Will the Circle Be Unbroken


                Will the Circle Be Unbroken

                                                 Traditional
                                       Mandolin tablature by 
                                    Elizabeth T. Knuth, 1998

Key: G

Peppy.  Tempo about 180.
 
Verse:

E--||------------------|--------------------------|
A--||--4:--------------|--------------------------|
D--||--4:--0-----2-----|--5-----------5-----------|
G--||------------------|--------------------------|
           |     |        |     |     |     |

           I    was     stand   -    ing

 
|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------2-----0-----|--------------2-----------|
|--s-----------------------|--5-----------------------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              by    my       win    -    dow


|--r-----------------------|--------------r-----------|
|--e-----------2-----0-----|--------------e-----------|
|--s-----------------------|--5-----------s-----5-----|
|--t-----------------------|--------------t-----------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              on    one     cold               and


|--------------r-----------|--------------r-----------|
|--------------e-----------|--------------e-----------|
|--5-----------s-----5-----|--2-----0-----s-----------|
|--------------t-----------|--------------t-----------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

 clou      -        dy       day,


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--s-----------0-----2-----|--5-----------5-----------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

             when    I       saw         the


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------2-----5-----|--5-----------2-----------|
|--s-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

            hearse come     roll    -    ing,


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------------0-----|--2-----------2-----0-----|
|--s-----------5-----------|--------------------------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              for   to       car    -    ry    my


|--------------------------|--------------------------|
|--------------0-----0-----|--------------------------|
|--5-----------------------|--5-----------------------|
|--------------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

 moth    -    er     a   -   way.


Chorus:
  
|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--s-----------5-----5-----|--5-----------5-----------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

             Will   the      cir    -    cle


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------2-----0-----|--------------2-----------|
|--s-----------------------|--5-----------------------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              be    un   -   bro    -    ken,


|--r-----------------------|--------------r-----------|
|--e-----------2-----0-----|--------------e-----0-----|
|--s-----------------------|--5-----------s-----------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------t-----------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              by    and      by,              Lord,


|--------------r-----------|--------------r-----------|
|--------------e-----------|--------------e-----------|
|--5-----------s-----5-----|--2-----0-----s-----------|
|--------------t-----------|--------------t-----------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

  by                and      by,


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--s-----------0-----2-----|--5-----------5-----------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

            There's  a       bet    -    ter


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------2-----5-----|--5-----------2-----------|
|--s-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

             home    a   -  wait    -    ing


|--r-----------------------|--------------------------|
|--e-----------------0-----|--2-----------2-----------|
|--s-----------5-----------|--------------------5-----|
|--t-----------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

              in    the      sky,        Lord,


|--------------------------|--------------------------|
|--0-----------2-----0-----|--------------------------|
|--------------------------|--5-----------------------|
|--------------------------|--------------------------|
   |     |     |     |        |     |     |     |

  in          the            sky.


|--r-----------||
|--e-----------||
|--s-----------||
|--t-----------||
   |     |

The first appearance in print of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" seems to have been in 1941 or later, in the fourth volume of Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs. He calls it "Can the Circle Be Unbroken". Randolph says that there are variants, but supplies only one tune and one set of lyrics. The folklorist gives no suggestions as to authorship. (Not that Randolph is always on top of things in this regard. He prints the lyrics to "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours" in dialect, and has nary a clue about the author in that case either, although he could have easily found out by consulting the Methodist Hymnal.) The Library of Congress's copyright renewal database lists "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" several times, never with an author, always as "traditional" or "public domain," though of course particular arrangements may be copyrighted.

The song has been recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (twice), Arlo Guthrie, Wild Wimmin for Peace, the Carter Family, and several other artists.

Technique: This tab will get you in the ballpark, but don't be slavish about playing exactly as written. The song gives you plenty of opportunity to improvise fills. Both NGDB recordings of the song are dominated by Earl Scruggs' amazing banjo work, but Doc Watson's acoustic guitar break on the NGDB's 1972 double album Will the Circle Be Unbroken can suggest riffs for mandolinists. Or if you get bored playing the melody line, you can always do "chops" for awhile. Although I didn't write it into the tab, doing pulloffs from B to A (2 - 0), when those notes come up, sounds pretty good too.

If you like, you can hear a MIDI file of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken".


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Will the Circle Be Unbroken / Revised 26 August 2005 / © Copyright 1998-2005, Elizabeth T. Knuth / URL: http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/mandotab/willthec.html