Irish Mandolin with Marla Fibish

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About This Course

Learn traditional Irish mandolin, with an emphasis on playing the dance music of Ireland with an authentic Irish feel and rhythm.

MARLA FIBISH

One of the prominent voices on the mandolin in Irish music, Marla Fibish brings a musicality and excitement to the tradition that is not often heard on the mandolin.

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Her dynamic playing is featured on her recording with the band Three Mile Stone and on The Morning Star, a duo CD with Jimmy Crowley, an all instrumental project that features Irish music on an array of mandolin-family instruments: mandolin, mandola, mandocello, bouzouki, and dordan. In addition to the mandolin, Marla plays mandola, tenor guitar, and button accordion. She sings and writes music and is known for her musical settings of works from a variety of poets. This work is featured in her current duo project Noctambule, with guitarist and husband Bruce Victor. An experienced and sought-after teacher, Marla teaches private students and classes, and has been a staff instructor at many music camps, including the Mandolin Symposium, the Swannanoa Gathering, California Coast Music Camp, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Lark Camp, Portal Irish Music Week, and O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat. Her instructional DVD Irish Mandolin Basics: Tunes & Technique has been a popular self-learning tool, focused on acquiring the foundational technique for playing Irish music on the mandolin.

www.marlafibish.com

www.noctambulemusic.com    

 

 
Irish Mandolin Overview

Latest Irish Mandolin Lesson

Slip Jigs: “Dever the Dancer”  

Slip jigs are an important part of Irish dance music and are distinguished from “regular” jigs by their rhythmic pattern. They are written in 9/8 time, as opposed to the 6/8 time used for double jigs. “Dever the Dancer” is a good first slip jig to learn because the melody really emphasizes the 9/8 rhythm. With Notation/Tab and Play-Along Track 

Mandolin Lessons

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IRISH MANDOLIN BASICS

  • Irish Music on the Mandolin Marla talks about the role of the mandolin in Irish music, its evolution as a traditional Irish instrument, and her own approach to playing Irish music on the mandolin. Mandolin is a relatively new instrument in Irish music, appearing during the 1960s folk revival and played by great musicians like Mick Moloney and Andy Irvine, with bands like Planxty and the Johnstons, and it has grown since then. Irish dance music has primarily developed on instruments that produce a sustained tone, such as the fiddle, Uilleann pipes, flute, etc., as opposed to instruments like the mandolin with more of an “attack and decay” approach to creating sound. Marla explains that, as plectrum players, mandolinists face a unique challenge to figure out how to get the same feel as instruments that produce a sustained tone. And she talks about creating a different rhythmic feel with the picking hand for each kind of dance rhythm, and the importance of listening to a lot of music to understand the feel of the music.
  • Marla’s 1922 Gibson A-Model Mandolin Marla Fibish’s 1922 Gibson A oval-soundhole mandolin is always close at hand. For over 35 years, Fibish has owned the mandolin that she fondly recalls her grandfather playing in the 1960s and ‘70s, and it has become a key element of her musical voice. Gibson A models from this era are a common choice in Irish music circles, despite the mandolin being a relative newcomer to the music. As Marla demonstrates, Gibson A models have a characteristic ringing tone and sustain that fits in well with the more traditional instruments like fiddles, pipes, and button accordion that are commonly found in Irish music. In this video, Marla talks about how she came to own the family heirloom, the origin of much of the wear on the instrument’s top, her preferred setup, and the pick she’s used for over 15 years. She also plays the Irish jig, “Humours of Ballyloughlin.” 
  • Picking-Hand Technique Irish music is dance music, so creating a solid rhythmic feel is essential. In this lesson, Marla gets you started thinking about your picking-hand technique, explaining alternate picking (or as she calls it, “rhythmic picking”) and showing you a good basic picking motion for your picking hand. She talks about stressing the downstrokes to get the underlying rhythm for an Irish reel, and gives you a picking exercise for practicing putting a stress on the backbeat. You’ll also learn an exercise based on the rhythm of the tune “Hernando’s Hideaway” to get your hand moving in the baseline rhythm of whatever tune you’re playing, so you don’t need to think about whether you should be playing a downstroke or an upstroke.
  • Introduction to Reels, Part 1This lesson builds on the picking-hand exercises you learned in the last lesson by introducing you to reel rhythm. Marla starts with a “broken thirds” scale exercise, playing it through a couple times slowly, so you can play along with her. Then she incorporates the broken thirds into a rhythmic exercise similar to one you did in the lesson picking-hand technique. Marla also gives you advice on fingering, such as leaving your fingers down for maximum sustain until the next note rings.
  • Introduction to Reels, Part 2: “Anything for John Joe” In this lesson, you’ll learn the reel “Anything for John Joe.” It’s what is often called a “half reel” or “single reel,” meaning there are only 16 measures in the whole tune. Marla starts by playing “Anything for John Joe” through a couple times and then takes it apart slowly, phrase by phrase.
  • Introduction to Reels, Part 3: “Anything for John Joe” Play-Along Track Marla plays “Anything for John Joe” through slowly, so you can play along with her. 
IRISH REELS    
    Paddy's Gone to France
  • B Minor Reel: “Paddy’s Gone to France,” Part 1 The first part of the Irish reel “Paddy’s Gone to France” is in the key of B minor, the relative minor of D. It’s another 16-bar tune, or “single reel.” Marla explains how to use the D major scale to play in the key of B minor and talks about how it’s common for Irish tunes to mix the relative minor with its major counterpart. Then she starts by breaking the A part down for you slowly, phrase by phrase, showing you how to accentuate the B minor tonality. 
  • B Minor Reel: “Paddy’s Gone to France,” Part 2 After learning the first part of “Paddy’s Gone to France” it’s time for the second part, which starts in the key of D. Marla breaks it down, phrase by phrase, and finishes by playing the whole tune through slowly and then at a medium pace, so you can play along with her. 

