Orphan Girl

Arranged by Erin Rogers for Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Players

"Orphan Girl" was written by Gillian Welch, whose musical style combines elements of bluegrass, neotraditional country, Americana, old time string band music and folk into a rustic style that she dubs "American Primitive." Gillian and David Rawlings included "Orphan Girl" in their debut album, "Revival," in 1996. This song is somewhat autobiographical, as Gillian was adopted on the day she was born, and spiritual as none of us will be orphans when we finally sit at the Father's table in heaven. 

VideoAbout the Lessons

1. Mapping the Chords Erin's chromatic dulcimer is tuned D-A-d.  To play this tune in Bflat (the key that best fits Amber's voice) Erin transposes the chords of the song and then maps the chords on her fretboard.  This song has 4 chords:  I (D)  IV (G)  V (A) and Bm (vi).  Transposed:  Bb=I chord, F = IV chord, Eb = V chord, Gm = vi (minor) chord.
2. Finding the Bb Chord The home chord in the key of Bb is:  Bb.  After finding the Bb note, Erin uses the familiar Barre and L-Shapes, and then looks for other voicing of the same chord.
3. Finding the F Chord In this episode Erin uses the same process to find the F chord shape that will work the best
4. Finding the Gm Chord Now it is time for the Gm chord.
5. Finding the Eb Chord And finally, the Eb Chord is located and mapped out.
6. Review of How We Found These Chords Erin reminds us of the process of locating the chords and choosing the chord voicing that work best with her sister's singing.
7. Right Hand Techniques A key to playing bluegrass (and part of Erin's signature sound) is the right hand chop, which is explained and demonstrated in this episode.
8. Counting the Strum Now Erin breaks it down and counts the strum so you can see it in slow motion and imitate her chop.
9. Playing the Chop with the Chord Progression In this segment, the chop is applied to the chord progression.
10. Playing the Progression Together Now it is time to "Play Along with Erin!" following the chord progression of the song.
11. Strategizing for a Bb Solo Erin discusses why she choose NOT to use a capo and to play the solo in a flatpicking style.
12. Finding the Bb Scale The first step to playing the solo is to the find where to play the Bb (or home) scale.
13. Playing Melody for the Solo Erin uses the melody as the base from which to explore her solo ideas.
14. Erin Breaks Down the Bb Section of the Solo Noodling around with the Bb notes helps uncover the beginning of the solo.
15. Using Arpeggios & High Notes for the Solo Another option is playing arpeggios from notes within the chord progression which is what Erin demonstrates here.
16. Solo, the 2nd Time Through the Progression Part of the solo repeats, but Erin looks for distinctive 2nd part.
17. The Whole Solo, So Far Now it is time to put all the pieces together.
18. Playing Along with Erin's Solo It is time to "Play Along with Erin!"  again!
19. Conclusion Erin wraps up this lesson.


  • Melody

  • Mapping the Chords

  • Chord Options


  • Melody
  • Mapping the Chords
  • Chord Options

Mobile Devices

  • Melody
  • Mapping the Chords
  • Chord Options


Music GlobeExtras

  • Lyrics to the tune

  • Video by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, performing Orphan Girl at the Austin City Limits Fest in 2008.

  • Live performance by Emmylou Harris, winner of 12 Grammys, who included this tune on her "Wrecking Ball" CD.

  • Video of Orphan Girl by Scenic Roots, featuring our own Erin Rogers and her sister Amber.
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