No stranger to rural romantic intrigue, the great Robert Burns wrote “Tae the Weavers Gin Ye Gang” in 1788. It’s a tale as old as time—further confirmation both that one need not be rich to win a heart and that following one’s bliss carries consequences. The setting is a mashup of all the versions I’ve heard over the years, from those by Andy M. Stewart to the Tannahill Weavers, and back to the grey mists of memory floating up from my Renaissance Faire days.
I stick with Burns’ original broader Scots lyrics as I learned them, rather than an Anglicized interpretation—partly because translating them strips them of so much zing, and partly because they’re just so much fun to hear this way. It’s nearly impossible to sing this version without smiling.
I play the song in the key of C major and keep the chord progression simple. The verse requires only the I and V chords (C and G), while the chorus dips into the relative minor, adding the darker vi and iii chords (Am and Em) before a final short, bright G that propels you into the next verse. Keep the thumb pulse strong and even, and let your notes ring as long as you can before switching chord shapes. On the C chord, move your third finger between the third-fret C on string 5 and the third-fret G on string 6. You’ll find there’s no need to hurry.
The picking pattern is a straightforward alternating bass that should be easy enough for anyone acquainted with the Travis style. Just remember to pick the bottom three strings with your thumb or a thumbpick and the higher strings with your index, middle, and ring fingers. Keep it rolling along jauntily—and keep smiling.
Excerpted from Scottish Songs for Guitar by Danny Carnahan