The Carter Family (l-r):
Maybelle, Sara and A.P.
"Wildwood Flower" is a traditional folk song that came into prominence when it was recorded by the Carter Family beginning in the late 1920's. It is considered by some to be the unofficial anthem of country and folk music.
The Carter Family have been called "Country Music's First Family." This trio consisted of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and sister-in-law Maybelle Carter. Born in the Clinch Mountain area of southwest Virginia, the Carters were the first major vocal group to bring folk music to the masses via records and radio.
Start with the Basic Melody
The best place to start in learning "Wildwood Flower" is with the vocal, so we've prepared an audio clip of the first verse of the song as recorded by the Carter Family in 1935. The clip is in mp3 format.
Okay, so we've listened to the vocal clip - now let's see if we can transcribe it. If we figure out the note for each word in the verse, we've got what we need for a basic transcription. The first thing we have to do is figure out what key it's played in. (That can sometimes be a challenge with the old recordings because they don't always end up in "concert pitch.")
In our example, the Carters are singing in the key of E, but it sounds like Maybelle played it on the guitar using a capo. Most guitarists today play it using the chords in the key of C, so, for purposes of our analysis, we will arrange it that way. (If you want to sing along in the key of E, just capo your guitar on the fourth fret and play the C arrangement.)
A Basic Arrangement of "Wildwood Flower"
We have prepared an arrangement of the basic melody for guitar and published it here in both Scorch and PDF formats. The arrangement is in the key of C, and includes both standard notation and TAB. It also includes the lyrics to the first verse as sung in the audio clip above.
Learning and understanding the basic melody in it's simplest form is the foundation on which more complicated arrangements and improvisational playing is based.
Next: Carter Style Playing
Our next step in this study is to learn about the style of picking known as "Carter-style" - named after none other than Maybelle Carter. Go to Carter Style Page