About Our Song
Below are lead sheets for our folk song "Tom Dooley" in three different keys.   It has eight
notes,quarter notes, half notes and whole notes just like we've used before. It uses the I and the V7
chord just like we've used before. How is it different? First as we've mentioned before, it's syncopated.
Notes come in on upbeats. Second it uses a very different five note scale. It uses a pentatonic scale.
This is the same type of scale used in rock and blues. When you learn the five notes of a pentatonic
scale in any key, you've actually learned two scales. The major pentatonic is 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 starting on
the root of a major scale. This is the scale that is used for this song. The minor pentatonic with the
same notes is based on the relative minor or 6th degree of the major scale. Starting with that 6th note
as the root, we have 1, 3, 4, 5, 7.  Notice the gap in the note numbers with one note left out. Of
course the gap falls in a different place in the major vs the minor because you start on a different
note. Looking at the lead sheets below you can see that eight notes are mostly using the individual
tail instead of the common tail. This is because with this syncopation, you have single eight notes. As
you tap your foot to the 1 beat you play the first eight note as your foot taps down and the following
quarter note as your foot comes up. The quarter note has a half beat left and holds through the down
beat of 2. So no note is played on the 2nd down beat. The next note comes in on the + of the 2 beat.
That is what makes it syncopation. Since it's an eight note that completes the 2nd beat. The measure
finishes with two normal quarter notes on beats 3 and 4. This syncopation repeats every other bar.
While counting it out seems a little complicated, people can sing it easily once they hear it. When you
see that grouping of notes from now on, you should be able to play that rhythm without laboring over
counting it out. Any time you start a note on an up beat you have syncopation. We will look at other
examples as we study different songs.
Playing The Melody
As we look at our lead sheets in three different keys C, G and F, each has different notes if you go by
letter names and actual pitches. But remember,
it's not the actual notes that make the melody,
it's the spaces between the notes.
If we look at each lead sheet in terms of the major scale they
are all the same. The song only uses so la do, re, me, no matter what key it is in. I've added the right
hand finger numbers over the notes to help out. A normal lead sheet wouldn't have the finger
numbers.  As you will see, the fingering is the same for all three keys. For reading, playing, arranging,
and composing music, you have to know your notes as they relate to a key. In other words you have
to know and understand the key. Now lets look at the notes of the song. We are starting out with so
and la below do played with finger 1 and 2 of the right hand. As this is the pentatonic major, we'll
never need ti or fa so we stretch finger 3 to play do. Next is re played by finger 4 and me played by
finger 5. These are the only five notes we need to play the whole song. There are some pentatonic
songs or phrases where the thumb or one would be on do but in "Tom Dooley" it's on so with the
fingering as shown in the lead sheets below. Notice that you don't have to shift your hand position at
all to play the melody.  In each key you are playing different letter names but you have to think in
terms of so,la, do, re me. Practice playing the melody in three keys from the lead sheets below. Make
sure you can tap your foot to the beat, while you playing the syncopation. Also tap your foot while
singing the words.
Playing The Chords
Tom Dooley lead sheet in C
so,la,do,re,me = 1,2,3,4,5 = g,a,c,d,e
Tom Dooley, Melody, C
Tom Dooley, Melody & Chords, C
Tom Dooley lead sheet in G
so,la,do,re,me = 1,2,3,4,5 = d,e,g,a,b
Tom Dooley, Melody, G
Tom Dooley, Melody & Chords, G
Tom Dooley lead sheet in F
so,la,do,re,me = 1,2,3,4,5 = c,d,f,g,a
Tom Dooley, Melody, F
Tom Dooley, Melody & Chords, F
The  Whole Story
We learned that the notes in "Tom Dooley" are the five note pentatonic major scale, do, re, me,so, la
leaving out fa. We know that it is backed up by the I chord based on the first note of the major scale
and V7 chord based on the fifth note of the major scale. The I chord is major and the V7 chord is
dominant. The only thing left is to see how the notes relate to the chords. The song starts in the first
bar with so, la, do or the 5th, 6th, and root of the I major chord. In the next bar it goes to me or the 3rd
of the I major chord. The next bar repeats the first bar. In the fourth bar it goes to re. This is the 5th
note of the V7 chord and calls for the chord change. In the fifth bar we have the same notes as in
bars one and three but we stay with the V7 Chord. That's because these notes could belong to either
the I or V7 chord so there is no strong push to change, especially since the sixth bar is strong on the
fifth note of the V 7 chord. The seventh bar continues with strong V7 notes. The eight bar of course
has to get back to I. The notes against the V7 chord are the root, fifth, suspended fourth and ninth.
Not all common chord notes but when we get into advanced chords you will see that they are very
legitimate. Also, the pentatonic scale tends to go with more that one chord. Finally if you try to put the
I chord back in sooner, it just sounds wrong. After all the analysis your ear has the last word.
