stop,” a term from the violin. Pay close attention to the suggested fingering — remember right hand on top, left hand across the bottom.

The other tricky part of this measure is the timing. This song has three beats to every measure: ONE-and TWO-and THREE-and. The capital letters are stressed, and they’re called the downbeats. The “ands” are unstressed and called the upbeats. Try counting while listening to the song. Look:

 | 1 & 2 & 3 & |  1 & 2 & 3 & |  1 & 2 & 3 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & |
| Are     you |  going   to  |  Scar  boro  | Fair?       |


On the Scarborough measure, the “bo” comes as the upbeat lead-in to “ro.” It’s quick going from the xx2x1x to xx0x0x right in a row, just make sure you’re staying to a three-beat rhythm, listen to the song, etc.

You can also play the “Scarborough” measure by waiting until the third beat to sing and play “borough,” so that it’s a quick bo-rough on “three-and,” instead of on “and-three-and.” Then you can do a pull-off from xx2x1x to xx0x0x instead of plucking them separately.

The “ma-ry and” measure has a small chord change and a different picking pattern that may give you trouble. I marked the first and second chord with an asterisk in the tab. First is a C-chord for one beat (although you’re only playing two strings worth of the chord), and then a D-chord for the last two beats. You’re playing two strings at once on the downbeat and a different string on the upbeats.

Then it’s back to the regular picking pattern.

### Verse (Part II)

                                Re     mem         ber
|---0--------------|---0--------------|---0--------------|
|------------3-----|------------0-----|------------------|
|------0--------0--|------2--------2--|------2-----------|
|---------4--------|---------2--------|---------2--------|
|0-----------------|0-----------------|0-----------0--2--|
|------------------|------------------|------------------|

1  &  2  &  3  &   1  &  2  &  3  &   1  &  2  &  3  &
*     *     *
me          to     one   who   lives  there
|---0--------------|0-----------------|------------------|-------------------|
|------------1-----|------3-----1-----|0-----------1p 0--|1-----0------------|
|------0--------0--|---0-----0-----0--|---0-----0--------|-----------(0)-----|
|---------2--------|------------------|------0-----2p 0--|2-----0------------|
|3-----------------|3-----2-----0-----|------------------|-------------------|
|------------------|------------------|3-----------------|------------3------|
p     i
r     m


Okay a couple new wrinkles to our normal picking pattern.

1. First, on “Re-mem-ber” we break our normal picking pattern to do a 2-note walk-up bass on the A-string on the last beat of the measure (0th fret, 2nd fret) to that 3rd fret on the A-string in the next measure for “me.” Once you get the hang of this, put a little emphasis on these walking bass notes.

2. Next, the “one who lives” measure might really give you some trouble. This is a signature S&G lick. Basically you’re picking out two notes of a C-chord, then G-chord, then Am7 chord, in rapid succession (marked by asterisks). I was going to write out a couple different ways to finger this, but better you try a few things and figure out what works best for you.

3. Then, we have our first “pull-off” on the third beat after “there.” Just pluck the xx2x1x with your pointer and ring finger, as before, and then immediately pull them off. It creates a legato sound.

4. Last, notice that we slow down our picking pattern at the end. We only play three little two-note chords, one on each down beat. One, two, three. That leads us into the last part:

### Verse (Last Part)

 She         once   was         a      true  love  of
|---0--------------|------------------|------------------|
|------------0-----|0-----------1-----|0-----0h1p0-------|
|------2--------2--|---0-----0--------|------------0-----|
|---------2--------|------0-----2-----|0-----0h2p0-------|
|0-----------------|------------------|------------2-----|
|------------------|3-----------------|------------------|

mine
|---0--------------|---0--------------|-------------------||
|------------3-----|------------3-----|---0---------------||
|------0--------0--|------0--------0--|------0------------||
|---------4--------|---------4--------|-------------------||
|0-----------------|5-----------------|3-----------2------||
|------------------|------------------|-------------------||


This is all old hat now, except for that insane-looking part on “love.”

That is a hammer-on followed by a pull-off. It sounds really cool and isn’t that hard. Pluck the D-string and B-string simultaneously, then hammer-on your pointer-middle fingers to the xx2x1x shape and immediately pull them off again. It’s like a little trill. A hard thing might be keeping your fingers in the right shape when they’re not pushing on the strings – just do your best to keep them close to the strings even if you’re not fretting anything, and to keep them in the right shape throughout the trill. Another hard thing might be doing it quick enough: this trill takes one full beat.