    The Man of the House

  • E Minor Reel: “The Man of the House,” Part 1 There are many Irish tunes in the key of E minor, including the reel you’ll learn in this lesson: “The Man of the House.” But in Irish music, the key of E minor is usually a little different than the natural minor scale. It uses the D major scale again, like the other reels you’ve learned, but this time starting on the E note, the second step of the D scale, which creates the E Dorian scale. Marla shows you the E Dorian scale, which is usually just called E minor in traditional Irish music. In many E minor tunes you’ll need to play the E at the second fret of the D string and the B at the second fret of the A string with the same finger, your index finger. Marla shows you a technique for flattening (or barring) your index finger at an angle that will help you play many E minor tunes, including “The Man of the House.” She calls this the “E minor squeeze.” In this video, Marla walks you through the A part of “The Man of the House” phrase by phrase and then plays the whole A part slowly so you can play along with her.
  • E Minor Reel: “The Man of the House,” Part 2 You’ll learn the B part of “The Man of the House” in this video. Marla walks you through each phrase and then plays the whole B part slowly so you can play along with her. She also talks about the small variations in a tune that are normal for people to play without significantly changing the tune.
  • “The Man of the House” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Man of the House” slowly and then at a slightly faster tempo so you can play along with her.

    The Beauty Spot

  • D Mixolydian Reel: “The Beauty Spot” Another variant of the D scale often used in Irish music is the D Mixolydian scale, which flattens the seventh step of the scale, so the C# becomes a C natural. Marla shows you the D Mixolydian scale and talks about the underlying harmonic structure of Mixolydian tunes. Then she breaks down the melody of the D Mixolydian reel you’ll learn in this lesson: “The Beauty Spot.” She plays each phrase of the A part slowly, and then plays the whole part so you can play it along with her. She also shows you a couple of minor variations. Then she breaks down the B part, phrase by phrase and ends by playing the B part through slowly. 
  • “The Beauty Spot” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Beauty Spot” slowly and then at a slightly faster tempo so you can play along with her. 

