Chords for Croatian Folk Songs


  1. Ne dirajte mi ravnicu
  2. Vech odavno spremam svog mrkova
  3. Popevke sem slagal
  4. Fala
  5. S ponistre se vidi Ssolta
  6. Sinoch kad sam ti prossa
  7. Oj, jesenske duge nochi
  8. Tena
  9. Uzalud vam trud sviracci

Meddimurske narodne pjesme

Several useful harmonic recepies

The creation of this HTML has been motivated by the interest shown for our folk songs, that I noticed while browsing through the letters sent to the Web master of the Croatian home page (mr. Josip Jurich). I provide my comments in English, since there are many Croats and their descendants throughout the world who do not speak Croatian any more, or only very little.

Let me start with a very nice (and simple) song ``Ne dirajte mi ravnicu'' (listen to it!), which for sure will live among the Croats for many generations.

A word of caution for the Croatian reader: the tone or chord B is used in the meaning of the American notation, which differs from the Croatian: in Croatia we would write H instead of B. Thus

the American B = the Croatian H, and
the American B flat = Croatian B.

The American notation, which we use here, is accepted also in some European countries, especially in jazz literature.

Ne dirajte mi ravnicu

Miroslav Sskoro

       G             Am
1. Vecceras mi dobri ljudi

           D7           G
   nemojte nissta priccati.

   Neka suze mirno teku

          D7         G
   pa che manje boljeti.

   Refrain (2x):

   C                D7
   Ne dirajte mi vecceras

   G        B7  Em  Cm
   uspomene u meni.

   G                Am
   Ne dirajte mi ravnicu,

       D7             G
   jer ja chu se vratiti.

2. Mene zovu moja polja,        3. Joss u sebi ccujem majku,
   mene zovu tambure,              kako tuzzno govori:
   prije nego sklopim occi,       "Kad se jednom vratiss sine,
   da joss jednom vidim sve.       ja chu te ccekati."
   2xR.                            2xR.

I shall try to describe some general principles that are useful for guitar accompaniment. Of course, all that follows applies to any other polyphonic instrument (piano, harmonica), not only guitar. I believe I have some ``qualifications'' after many years of amateur experience (I started to play guitar as a student). This manual (or rather a harmonic cook-book) is a gift four You, if You are a `beginner'. Let me concentrate on two most important things for the guitar harmony:

  1. back-cycling (in Croatian: ~odmotavanje),
  2. parallel chords,
without dwelling into cumbersome theoretical details. We strive to be practical oriented. Don't be scared with what follows. All this is quite easy if you have a minimum of patience.

Comments There are three interesting harmonic points in this song: back-cycling, the role of B7 and Cm.

A request: I don't know if HTML has a `flat' mark. If so, please, do inform me.

Let me add one of my favourite songs, a true jewel in both music and verses, very popular among the Croats and others in Baccka and Srijem. The harmonization below differs considerably from the usual one that we can hear on recorded materials, including also the interpretation of the famous orchestra of Janika Balazz, the uncrowned king of tamburitza (sedam tamburassa Janike Balazza).

Vech odavno spremam svog mrkova

Zvonko Bogdan

   Dm          Gm  Dm   G0 D0 A7Dm  C
1. Vech odavno spremam svog mrkova,

   F            B(flat)   F   C    C7 F  A7
   da se proddem ka    -  som od miline.

   B(flat)  E7     F  D7  Gm    C7      F    A7
   Da      obiddem staze, staze svog djetinjstva, |
   Dm          Gm Dm  C     C7 F A7               | 2x
   Dm          Gm Dm  G0 D0 A7Dm                  |
   za salassom zzelja da me mine.                 |


   F           C
   Nechu visse ichi na tu stranu,
   jer ne mogu suze oku skriti.
   Ili moram tugom okrenuti glavu, | 2x (the same harmonization as above)
   il plakati ili se napiti.       |

2. Nema visse dobrih tamburassa,
   fijakera, snassa, i salassa.
   nema visse konja, konja koji jure,  | 2x
   a u stvari nikuda ne zzure.         |
   (without refrain)

3. Vrag nek nosi moje snove puste,
   divojaccke duge kose guste.
   Vrag nek nosi tugom dobre tamburasse,
   fijakere, pisme i salasse.


Another jewel. Kajkavian verses by Dragutin Domjanic, music by Vlaho Paljetak (born in Dubrovnik!).

