Wayfaring Stranger

Flint Hill
05/15/10 11:43:43PM
Wayfaring Stranger is a popular Southern US spiritual song.

A reasonable approximation of the tune appears as "Judgment" in Ananias Davisson's Kentucky Harmony, 1816. It is related to the secular tunes "Man of Constant Sorrow", "East Virginia", "Silver Dagger", and "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies". The song appeared in White and King's 1844 Sacred Harp in essentially the same form we sing today.

The tune is pentatonic, missing the second and sixth scale degrees. You can find all its notes on Dorian, Aeolian, and Phrygian scales. It's mode is Bronson 4, sometimes called "aeolian pentatonic". Arguably you'll get better use out of your fretboard real estate if you play it in a tuning intended for the Aeolian mode.

It appears in 3/4 time in Denson and Broadman, and in 4/4 time in Cooper. As a Georgia kid in the 1950s, we sang it in 3/4 time at the Baptist Church andin 4/4 time elsewhere. It's played here in 4/4 time at a tempo of 168.

I play it with metal finger picks in noter-drone style on a Kudzu PatchGalax strung with 0.010" strings straight across.

The dulcimer is tuned DDCC (in a single octave) with a reverse capo on the fourth fret of the
outermost drone string, yielding a tuning of ADCC with A at a higher pitch than D and C. This tuning starts an Aeolian scale on the first fret of the paired melody strings.