A huge flag soars in the blue sky sky overhead, as I drive west along a major street in Baton Rouge. It is the largest flag I’ve ever seen and is located in the lot of a car dealership. It makes a person marvel at the greatness of this country as you watch the flag billow in the wind. In honor of the flag, I tabbed for the dulcimer the song, “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” by George M. Cohan. The dulcimer tab is a little tricky — the song is in the Key of G — I tabbed it with a dulcimer tuned to DAD. You must have a 1-1/2 fret to be able to play the song and must be able to play across all three strings on the entire song. But if you can master the tab, it’s a rewarding song to play on the dulcimer. Magically, the chords emulate a person marching along.
Recently while driving down the street, I took some photos of the huge flag while stopped at a red light. The photo really doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of the flag — but you can see that it is as large as a truck. Use you imagination, or if you visit Baton Rouge, I’ll show you to the location of the flag.
“You’re a Grand Old Flag”
The song is a patriotic march — it should be played with a spirited rhythm. George M. Cohan was a songwriter and performer. He wrote the song in 1906 for a Broadway musical play, “George Washington, Jr,” which was performed at the Herald Square Theater in New York City. It quickly became a sensation and was the first song from a musical to sell over one million copies of sheet music. The song was originally called, “You’re a Grand Old Rag.” The story goes that as Cohan sat beside a Civil War veteran, he noticed a tattered flag that the man held in his lap. The man looked at Cohan, patting the flag and said, “She’s a grand old rag.” After many people objected, Cohan changed the word to “flag.”
It has been 113 years since the song was written and 155 years since the Civil War ended. The lyrics to the verses might need to be reconsidered in today’s world, but the lyrics to the chorus are still relevant. So let’s just keep to the chorus.
Playing the Tune on the Dulcimer
I tabbed out the song to be played in the Key of G while the dulcimer is tuned to DAD. While in the DAD tuning, you can play songs in keys other than the Key of D. However, a person must add chords to compensate. Also, the song has many “7th” chords which give dissonance tones. When the chords are played individually, the tones definitely have “harsh” or “discordant” or unresolved feelings. However when put together, the chords “resolve” and the song has a lively and patriotic beat. You must play all the notes and chords to get the song to work. This is not a song with drones. But it’s a fun tune to play once you practice a bit.
I was amazed that the tab worked out so well and that I was able to find a way to play all the notes and chords of the song. This song uses the 1-1/2 fret extensively. It adds the “C” note to the chords which is essential for playing the song in the Key of G.
March Tune and Chords
This song is a march and is written in 2/4 time. I have written chords above the standard notation which adds harmony. (You can also invert the chords, playing them primarily on the melody string — I almost like this better than how they are written to be played on the bass string.) There are chord changes on most every beat. And play them all. Play the chords across all the strings on each beat, with a crisp and sharp strum. Close your eyes; magically the chords simulate a person marching along.
Tune and Tab
This is a challenging song to play and is not for a beginning dulcimer player. It is certainly not a “traditional” dulcimer tune. However, if you can master the song, it is a very rewarding one to play. I love it. I have included the tab as a PDF file for you to download and try out.
PDF File: You’re A Grand Old Flag