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"Tom Dooley," Lyrics, Text Format

Limited range, syncopated rhythms, and submediant
arpeggios (vi, Dm) using the pentatonic scale.



  • Grade: Fifth
  • Origin: USA – Traditional Ballad – 1866
  • Key: F Major
  • Time: 4/4
  • Form: ABA – chorus/verse/chorus
  • Rhythm: intermediate: | ti ta ti ta ta | syncopation, | ta/a ta/a | ta/a/a/a | ta/a/a ta |
    | ti ta/ ta ta | syncopation, | ta ta/a ta | ta ta ti ta/ | syncopation
  • Pitches: beginners: So La Do Re Mi – pentatonic scale
  • Intervals: intermediate: La/Do/Mi ascending submediant arpeggio (vi, Dm), Mi\So (M6), Re\So (P5), Mi\Do\La descending submediant arpeggio (vi, Dm), Do\So (P4), La/Do (m3)
  • Musical Elements: notes: whole, dotted half, half, dotted quarter, quarter, eighth; pickup beat, syncopation, chorus/verse/chorus, D.C. al Fine, Fine, two double barlines; note: use of the minor arpeggio (vi, Dm) and ending with a minor third gives the tune a minor quality using the pentatonic scale
  • Key Words: USA history; USA geography: Wilkes County, North Carolina, Tennessee; murder of Laura Foster by Tom Dula (Dooley); hanging, tomorrow, Grayson (Tom’s boss who turned him in), lonesome, white oak tree; contractions: I’ll (I will), hadn’t (had not), I’d (I would); abbreviation: hangin’ (hanging);
    southern USA vocabulary: reckon (thought)
  • Recorder: intermediate: playing in F Major, syncopation, ascending and descending submediant arpeggios (vi, Dm), pentatonic scale, practicing pitches in the lower register

Based on the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Col. James Grayson, a Tennessee politician, had hired Tom Dula (Dooley) on his farm when he fled North Carolina.

“Tom Dooley” 
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
1. I met her on the mountain,
And there I took her life.
I met her on the mountain,
And stabbed her with my knife.
Come this time tomorrow,
Reckon where I’ll be?
Hadn’t a-been for Grayson,
I’d a-been in Tennessee.
3. Come this time tomorrow,
Reckon where I’ll be?
Down in some lonesome valley,
Hangin’ from a white oak tree.
Additional Formats (click to enlarge)
"Tom Dooley," Music Format
Click to enlarge: "Tom Dooley," Beats Format
Click to Enlarge: "Tom Dooley," Rhythm Format
pitch numbers
Click to Enlarge: "Tom Dooley," Pitch Number Format
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letter names
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