    The New Mown Meadow

  • The G Scale and Its Related Modes In this lesson, Marla reviews the modes and scales you’ve learned so far. From the notes of the D scale, you learned tunes in D major, E Dorian and B minor. She talks about the scales and modes used by traditional Irish instruments, and then reviews the G major scale, along with its companion modes, A Dorian, E (natural) minor, and D Mixolydian.
  • D Mixolydian/G Major Reel: “The New Mown Meadow” Now that you’re thoroughly familiar with the G major scale, you’ll learn a reel that bridges the gap between D Mixolydian and G major in this video: “The New Mown Meadow.” The first part of “The New Mown Meadow” has a D Mixolydian sound, while the second part has a G major sound, even though they use the same notes. Marla plays the tune through and then starts breaking it down, phrase by phrase, beginning with the A part. Marla also gives you advice on some tricky fingering in the tune, including a “lean” where you lean your finger to play notes at the same fret on adjacent strings.
  • “The New Mown Meadow” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The New Mown Meadow” slowly and then at a faster tempo so you can play along with her.

     The Crooked Road

  • G Major Reel: “The Crooked Road,” Part 1: G Scale Exercises “The Crooked Road,” sometimes called “The Crooked Road to Dublin,” is in the key of G major. Marla starts this lesson by giving you some scale exercises using the G scale, including a “broken thirds” exercise you learned for the D scale.
  • G Major Reel: “The Crooked Road,” Part 2: Melody You’ll learn the melody to “The Crooked Road” in this lesson. Marla shows you each phrase slowly, and then puts them together at a slow speed so you can play along.
  • “The Crooked Road” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Crooked Road” slowly and then at a faster tempo so you can play along with her.

    The Dunmore Lasses

  • E Minor Reel: “The Dunmore Lasses,” Part 1 In this lesson, you’ll learn another E minor reel, “The Dunmore Lasses,” but unlike the first E minor reel you learned, “The Man of the House,” which is in E Dorian, “The Dunmore Lasses” uses the E natural minor scale, which has the same notes as the G major scale. Marla starts by showing you the E natural minor scale and explains the difference between the E natural minor and E Dorian. Then she shows you the melody of the A part of “The Dunmore Lasses,” phrase by phrase. 
  • E Minor Reel: “The Dunmore Lasses,” Part 2 You’ll learn the B part to “The Dunmore Lasses” in this video. Marla starts by talking about some of the minor variations you’ll find in Irish tunes, and then shows you the melody of the B part of “The Dunmore Lasses,” phrase by phrase.
  • “The Dunmore Lasses” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Dunmore Lasses” slowly and then at a faster tempo so you can play along with her.

    Sporting Paddy

  • A Dorian Reel: “Sporting Paddy The popular Irish reel “Sporting Paddy” is in the key of A minor, or more specifically, A Dorian, another variant of the G major scale. Marla shows you the A Dorian scale and then walks you through “Sporting Paddy,” phrase by phrase.
  • “Sporting Paddy” Play-Along Track Marla plays “Sporting Paddy” at a medium tempo so you can play along with her.

    The Feel of the Reel

  • The Feel of the Reel In this video, Marla talks about the “feel” (also called “swing” or “lift” or “lilt”) of Irish reels, in which the downstrokes are a little longer than the upstrokes. Marla demonstrates how to do this by playing with a relaxed wrist, so that the upstroke is the “return” stroke of a weighted downstroke. 

    The Monaghan Twig

  • A Mixolydian Reel: “The Monaghan Twig” So far, you’ve learned reels using all the modes in the G and D scales, except for one: A Mixolydian, which starts on the fifth step of the D scale. Marla shows you the A Mixolydian scale and then teaches you a reel using that mode: “The Monaghan Twig.” The phrasing of the B part of “The Monaghan Twig” almost sounds like it’s “crooked,” having an uneven number of beats or measures, but it’s not. In this video, Marla takes you through each phrase of each part of the “The Monaghan Twig,” giving you time to play along with her as she goes. 
  • “The Monaghan Twig” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Monaghan Twig” at a medium tempo with triplets so you can play along with her.

