“Off to California” An Irish Hornpipe

“Off to California” An Irish Hornpipe

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. It was the inspiration for many Irishmen to immigrate to seek a fortune. This tune is from that era.

“Off to California” is arranged here in mountain dulcimer tablature from Lois Hornbostel’s Mel Bay book Dulcimer Fiddle Tunes. A recording of the arrangement follows. Learning the melody first by listening can help you play the tablature. This is a play-along recording. After practicing the tablature to build speed (metronome recommended for smooth results), you can play along with the recording. The second time through the tune you’ll hear a chord back-up.

Listen to Lois Hornbostel play “Off to California.”

This piece is played by most musicians in the Key of G Major. The DGd “reverse Ionian” tuning puts you in that key and the tune “situates” well on the dulcimer’s fretboard with it. To tune to DGd, tune your dulcimer’s bass string to D below middle C. Then tune your middle string to G a fourth above that D, and your first (treble) string to d an octave above that D on the bass string.

Suggested back-up chords are listed below. They are “reversible” in DGd tuning; i.e., the same notes (fret numbers) can be played on either “outside” string (bass or first string).

Chord Name A Few Suggested Back-up Chords in DGd Tuning
G 3 5 (bass string)
2 4 (middle string)
0 3 (first string)
C 3 3 (bass string)
3 3 (middle string)
1 3 (first string)
Em 1 5 (bass string)
2 5 (middle string)
1 5 (first string)
Am 4 (bass string)
4 (middle string)
4 (first string)
D 2 4 (bass string)
1 4 (middle string)
0 2 (first string)

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