Popevke sem slagal

 1. Popevke sem slagal,

      Em   D7 G      E7
    i rozzice bral,

        Am         D7
    i (v)su svoju mladost

         D7        G
    sem drugim ja dal.

 2. Al' zzalost navek sem,
    vu srcu ja skril,
    ni nigdo me zzalil,
    i sam sem tak bil.

    G            G7
 3. Al' v mojem srcu,

        E7        Am
    tam suzah vam ni,

      Cm        G   Em
    i cce mi je tessko

       A7    D7 G
    popevka zvoni.

    Cce siromak sem
    se drugim bi dal
    popevke i srce
    i ne bu mi zzal.

Ova je predivna pjesma unakazzena izvoddenjem Dinamove ``himne''. Spomenutu ``himnu'' smatram najobiccnijim smechem. Za zzaljenje je da Radio 101 skoro svakodnevno izvodi tu bljuvotinu, ccesto i OTV.

I know it would be a fatal mistake not to provide an example for the people from Dalmatia (they are quite sensitive). Here is a nice back-cycling:

C#7 -> F#m -> B7 -> E

Try to harmonize the rest of this exceptional song yourself.


Verses: D. Domjanic, music: V. Paljetak

      G    C     G
1. Za saku dobru recc,

       C     G0    G
   kaj recci si mi znala!

      Am          D7
   Za saki pogled tvoj,

      A7    D7       D
   za saki smeh tvoj fala!

2. Tak malo dobrega,
   v zzivlenju tuj se najde.
   I cce je sunca trag,
   za oblak tak i zajde.

       G  F  E7   Am
3. Jer ti si srcu mi,

   Am       D7    G
   tak puno sunca dala!

       G F   E7     Am
   Kaj morem ti neg recc,

      Am       D7   G
   od seg ti srca fala.
   (repeat 3.)

The song has been rearranged by a well known conductor Emil Cosetto, on the occasion of Tito's death in 1980. It is regrettable that the message of this beutiful, innocent song has been so distorted.

S ponistre se vidi Ssolta

text: Zdenko Runjic
music: O. Dragojevic

    Ssoto voce piva klapa,

         C#7          F#m
    u to gluho litnje doba,

    i prolazi ispod skala

    F#m         B7      E
    di se sussi tvoja roba.

    Do pergula ricci lete,
    tu se misec smije gradu.
    Ti se dizzess iz kocceta,
    da poslussass serenadu.

                    C#7        F#m ...
            S ponistre se vidi Ssolta,
            piva klapa ispod volta.
            U daljini svitle kocce,
            piva klapa ssoto voce.

            Ti se oziress po sobi,
            slika je na kantunalu,
            onceg cha ga more odni
            u dalekem fortunalu.

    Opustila davno riva,
    zatvoreni su portuni.
    Soto voce klapa piva,
    tvoji mirissu lancuni.

    Tiho razmiccess koltrinu,
    zrila si ka litnje voche,
    o ljubavi i o vinu,
    piva klapa soto voce.

            S ponistre se vidi Ssolta,
            piva klapa ispod volta.
            U daljini svitle koche,
            piva klapa ssoto voce.

            Niko neche te kasstigat,
            kad bi skinila korotu.
            Zzivot che te svu desstigat,
            A joss moress dat lipotu.

     S ponistre se vidi Ssolta,
     zzmiga svitlo ispod volta.
     U po volta kada pasa,
     piva klapa ispod glasa.

The further step in harmonization would be to desribe possible alterations within the same (constant) chord, which in fact leads to the jazz harmony. This can be applied even to such a simple song as:

Sinoch kad sam ti prossa

    A          Aj7     A6 Aj7
    Sinoch kad sam ti prossa,

    A       Aj7  F#7     Bm           E
    mimo te bile dvore vidim te dusso Mare.

    D              E
    Vidim te dusso Mare,

                E7  A
    di s drugim govoriss.


which sounds very nice. Here Aj7 stands for Amaj7. Note the back-cycling here too, which is essentially:

F#7 -> Bm -> E -> E

Of course, many songs do not `tolerate' excessive harmonization, which is probably the case with the above song too. Another `extreme' is for instance ``Vu plavem trnaci'', a real (harmonic) challenge.

The accompaniment of the following very nice song can be also be ``sprinkled'' with back-cycling: Em -> A7 -> D, or B7 -> Em -> A7 -> D.