Applying The Knowledge
Let's cover this information again in the key of C to make it less confusing. I've put the lead sheet
below for quicker reference. The first three bars are the C chord. We start out with g's followed by a
and c in the first measure. These are the 5th, 6th and root note of the C chord. In the next measure
we have e the third of the C chord. Then we repeat the first measure. So, la do re, me are very good
melody notes for a song. If you play a C chord and play the notes of the C major pentatonic in any
order, they will sound good. Yes you could even include re or d as long as you don't emphasis it. The
d or re, the 5th of the G7 chord comes in so strongly in the fourth bar of "Tom Dooley" that you have
to change to that chord. If you were improvising, you could now play all the notes of the C major
pentatonic scales against the G7 chord in any order and it would sound good. That is why you can
stick with the G7 chord until the last bar. The final c ,  the root of the C chord finally calls you back to
that chord.  Songs almost always end with the root chord and the root note of that chord. Always Look
at the music for a song as you play and understanding the notes in relation to the key and chords, not
as unrelated notes. There will be other songs that use pentatonics, either through the whole song or
in certain parts. If you can recognize this you will get up to speed that song much faster.
Tom Dooley Lead sheet in C
©2004 - 2008
Tom Dooley, Piano
About This Page
This page is part of free music lesson 8, "Timing The Notes". The free music lesson 8 lesson is part of
the free music lesson series that teaches you how to read music. This page teaches you how to play
"Tom Dolley" in three keys C, G and F through the use of lead sheets. It shows you how to play
melody with the right hand and accompaniment chords with the left hand. It also teaches you the
theory of the song.  Two of the links below bring you to free music lesson 8, "Timing the notes" and
the Music Site Map. Both of these pages give you access to the rest of the music pages and also the
rest of the website. The other two links, "Skip To My Lou" and "Some folks Do" bring you to pages like
this one for those songs.
fingers of the left and right hand numbered for keyboard playing
For reference I've repeated the information that
numbers the fingers for playing keyboards. The
picture to the left shows how fingers of the left and
right hand are numbered for playing the piano or
key board. We start with the thumbs as number 1
and count up to the pinkies as number 5.
This song is a two chord song. It uses the I chord based on the first note of the scale and the V7
chord based on the fifth note of the scale. We play the chords with the left hand in the octave below
the melody octave. We are going to keep the chord rhythm simple for now. We are playing chords on
beats 1 and 3 or 1,2,3,4 for variety. Playing on 1,2,3 at the end is common. You can do this even if
you are going to repeat because it tells you've reached the end. Listen to the sound sample to hear
how to play the rhythm. I've placed keyboard pictures of the chords under each song. I'm using the
root position of the I chord and an inversion of the V7 chord so you can play the chords without
changing position. We are not using musical notation for the chords. That would be giving you only
one rhythm. Once you learn them you will be able to play them in varied rhythms, just from the letter
names of the chords above the lead sheet.
C major chord in root position for piano
G7 chord in inverted position for piano
You can see that to change between the
C chord and the inverted G7 chord, you
can leave your thumb at g and just shift
your other fingers slightly. Even though
I've shown finger 4 playing d on the G7,
since you can leave the fifth note out on a
7th chord, you can leave it out.
I, C
V7, G7
D7 chord in inverted position for piano
G chord in root position for piano
Changing between G and D7 is the
same as changing between C and G7.
Just like on G7, you can leave out the
fifth of the D7, in this case a. The only
difference is that finger 5 is playing a
black key instead of a white key
because the third of  D7 is sharped. It
is the f sharp required by the key of G.
I, G
V7, D7
C7 chord in inverted position for piano
Changing between F and C7 is similar
to changing between C and G7.  As
always, you can leave out the fifth of
the 7th chord, in this case g. The
difference this time is that finger 2 is
playing a black key instead of a white
key because the seventh of  C7 is
flatted. It is the b flat required by the
key of F.
F major chord in root position for piano
I, F
V7, C7
About This Page
This page is part of free music lesson 8, "Timing The Notes". The free music lesson 8 lesson is part of
the free music lesson series that teaches you how to read music. This page teaches you how to play
"Tom Dolley" in three keys C, G and F through the use of lead sheets. It shows you how to play
melody with the right hand and accompaniment chords with the left hand. It also teaches you the
theory of the song.  Two of the links below bring you to free music lesson 8, "Timing the notes" and
the Music Site Map. Both of these pages give you access to the rest of the music pages and also the
rest of the website. The other two links, "Skip To My Lou" and "Some folks Do" bring you to pages like
this one for those songs.
Learn to play songs by and in the in the style of
the popular artist of today and yesterday. I am
recommending two piano methods with different
approaches. The first has the typical beginner,
intermediate, and advanced lessons. The second
takes a very strong chord approach and is ideal
for singer song writers. Both have hundreds of
video and sound files. But since each cost about
the same or less than a  single private lessons,
you might want to get them both.
You nick name
Your e-mail address
I will never share your information and you will be
asked to opt in if you want to receive future offers.