Guitar Tablature: “On Top of Old Smoky”
This old favorite has three beats per measure, as the time signature (3/4) indicates. Learning how to play “On Top of Old Smoky” on guitar will give you a chance to practice playing in open position — the one that combines first position with the open strings. Use the same finger numbers for fretting as the indicated fret number. We don’t indicate any symbols for up and down picking for you in this song; use your own judgment and pick out the notes of the song in the way that feels most natural to you. Some of these notes you can play by using either up- or downstrokes.
To play this song, you need to know how to count three beats per measure; how to finger notes in first position; and how to make a song about infidelity sound childlike and whimsical.
The fact that a bunch of supposedly simple folk songs — tunes you’ve never thought twice about before — now make you feel slow and clumsy as you try to play them may seem a bit deflating. But playing the guitar is a cumulative endeavor. Every technique you pick up applies to all songs that use those same techniques, from Van Morrison to van Beethoven, from “Moondance” to the “Moonlight Sonata.” Hang in there with the technical stuff and the rest follows.