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Brahms Lullaby 

Cradle Song

(Weigenlied ~ 1868)  



Composer: Johannes Brahms (1833 –1897}

Arr: Merv Rowley


            Brahms has often been described as the successor to Beethoven in the field of classical symphonies. Both men share the experience of unhappy childhoods.  Brahms’ family lived in a crowded tenement on the waterfront of Hamburg, Germany. His father was a mediocre double bass player and his mother a seamstress, whose combined incomes were barely enough to provide adequate food and clothing for the family. In spite of doing poorly in school, young Johannes showed an early aptitude for music. He began piano lessons at age 7, and soon his genius was recognized. By age 10 he was playing at some of the waterfront taverns to earn income for the family and for his lessons. At age 13 he was playing chamber music with an older group, whose selections included a composition by young Brahms!  He was a friendly, common man who lived frugally during his lifetime, and never married.


            The composer wrote all forms of classical music except for operas. His music was classified as “romanticist”, and was largely diatonic. He had a special fondness for simple folk tunes, or “lieder”, and composed some 500 arrangements for vocal performance. These were accumulated and collected as folios of a dozen or so selections, each called an “Opus” (work). One of the world’s most famous compositions of this kind was a lullaby identified as Opus 49, No. 4, published in 1868, and called Wiegenlied. It is  known internationally today, simply as Brahms' Lullaby.




            This beautiful “cradle-song” should be played slowly and distinctly, as the voice of a mother to her child. The music is written as two repeating sections of 17 measures each, identical but in different keys. This is called “modulation”, or “transposition”. Here, the first section is in the key of A, and the second in D. At the end of the composition we see the notation D.C al Fine, meaning “from the beginning to the word Fine”. This is like a “repeat” sign, and adds a third and final section played in A. We can do this on the dulcimer because of the 1-3-5 tuning.


            This arrangement sounds best by finger picking notes and chords with the bare finger(s) of the right hand, avoiding contact of the strings with the nails. You will be playing much of the time using barre chords on frets 4, 7 and 10. This is a good time to ponder how to finger these chords.  With the dulcimer in the normal position on the lap, for most players the 4/4/4 (A) chord is most easily played middle/ring/pinkie or index/middle/ring. Conversely, up at fret 10, the wrist must be turned to play middle/index/thumb or ring/middle/index. The barre chord on the seventh fret can usually be played either way, so far as the wrist will allow.  Practice may be necessary here.





Cradle Song lyrics

(English translation)

1. Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight,
With lilies bedecked is baby's wee bed;
Lay thee down now and rest, 

may thy slumber be blest,
Lay thee down now and rest, 

may thy slumber be blest.

2. Lullaby and goodnight, thy Mother's delight,
Bright angels around my darling shall stand;
They will guard thee from harms, 

thou shalt wake in my arms,
They will guard thee from harms, 

thou shalt wake in my arms.

Download files:

 Brahms Lullaby
- PDF contains lyrics


Brahms Lullaby - TEF (TablEdit) does not have lyrics


Brahms Lullaby - MIDI


Brahms Lullaby - Text and Lyrics as above



Brahms links:





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If you do not have the Tabledit program, please click on the TablEdit banner to download a free .tef reader program.  It includes the ability to play this song at a slower speed (great for learning). TablEdit is a program for creating, editing, printing and listening to tablature and sheet music (standard notation) for fretted, stringed instruments.

  Click here to download a free version of Adobe Reader

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At this time we will be using the .MIDI music files produced by TablEdit..





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