Chris Eldridge

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Banks of the Ohio

Chords and Rhythm

This month we're going to return from instrumentals back to the land of song. The song, Banks of the Ohio, is a classic psychologically twisted murder ballad. It's also musically beautiful. The juxtaposition between beautiful, happy sounding music and sad, dark lyrics is a hallmark of bluegrass and traditional music.

Notice the perfect simplicity of the melody. It's a big part of the reason this song has been around for 125+ years.





Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Bill Monroe
Banks of the Ohio
Doc Watson
Joan Baez

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Banks of the Ohio


I asked my love to take a walk

Just a walk a little ways

And as we walked and we would talk

All about our wedding day



Oh darling say that you'll be mine

In our home we'll happy be

Down beside where the waters flow

On the banks of the Ohio


I held a knife against her breast

As into my arms she gently pressed

She said Willie, don't you murder me

I'm not prepared for eternity


I took her by her pretty white hand

I dragged her down that bank of sand

There I pushed her in where she would drown

I watched her as she floated down




Returning home about twelve or one

Thinking of the deed I done

I killed the girl I love, you see

Because she would not marry me


The very next morn about half past four

The Sheriff came knocked at my door

He said now young man come now and go

Down to the Banks of the Ohio




Loop 4:40 Introduction to Banks of the Ohio

Loop 7:05 Breakdown of Chords and Rhythm

Loop 8:17 Practice Loop of Chords and Rhythm


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 8:54 Melodic Motif

Loop 10:42 Closing Thoughts and Outro






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Jono Apr 06, 2020

Hey Chris, any tips on singing melodies?

I know you said you weren't really a trained singer but your pitch is spot on here. I find this tune expessicaly hard because all the major 3rd in the melody, I tend to fall sligthly flat on them. Does it just take time and persisance to get that pitch or are there things you listen for? 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 12, 2020

Hey Jono, singing in tune can be confusing for sure. It has amazed me over the years to know how something felt and sounded resonating in my head as I sang it, and then to hear it played back and have it sound different - usually flatter than my perception when it was going down. I think that some of that just takes practice. A few tips:

-You can play a melody on the guitar slowly in unison with your voice. It's often easy to hear if you're right in with a unison or not, whereas sometime that's harder with chords. But once you get better at knowing where the actual pitch is and what it feels like you might...

-Sing slowly and deliberately comparing the pitch of your voice to the pitches of the chords. If you take your time with this and imagine your voice being a note in the chord - like it's an extra note on the guitar - where you are paying attention to *all* of the pitches and not just your own voice, you can develop a better intuitive sense in real time of how you are doing relative to the chord. It can become a bit more second nature. 

-There is an app on my iphone and ipad that I use sometimes called Vocal Pitch Monitor. Basically it shows you in real time how your pitch is relative to the actual note. It's different than a guitar tuner because it draws a line through time where you can see an entire phrase. It can be useful for identifying tendencies. I've found it to be super useful when I really just FELT like i was singing in tune but then would hear it back and would be way off. Sometimes you can feel crazy when that's happening. This app (and there may be others that do the same thing but better - I've just been using this particular one for years) has been *really* useful at times because it can give you real-time objective feedback so that you can *learn what it feels like* to sing that problem note in tune.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 12, 2020

It probably goes without saying, but, of course, pitch is not nearly as important as communication. I can lose sight of that sometimes, but real, honest communication ALWAYS wins. But hey, why not have our cake and eat it too!

Michael Widman
Michael Widman Oct 18, 2017

Can you post notation for the vocal melody?

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Oct 19, 2017

Michael, that’s a great idea. Keep your eyes peeled for future lessons. 

cocobol Feb 09, 2016

what's up chritter , i wonder your picks.
what is your pick ? thans~!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Feb 15, 2016


It depends, but most of the time I use a bluechip TAD-60. If I'm using a shell pick I still prefer a triangle shape, but it can be a little more thin. Usually the thickness is around 1.2 - 1.4 mm.

Lucas Miller
Lucas Miller Jan 14, 2016


 Hey Critter! I applied your lesson to Carolina Star. Let me know what you think!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jan 14, 2016

Hey Lucas, you sound great! I can really hear the song and the words so well. Great job! I like your crosspicking bit. See if you can integrate more of the melody into the crosspicking. For instance, when it gets to the G chord at the end you can play the melody on the 5th string while you crosspick/drone on the open 3rd and 4th strings (because those open strings are 2 of the 3 notes in a G chord).

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