IRISH BACKUP GUITAR

with Flynn Cohen

Sponsored By

About This Course

Learn to accompany jigs and reels and other traditional Irish dance tunes in the style pioneered by Irish guitar greats Paul Brady, Mícheál Ó Dhomhnaill, and Dáithí Sproule and used at Irish seisiúns. With chord voicings, rhythm patterns, and practice tracks.

FLYNN COHEN

Acoustic guitar and mandolin player Flynn Cohen has performed all over the world with many notable acts in traditional and contemporary acoustic music. He can be seen in concert with the American folk band Low Lily (formerly known as Annalivia), and legendary Irish accordion player John Whelan, as well as in duo shows playing music from his four solo albums.

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Flynn has also performed with Ruth Moody, Halali, the Sevens, Aoife Clancy, Cathie Ryan, Lawrence Nugent, Dylan Foley, Skip Healy, Joe Derrane and Frank Ferrel, John McGann, Matt Glaser, Brian Wicklund, Tony Watt and Southeast Expressway, Adrienne Young, Jake and Taylor Armerding, Laura Orshaw, Duncan Wickel, Gail Davies, Jilly Martin, Malibu Storm, Bruce MacGregor, Lissa Schneckenburger, Laura Cortese, Mark Simos, Matt Heaton, Women of Ireland, the Vancouver Symphony, the Orchestra of Indian Hill, Revels, and Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, among others. He has performed at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

A former guitar student of John Renbourn, Davey Graham, Scott Nygaard, and Paul Binkley, Flynn has degrees in music from Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England, and Mills College in Oakland, California. He taught for many years in the Music Departments at Keene State College in New Hampshire and Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

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Watch the video above to get a taste of what you’ll learn in Flynn Cohen’s Irish Backup Guitar course.

Sample Irish Backup Guitar Lesson

The Jig Rhythm, Part 1

The 6/8 jig rhythm used in Irish traditional music is unique and has a specific strumming pattern and a particular feel. Flynn demonstrates the pattern and gives you a couple of exercises to help you get used to the pattern. With Notation/Tab

Irish Backup Guitar Lessons

 An Irish Backup Guitar subscription includes: 

  • A step-by-step approach to mastering Irish backup guitar technique
  • New lessons and tunes added every month
  • Tab/notation and/or chord charts for all lessons
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
  • Play-Along Tracks so you can practice what you’ve learned

Get started now! Use promo code FlynnLand at checkout and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription. Subscribe to the Irish Backup Guitar course today for access to all of these guitar lessons and new material every month!  

IRISH BACKUP GUITAR BASICS

The Evolution of Irish Backup Guitar Flynn talks about the evolution of guitar in traditional music and demonstrates the styles of some of its pioneering practitioners. The guitar was first used by guitarists Paul Brady, Mícheál Ó Dhomhnaill, and Dáithí Sproule, in Irish folk bands in the late 1960s and ’70s. Paul Brady’s style, as heard on recordings with Irish instrumental stars like Tommy Peoples, Matt Molloy, and others in the 1970s, as well as his own solo recordings, was very influential. He usually played in dropped-D tuning and used a muted right-hand strum with small chord voicings up the neck and often imitated the sound of the regulators on the Uilleann pipes. Mícheál Ó Dhomhnaill and Dáithí Sproule both played in DADGAD tuning, and that tuning became very popular among Irish backup guitarists. Mícheál is known for his playing with the Bothy Band and others, including some influential recordings with fiddler Kevin Burke. While they both play in DADGAD, Dáithí’s and Mícheál’s styles are very different, but they both influenced the way guitar is played in Irish music seisiúns today.

Irish Backup Guitars and Gear Flynn talks about the guitars, picks, strings, and capos that are commonly used for Irish backup guitar. He shows you what he uses (Elixir medium-gauge strings, .60- or .73-gauge Dunlop picks, Shubb or Kyser capos) and why. He also talks a bit about practice tools he uses, including metronomes and Amazing Slowdowner and Anytune software.

Flynn’s Martin 0018V Guitar Flynn talks in more detail about his guitar, how and why he got it, and the electronics he uses to amplify the guitar.

Chord Voicings in Dropped D Dropped D is among the most common tunings used in Irish backup guitar. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to get into dropped-D tuning and some basic chords voicings in the key of D. The most common D chord voicing you’ll use is a D5 chord, which doesn’t have a third. Flynn shows you a few voicings of this chord as well as voicings for A and G chords.

