The banks of the river Doon

Ye Banks And Braes – Robert Burns in John Martyn style

Following my post about  John Martyn I was thinking about where I’d used his guitar style most, and it was probably this Robert Burns song.

I’m using the thumb-slap technique that was the mainstay of Martyn’s acoustic work, the most celebrated example being May You Never. In this song I’ve dropped the E string down to D, and I’m playing with a capo on the second fret so I sing it in E.

Here are the chords in D for the first two sections, which are repeated for the rest:

D            A7
Ye Banks and braes
D        G6
O' bonny Doon
D        G6
How can you bloom
D             A7
Sae fresh and fair?
D           A7
How can you chaunt
D         G6  
Ye little birds
D         G6
And I sae weary
A7      D
Fu' o' care

D
Ye'll break my heart
Dmaj7
Ye warblin birds
     D       D7
That wanton through
Em          A7
The flowery thorn
D          A7
Ye mind me o'
D         G6 
Departed joys
D        G6
Departed never
A7   D
To return

Robert Burns and me

I have my parents to thank for my love of Burns, as well as being brought up in the heart of the Burns legend. This song finds the poet, let’s face it, feeling sorry for himself and complaining about why the birds and trees can be happy when he’s been dumped by his girlfriend.

I experienced the same thing as a fourth-year schoolboy on the very same banks of the Doon, pining for a fifth-year girl. So yes, I’ve suffered for my art. (Now it’s your turn, as the saying goes.)

This recording of Ye Banks And Braes

This recording was made in 2013 by Daniel Davis, who added some lovely trumpet.

Here’s a Soundcloud audio link where you can download the free mp3. If you like it, please share it on Facebook, Twitter and whatever means of production you currently occupy.

The video

The video was shot on my phone in 2012, before I learned that you shoot video in landscape not portrait. It’s not the river Doon, but the river Ayr, pretty close by most standards. I grew up very close to the river and it’s a place of childhood wonder for me.

Thumb slap guitar technique

If you’re new to the thumb slap technique here’s the first of a series of tutorials by Gareth Evans. The rest are here.

(This is an update of a post from 2013 which didn’t have the chords)

Free mini-album!

Stories_my_killer_told_me_350

Free to download - Stories My Killer Told Me: Five surreal story-songs from my Edinburgh Fringe show.



  • I Am Not The One For You
  • The Ever Open Door
  • New Eyes
  • A Forest Trail in Autumn
  • The Portobello Slam

Just let me send you an occasional email!

Powered by ConvertKit

1 thought on “Ye Banks And Braes – Robert Burns in John Martyn style

Comments are closed.