*

Well, that’s the whole song! It’s pretty straightforward, with only a few tricky parts. I also think it’s a nice picking pattern to learn. Once you play a picking pattern enough times, your fingers start to do it on their own without you thinking about it – that’s when it gets fun. You can play other chords, start playing around, adding hammer ons, etc.

### A few notes on style and technique

Hand position. You can definitely plant your pinky on the guitar-top (pickguard area) to help stabilize your hand as your learn the song, but this is not a great long-term practice. Your hand will tense up easier doing this, your pinky will wear out, etc. However, a lot of very good guitarists plant a finger or two, and I definitely did it as a beginner and still do it quite a bit. Something to keep in mind. Better not to plant.

Dynamics. Dynamics means the changing loudness of a song. Listen to the song and notice how they accent certain notes: the walking bass notes on “Remember,” the high notes through “ma-ry and” and “one who lives.” Notice how they let the guitar be like a harp for the simple arpeggio passages with x04030 and x02200, but bring out notes at the end of phrases. This is what will really make the song sound great, and you should train your ear to hear it in others and your own playing, even as you’re learning the song.

## Some Music Theory

You don’t need to know any theory to play this song, but I think it’s important to know theory as you progress in your musician life, and best to start early!

Let’s start by looking at some of the cool chords in this song. How about this one:

|---0--------------|   |-0-| E
|------------0-----|   |-0-| B
|------2--------2--| = |-2-| A
|---------2--------|   |-2-| E
|0-----------------|   |-0-| A
|------------------|   |---|


Let’s start with that second chord, x02200. Remember that an A major chord is A, C#, E, and is normally played as x02220. It appears we’re playing that standard A-chord, except letting the B-string ring open. That means we’re adding in a B note, which is the second note in the A major scale. In this case, since it’s high, it’s more correct to call it the ninth (which is just the second up an octave: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8(octave)-9- … = A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A-B-…).

So this x02200 we can write as Aadd9, meaning an A major chord but adding the ninth. Of course, as is always tricky with guitars, there are many ways to play Aadd9. Another way is 579xxx (quite a stretch but it sounds cool!) or xx7657, which is less common but technically correct. The chord x02200 is very common, and you can usually substitute it for a plain A-chord to add a little color.

You might ask, can we just write A9 ? That’s a chord, right? Well, yes, but it’s not quite the same thing as Aadd9.

The next section gets a little more technical, so feel free to skip it.

### Extended chords

A9 indicates a ninth chord, not just adding the ninth note. A ninth chord is an extended chord, and includes more notes than just the ninth itself. Other extended chords are the 7th, the 9th, the 11th, … also flat-9th, sharp-9th, etc … They’re very jazzy, but show up in rock too. Here’s what we mean:

You know a 7th chord – this is A7, C7, D7, etc. It’s the major chord with the minor-7th, or flat-7th added on top. In A, the A7 chord is x02020, which is A-E-G-C#-E, where G is the flat-7th in the key of A major.

Next, a 9th chord is a major chord with the flat-7th AND 9th added on top. It has to have both the 7th and 9th to be a “true” ninth chord. In A, two common ways to play this are:

|-7--| B         |-(12)-| E                         |-0--| E
|-5--| E         |--12--| B                         |-0--| B
|-6--| C#  or    |--12--| G   which is similar to   |-0--| G
|-5--| G         |--11--| C#                        |-2--| E
|-7--| E         |--12--| A                         |-0--| A
|-5--| A         |------|                           |----|


The first one above is a barre chord, barring on the 5th fret, then fretting the E, C#, and B with your ring, middle, pinky. The G is the flat-7th, and B is the 9th. These notes are in addition to the A-C#-E which form the A major chord itself. The second shape is a nice compact feel. You can either barre the high three strings on the 12th fret with your ring finger, or just leave off the high E. Note again all five required notes are present. The third shape is super easy (one finger!), but doesn’t have a C# present and as a result just sounds kind of boring and muddled.

Remember you can move barre shapes, or any shape that doesn’t use any open strings (like the first two shapes above) all over the fretboard to make different chords. So if the second shape above is A9, then x54555 is D9 because we dropped the whole shape 7 frets, and D is 7 half-steps down from A.

Related to the 9th chord is the sharp 9th chord, also known as the Hendrix chord because Jimi used it in many of his songs. The best way to play the sharp 9th (or #9, or 9#) is by using the second shape above, playing it without the ring-finger-barre, and moving the ninth up one fret with your ring finger. So for D#9, you’d play x5456x. It sounds cool.

The 11th chord stacks the 11th on top of all this as well, so that now you have the major triad itself (e.g. A-C#-E) plus a new triad stacked on top consisting of 7-9-11 (e.g. G-B-D). Interestingly, this is a major triad itself, one whole tone down from the base chord. So its a major chord on top of another major chord, and it sounds great!