BACKING UP REELS

  • Backing Up Reels, Part 1: Picking-Hand Technique and the Reel Rhythm Flynn demonstrates his picking-hand technique in this lesson, using the basic rhythm you’ll use to play reels. He shows you how he holds the pick, what kind of pick he uses, and how he keeps his wrist loose. Then he shows you a basic strumming pattern for reels that comes from Mícheál Ó Dhomhnaill, giving you advice on accents and which strings to damp.
  • Backing Up Reels, Part 2: “The Tulla Reel” Flynn shows you a chord progression for backing up the popular tune “The Tulla Reel” (also known as “The Humours of Tulla.”) using the major chords in the key of D: D, G, and A.
  • Backing Up Reels, Part 3: “The Tulla Reel” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “The Tulla Reel” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • Backing Up Reels, Part 4: “The Red-Haired Lass” Flynn shows you a chord progression for backing up the reel “The Red-Haired Lass,” which is in the key of G and uses the major chords in the key of G: G, C, and D.
  • Backing Up Reels, Part 5: “The Red-Haired Lass” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “The Red-Haired Lass” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.

 THE JIG RHYTHM

  • The Jig Rhythm, Part 1 Jigs are the other most commonly played dance form in Irish traditional music. The 6/8 jig rhythm is unique and has a specific strumming pattern and a particular feel. Beginning jig players often use an alternating picking pattern, but to get the right feel, it’s usually better to use a down-up-down, down-up-down pattern. Flynn demonstrates the pattern and gives you a couple of exercises to help you get used to the pattern.   
  • The Jig Rhythm, Part 2: “The Rambling Pitchfork” Flynn shows you a chord progression for backing up the popular jig “The Rambling Pitchfork” using the major chords in the key of D: D, G, and A.
  • The Jig Rhythm, Part 3: “The Rambling Pitchfork” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “The Rambling Pitchfork” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • The Jig Rhythm, Part 4: “Out on the Ocean” Flynn shows you a chord progression for backing up the popular jig “Out on the Ocean,” which is in the key of G and uses the major chords in the key of G: G, C, and D.
  • The Jig Rhythm, Part 5: “Out on the Ocean” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Out on the Ocean” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.

MODAL KEYS 

  • Modal Keys, Part 1: D Modal Reels Flynn explains the concept of “modal keys” in Irish music and gives you a couple of examples of modal tunes to play in the most common modal keys: D modal and A modal. In D modal, you’ll use D5, C, and G chords, and Flynn shows you the chord progressions for the modal reel “Famous Ballymote.” You’ll also learn a nice voicing for a C chord you can use when playing modal tunes in D.
  • Modal Keys, Part 2: “Famous Ballymote” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Famous Ballymote” at a medium tempo along with Flynn as he plays the tune on the guitar. 
  • Modal Keys, Part 3: D Modal Jigs D modal jigs are some of the most characteristically Irish sounding tunes in the style. In this video, Flynn shows you the backup part to “Garrett Barry’s” jig, which changes chords a little more frequently than the other tunes you’ve learned. 
  • Modal Keys, Part 4: “Garrett Barry’s” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Garrett Barry’s” jig at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • Modal Keys, Part 5: A Modal Flynn shows you how to play in A modal, which includes A, D, and G chords, using “The High Reel.” He also shows you how he damps the lowest string (D in dropped-D tuning) when he plays A chords. 
  • Modal Keys, Part 6: “The High Reel” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “The High Reel”  at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.

MINOR KEYS AND PASSING CHORDS

  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 1: A Minor In this lesson, you’ll learn to play in minor keys and use passing chords. The two most common minor keys in Irish music are A minor and E minor. Minor tunes in Irish music often use what’s called the Dorian mode in classical music theory, but most Irish musicians just refer to them as minor tunes. Flynn explains the Dorian mode and the difference between it and the minor scale, and how that affects the chords you use to backup minor tunes. In A minor, you’ll primarily use Am, G, and D chords. Flynn shows you a version of the D chord (D/F#) that you’ll use as a passing chord to the G and then teaches you the backup to the A minor reel “Dan Breen’s.”
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 2: “Dan Breen’s” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Dan Breen’s” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 3: “Scatter the Mud” In this lesson, you’ll learn to play a jig in A minor: “Scatter the Mud.” The progression is similar to “Dan Breen’s,” using Am, G, and D/F# chords with one variation. 
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 4: “Scatter the Mud” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Scatter the Mud” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 5: E Minor There are a lot of great Irish tunes in E minor. Flynn starts by showing you the Em chord voicing he plays in dropped D, as well as the other chords you’ll use in E minor, D and A, and then shows you the chord progression to the reel “The Drunken Landlady.” 
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 6: “The Drunken Landlady” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Scatter the Mud” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 7: “Morrison’s Jig” “Morrison’s Jig” is the first tune that many people learn when they’re starting out playing Irish music. It’s also in E minor and uses the same chords as you used for “The Drunken Landlady” with the addition of a G chord. 
  • Minor Keys and Passing Chords, Part 8: “Morrison’s Jig” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Morrison’s Jig” at a medium tempo along with Flynn and mandolinist Marla Fibish.


See Other Peghead Nation Courses

Irish Backup Source Material

Check out these source recordings for tunes featured in the Irish Backup Guitar course.

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