Oj, jesenske duge nochi

Ivan Trnski

    D             Em   A7    D
    Oj, jesenske duge nochi, oj!

    D     B7     Em    A7
    Oj, jesenske duge nochi,

    D           A7           D
    reko dragi da che dochi, oj!

     D       A7     D
    Ccuj me dragi ccuj!

    (repeat last three lines)

In the third line you may also use back-cycling:
    D      Bm  Em     A7     D
    reko dragi da che dochi, oj!

Kad se Tena udavala

          G         B7
1. Kad se Tena udavala,

   C            D7      G
   od ccasse se nisam mako.

        G            B7
   Zzalio sam sudbu svoju,

   C            D7      G
   Danima sam stalno plako.

   Refrain (2x):

   G         B7   C
   Udasse mi moju Tenu,

   Am       D7      G
   Doveli i tamburasse,

   G         E7       Am
   Meni osta samo zzelja

   Am       D7      G
   I neispijene ccasse.

2. Majka vicce: Ssto si bisan,
   zassto konje tuccess sine?
   Pa i drugih cura ima,
   sve su lipe sve su fine.

Uzalud vam trud sviracci

Prljavo kazalisste

Listen to it!

    Bm                 Em
1. Sto put sam se evo zakleo,

   A7            D    F#7
   pred jutro te prevario.

   Bm                   Em
   Drugoj ja sam bagrem nosio,

   A7            D
   tebe iznevjerio.

2. Sto put sam se evo zakleo,
   pa te prevario.
   Sad bih dukate od jada
   D0     F#7      Bm
   Bass u blato bacio.

   Refrain (2x):

   Bm                Em
   A za oblak mi se mjesec skrio,

   A7        D F#7
   sakrio mi pute.

   Bm                  Em
   Uzalud vam trud sviracci,

   Bm    F#7          Bm
   za drugog su dunje zzute.

2. A ja evo nekad sjetim se,        3. Uz pjesmu mi se evo rodimo
   ssto moj chacha znao rechi je,      uz pjesmu umiremo.
   Sveti dusse s idile slavonske,      Slavonijo, tko te nije volio,
   uz pjesmu prebole, al ne oproste.   ne zna ssto je izgubio.


Interesting harmonic passages can be obtained in some of our folk songs using + (or aug) chords, for example in ``Poleg jene velke gore'' or ``Kraj kapele sv. Ane''.

I hope that with these few examples I managed to convince You in the usefulness of back-cycling and parallel chords. You will hear them very often on recorded materials on the radio and elsewhere (just listen carefuly). I assure you that Croatian folk provides an amazing amount of examples for many interesting harmonic mechanisms! If you don't believe, look at:

Meddimurske narodne pjesme

More details can be found in my booklet ``Gitara za radoznalce'' (some libraries in Zagreb possess it). For those interested I must say that at this moment it is not available.

Remark In the literature you will see the song ``Oj, jesenske duge nochi'' sometimes attributed to Branko Radiccevich, which is wrong (this error appears in my booklet as well!) - the author is Ivan Trnski, a Croatian poet.

A final remark (with best intentions): The Institute of Folklore in Zagreb possesses an extremely valuable collection of more than 2000 folk songs collected mostly among the Croats in Baccka and Srijem by dr. Josip Andrich (1894-1967). Unfortunately, they are still unpublished. Maybe this remark will be a necessary impetus to make this invaluable collection accessible to the wider audience, especially to those youngsters playing tamburitza. Our national instrument is an object of the study on the Academy of Music in Zagreb, similarly as done by other nations having their own national instruments.

The most beautiful book I know, devoted to the thorough treatment of Croatian folk songs in Croatia as well as in BiH and Serbia (i.e. on the territory of ex YU), comprising excellent photos of various dances and national costumes, is

dr. Vinko Zzganec: Hrvatske narodne pjesme (Croatian folk songs)

published by Seljaccka sloga, Zagreb 1951, with the parallel text in English. I saw it (to my greatest surprise) for the first time in May 1995. I suspect it was simply removed from our libraries in the fifties, for the reasons we can easily guess.

I would recommend the reader an excellent book, recently published, with a short history of tamburitza and many Croatian folk songs:

For further informations (sheet music, collections etc.) please contact:

We would like to provide several addresses for those wishing to buy top quality tambura instruments (prim, brac = bas prim, etc):