To play/explain the 11th, and for a great primer on all these extended chords, I’ll just refer you to this website which has some better diagrams and videos:

Beginner guitar extended chords

### Another chord

|---0--------------|   |-0-| E
|------------3-----|   |-3-| D
|------0--------0--| = |-0-| G
|---------4--------|   |-4-| F#
|0-----------------|   |-0-| A
|------------------|   |---|


This chord, x04030, is trickier. Let’s see if we can figure it out. I always think this is fun, finding some new exotic guitar chord and trying to unravel it a little to understand it better.

One way to approach it is look at the shape. This looks like an Am7, doesn’t it? Except slid up the neck two frets. Well maybe it IS an Am7. An Am7 is x02010, which is the notes A-E-G-C-E. By sliding the shape up two frets, we took out the E on the D-string and the minor third C on the B-string, and replaced them with an F# and D. On the A minor scale, those notes are the sixth and the fourth. Or the 13th and 11th, really. And we still have the A-G-E to identify it as A7-ish.

So my guess is this is an Am7add11add13, which is very close to an Am13 (missing the 9th, see above technical section on extended chords). You could also write Am7(9)(11). There’s not a lot of standardization in chord notation.

AN INTERESTING ASIDE AND SEGUE: Notice that when we slid the shape up the neck, we took out the minor third (a C). That means this could really be an A7(9)(11) (that is, a major chord). It only feels like an Am7(9)(11) because the song is kind of minor. Or is it? If you don’t believe me, strum around with A7 and the x04030 chord, and then the Am7 and the x04030 chord. They both sound “right” - that leads me to my next point.

### Key

Let’s talk about the key of this song. What key do you think it’s in? Is it in a major key or a minor key? It kind of has a minor feel to me, but maybe not all-out minor, like a funeral dirge or something. It’s almost like it’s in between.

When I’m trying to figure out what key something is in, I usually start by trying to feel what the base chord is. What does the song resolve to … what chord can I play and feel like, yes, this is where the song ends. In this song, it feels like that x02200 chord. Try it.

But I still don’t know for sure, and I still don’t know if it’s major or minor. x02200 could be major or minor: there’s no major or minor third in it to identify it.

So the next thing I do is look at the other chords in the song. In this song, we have:

x02200 – Am(add9) or A(add9)
x32010 – C
320001 – G
xx0232 – D


Hmmm. G, C, and D are the I-IV-V chords in G … but what about the Am? That’s a little unusual.

Well, let’s go with our assumption that the song is in Am. I-IV-V for Am is Am-Dm-Em. We’re kind of there, but missing the Em. However, G shares a lot of notes with Em – sometimes songs will do this, substitute a similar chord for another. What about the D major? Shouldn’t it be a D minor? Yes, but it’s okay to experiment, and in this case, substituting the D major helps give the song that lilting, wood-elf, S&G sound. The C is simple, just the relative major, and common to have in a minor song.

So, it’s not an exact science, but I think we’ve determined the song is in A minor, with some interesting chords and variations to make it sound a little more interesting than just plodding through Am-Dm-Em.

### Transposing and the Capo

Here’s a simpler question: what key is it in when we play it with the capo? If we play a song in A major with no capo, it’s a song in A major. If we put a capo on the 3rd fret, it becomes a song in C major. With a capo on the 3rd fret, playing an A chord really makes a C chord sound. Similarly, a G-chord makes a Bb-chord sound, B chord makes a D chord sound, etc.

This song is played with a capo on the 7th fret. So when we play an Am chord, what is it really? Take a second and figure it out: A –> A# –> B –> C –> C# –> D –> D# –> E . Looks like we’re really sounding an Em.

This is important as a musician, because if you’re playing with other people, everybody can’t capo. Maybe someone forgot to bring his, or maybe you’re playing with a piano. If you’re playing this song, which is in A minor on the 7th fret, the piano needs to play along in E minor.

This leads us into the idea of transposing songs, which is a topic in and of itself. Let’s say you find a song and it consists of the chords C, F, and G. But you hate playing F chords, so you’re discouraged. Well, just transpose it to a different key. Shift every chord down 5 half steps, and you get G, C, and D. Those are easy chords!

Take it a step further, and put a capo on the 5th fret –– now you can play G, C, and D but it will sound like C, F, and G like the original song.

Something like this is probably why Simon and Garfunkel are capoing way up to the 7th fret. They found chords that sounded really nice, like that x04030 and x02200 combo, but it was too low for their voices to sound good. If they transposed to different chords, they’d lose those pretty shapes, so they just capo’d up to the 7th fret.