Great Dream from Heaven ( aka Only a Hobo ) Lesson
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced
Lesson by: Kirk Lorange
This traditional folk song has been adapted by a few artists, the most well known is Bob Dylan's 'Only a Hobo'. It was also adapted by Joseph Spence, who called it 'Great Dream from Heaven'. Ry Cooder also does a great version. Whatever it's called, it's a great piece and a lot of fun to play.
It's in dropped D, so lower that thick E string down a tone to D. The best way to do that is with a tuner because you'll find that you throw the tuning out a tiny bit on all strings when you release the tension on that bass string, so you will probably need to tweak them all once it's down to D.
It's in 3/4 time.
You should quickly recognize that first position as a D chord. The melody is built in and around that shape, so make sure you keep your fingers anchored there for those first two bars. Look out for that open string note -- the E in bar 2 -- it will feel a bit odd until you've played it a few times, but it makes that line roll right off the fingertips when you get it.
When you get to bar 3, the chord changes to G and you need to grab that bass note at the fifth fret, not the third where you'd usually expect to find a G note. That's because we've dropped the E string down to D and all notes on that string need to be played two frets up from their usual position. If you're familiar with dropped D, this should be second nature. If you're not, work at it until it is second nature.
When you get to bar 8, the chord changes to A7, the V chord, and you need to twang that open A string and let it ring under the descending line ... so make sure you don't choke it off when you move your hand up the neck. That descending line is a series of double stops in sixths. The most common way to harmonize lines is to add the third above the melody note. Sixths are inverted thirds ... back-to-front thirds. In other words, the harmony note is the same as the third, but an octave lower, which makes the interval between them a sixth rather than a third.
Example: Look at bar 9. The melody note is the F# (7th fret, string 2). The third above that would be the A note (5th fret, string 1) since we're in D. But, we're using the note on the 7th fret of string 4 ... which is A. Same note, different octave, wider interval. The whole line (bars 8 and 9) are following this same rule.
At bar 13 we hit the first of those chordal 'turnarounds', those bits that end a section off and prepare your ears for the next. It's the bass line that grabs the attention in these. The first chord is Bm7 (the vi chord in D) and it's played with its root then its fifth in the bass. That combined with the second inversion D at bar 14 (D/A) is what makes this sound so cool, so right. The turnaround ends with an interesting Dsus4 to D. Usually, the 4 is played as the highest note in the chord but in this case it's played in a lower register on the 4th string. It's gives that whole section a hymn-like quality, which is what the tune is, I guess, with a title like that.
At bar 17, we move to a sort of chorus section that starts on the IV chord, G. There's a momentary Em chord (the ii chord) but, as you've probably noticed already, the vast bulk of the tune is centered around the good old I-IV-V chords. There's just that Bm7 in the turnaround and the fleeting Em in the chorus that intrude.
At bar 23, we're back to the same structure as the 'verse' at bar 7, leading up to the turnaround. We then play the same descending line in sixths and end on a double turnaround. You'll hear and see that the last turnaround is slightly different. It's a bit tricky to get your hand in position quickly enough to grab that A note on string 1 (bar 33). You don't have to play it like that, of course, you can just repeat the first turnaround.