    Introduction to Triplets

  • Introduction to Triplets You’ll learn about adding Irish triplets to tunes in this lesson, using “The Monaghan Twig.” Marla talks about the technique of playing triplets with the pick, as well as where to put triplets in the tune and the rhythmic implications of the triplet. Then she shows you how to put triplets in “The Monaghan Twig,” including triplets played on one note, on a “moving” phrase with two notes, and also shows you how to add a percussive sound to the triplet by muting it slightly with your fretting hand.

PLAYING IN SEISIUNS AND CREATING SETS

  • Playing in Seisiúns and Creating Sets Marla gives you advice about the etiquette and traditions of playing in an Irish seisiún (generally pronounced the same as “session”), and creating “sets” of tunes. She talks about some common sets,  how to be prepared for tunes to change within a set, and how to create your own sets.
  • Practice Set #1: “The Beauty Spot” / “The Monaghan Twig” / “Sporting Paddy” Use this video to practice playing “The Beauty Spot,” “The Monaghan Twig,” and “Sporting Paddy” in a set. 
  • Practice Set #2: “The Man of the House” / “Anything for John Joe” / “The Crooked Road” Use this video to practice playing “The Man of the House,” “Anything for John Joe,” and “The Crooked Road” in a set. 
  • Practice Set #3: “Paddy's Gone to France” / “The Dunmore Lasses” / “The New Mown Meadow Use this video to practice playing “Paddy's Gone to France,” “The Dunmore Lasses,” and “The New Mown Meadow” in a set. 

IRISH JIGS

    Intro to Jigs

  • Introduction to Jigs, Part 1 In this introduction to playing jigs, Marla shows you the right-hand picking pattern (down-up-down, down-up down) she uses to play jigs, which are in 6/8 time. Marla explains the jig rhythm and the importance of accenting the first and third beats of the three-note patterns. You’ll also learn a number of simple exercises that will help you practice the jig picking pattern so you can become comfortable with it before you start learning jig melodies.
  • Introduction to Jigs, Part 2 You’ll learn even more jig-picking exercises in this lesson, including some scalar exercises that start incorporating more of your fretting hand.

    My Darling Asleep

  • My Darling Asleep The first jig you’ll learn is called “My Darling Asleep.” Marla starts by showing you another jig exercise that uses broken thirds and that will be helpful in learning “My Darling Asleep.” Then she walks you through each part slowly, phrase by phrase.
  • “My Darling Asleep” Play-Along Track Marla plays “My Darling Asleep” at a medium tempo so you can play along with her.

    Donnybrook Fair

  • Donnybrook Fair, Part 1: “Unders” Exercises The Irish jig “Donnybrook Fair” is also called “Joy of My Life.” Before Marla starts teaching it, she shows you another jig exercise that she calls “unders,” in which the middle note in the jig trio of notes is the note under the first and third notes. This will help you as you learn the melody to “Donnybrook Fair,” which has a lot of “unders.” 
  • Donnybrook Fair, Part 2: Melody Once you’ve practiced your “unders,” it’s time to learn the melody to “Donnybrook Fair, which starts with a couple of “unders.” Marla shows you both parts of the melody slowly, phrase by phrase. 
  • Donnybrook Fair, Part 3: “Overs” Exercises “Donnybrook Fair” also includes some “overs,” phrases in which the middle note of the jig trio of notes is the note above the first and third notes. So Marla shows you an “overs” exercise much like the “unders” exercise. 
  • “Donnybrook Fair” Play-Along Track Marla plays  “Donnybrook Fair” at slow and medium tempos so you can play along with her.

    The Lilting Banshee

  • The Lilting Banshee, Part 1: Broken Thirds Exercises “The Lilting Banshee” is a very well known jig and should be familiar to musicians at any Irish seisiún. Marla starts by showing you another jig exercise, this one using broken thirds or “stairsteps.” 
  • The Lilting Banshee, Part 2: Melody Once you’ve gotten warmed up with the broken thirds exercises, you’ll learn a jig that starts with that pattern: “The Lilting Banshee.” Marla plays it through and few times and then breaks each part down, phrase by phrase. She ends by playing the whole tune through at a slow tempo so you can play along. 
  • The Lilting Banshee, Part 3: Variations Marla talks about how to vary a jig while not venturing too far from the melody, showing you how she varies a few three-note phrases in “The Lilting Banshee.” 
  • “The Lilting Banshee” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Lilting Banshee” at a medium tempo, with some variations, so you can play along with her. 

    The Gander in the Pratie Hole 

  • The Gander in the Pratie Hole, Part 1: “Delays” Exercise Before showing you the melody to “The Gander in the Pratie Hole,” a jig in the key of D Mixolydian, Marla gives you another jig exercise, this one using what she calls “delays,” a melodic technique in which you get to the melody note an eighth note late. 
  • The Gander in the Pratie Hole, Part 2: Melody The great jig “The Gander in the Pratie Hole” is in the key of D Mixolydian, which uses the flatted seven—the C natural—in the scale. The tune also uses the C# in the ending phrases, giving it a little lift in those sections. The first part is a little tricky, because the pickup note can sound like the downbeat. But Marla gets you oriented and then walks you through the melody of each part phrase by phrase, giving you the chance to play tune along with her slowly as she goes. 
  • “The Gander in the Pratie Hole” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Gander in the Pratie Hole” at a medium tempo, with some variations, so you can play along with her.

    Banish Misfortune 

  • Banish Misfortune, Part 1: Muting Exercise The popular Irish jig “Banish Misfortune” is a good tune for working on keeping the jig rhythm moving even when the melody is a quarter note or even a dotted quarter note. Marla starts by giving you an exercise in which the middle note of the three-note jig rhythm is muted or stopped by a finger on your fretting hand. 
  • Banish Misfortune, Part 2: Melody “Banish Misfortune” is in D Mixolydian and has three parts. Marla breaks each part down phrase by phrase, showing you a few rhythmic and melodic variations and giving you a chance to play along with her as she goes. 
  • Banish Misfortune, Part 3: Variations Once you have the basic melody, Marla gives you some ideas for playing different variations on the third part of “Banish Misfortune” that allow you to keep the jig rhythm going.   
  • “Banish Misfortune” Play-Along Track Marla plays “Banish Misfortune” at a medium tempo (and then a little faster), with some variations, so you can play along with her.

    The Killavil Jig

  • The Killavil Jig It’s in E minor, but “The Killavil Jig” doesn’t use a C or C#, so the scale is really a six-note (hexatonic) scale. It also uses what Marla calls the “E minor squeeze,” in which you have to flatten your index finger on the D and A strings at the second fret. Marla gives you advice on getting clear notes with “the squeeze” and then walks you through the tune, phrase by phrase.
  • “The Killavil Jig” Play-Along Track Marla plays “The Killavil Jig” at a medium tempo (and then a little faster), with some variations, so you can play along with her.

SLIP JIGS

    Dever the Dancer

  • Dever the Dancer Slip jigs are an important part of Irish dance music and are distinguished from “regular” jigs by their rhythmic pattern. They are written in 9/8 time, as opposed to the 6/8 time used for double jigs. “Dever the Dancer” is a good first slip jig to learn because the melody really emphasizes the 9/8 rhythm. Marla starts this lesson by explaining the slip jig rhythm and the feel of the three groups of three eighth notes, noting the slight secondary emphasis on the last group of three. Then she takes the melody of “Dever the Dancer” apart, phrase by phrase.
  • “Dever the Dancer” Play-Along Track Marla plays  “Dever the Dancer” at a medium tempo (and then a little faster), with a few variations, so you can play along with her.

Irish Mandolin Source Material

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