Thank you for joining me in my Irish Mandolin course! I'm looking forward to helping you learn how to play this beautiful music on mandolin.
by Marla Fibish
March 09, 2016
Hello mandolin players! Thank you for joining me here on Peghead Nation. In my Irish Mandolin course, we'll explore the nuances of playing Irish dance music with an authentic feel and rhythm on the mandolin, focusing on jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and other forms. You'll get comfortable with creating the rhythm with your right hand, and as you learn melodies, we'll explore some of the ornamentation that gives the music its signature lilt and feel. Please leave your questions and comments here. I look forward to working with you!
If you have questions about the course or a specific lesson, or want to request a lesson from your instructor, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments and Discussion
There is a section of three lessons within the course that focus on the music of O'Carolan -- in particular PLanxty Hewlett, O'Carolan's Draught and THe Princess Royal. Additionally I discuss my approach to mapping this amazing music onto the mandolin. Check it out -- let me know if it begins to get at what you're looking for. I will likely be adding more lessons on O'Carolan in the future.
Thanks for your question. It's a good one, and a complicated one. Working from tabs, or from notation, one has to take the additional step of committing the tune to memory. When you learn by ear, you are actually learning the tune, not a visual representation of it, and then you know it. That is not to say you will have full and total recall of it immediately, but you are using a different part of your brain to learn the melody. Mapping that melody onto the instrument is the process of learning the instrument, but you will already know the tune if you can sing it (in your head or out loud) and over time, with experience on the instrument, your ability to take a melody that is in your head and map it onto your instrument grows. Tab simply represents how to play a melody on a specific instrument (in a specific tuning). It is a mechanical blueprint. Then you still have to learn the melody, or memorize a series of fingerings to produce it.
Tab can be useful as an adjunct to your learning. When it is hard to hear exactly what is happening, or you are unable to glean where to place your finger to make the note you are hearing, the tab is very handy! But I do not recommend using it as your primary means of learning a tune.
Now this may seem daunting, but if you will humour me and try to learn the next lesson primarily by ear from the video, I would love to hear about your experience. Give it a try - it's a skill that gets easier over time -- and it opens a very large world of music to you! Keep me posted, please!
My best, Marla
I am very new to the mandolin and decided to check out Irish mando before any other style. I do read music, but am using the tabs at this point. I'm wondering if I should be making a concentrated effort to memorize the tunes. I'm hoping repetition will cement the tunes in my brain, but perhaps I shouldn't be moving on to other lessons until I have committed them to memory. Any advice on this score would be appreciated. Thank you for your work! Jae
I'm glad the camera angle was helpful to you on the previous lesson! During the lockdown, we are stuck doing single-camera shoots, and with only one camera going we need it to be focused a bit straighter on, so you notice that change in the new lesson. We'll be back to multiple cameras one of these days!
Thanks so much for dropping me a note. I am honored to be helping you through this nightmare we're all living through. That means a lot! It is certainly a good time to absorb oneself in an endeavor. I wouldn't worry much about making mistakes when you play. The lovely thing about Irish music is that it is played in sessions, where one of your session mates is always there to keep the tune going when you stumble. Everyone stumbles. Perfection is not the goal, enjoyment is. :-)
The phenomenon of making more mistakes when you pay closer attention is not surprising, and quite common. It is the over-developed over-intrusive and insecure cerebral cortex butting into your flow state - thinking it knows better, when so much of what actually goes into playing music takes place at deeper level, in the domain of procedural memory, like walking, speaking, singing. As each new skill gets incorporated, it requires less 'thought' freeing up the thinky parts to help, and often to hinder, your musical expression!
So don't sweat it -- enjoy the ride!
All the best, Marla
Just wanted to say hello. I’m really enjoying your lessons, I’m glad I found them and they’re keeping me going during these strange times we’re in. I’m learning a tune every few days and I’m on the last of the reels so I feel I’m building up a nice little repertoire. I do find it frustrating that I can rarely play a piece all the way through, however fast or slow, without a mistake and it seems the closer attention I pay to it the more likely I am to stumble. Still, I’ll carry on playing along.
So thank you, Maddy.
Thanks so much for reaching out. Glad to have you in the Peghead Family! Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions as you work through the lessons.
All the best, Marla
I have just discovered Peghead Nation and my big regret is that I did not find you sooner! I'm taking the Irish Mandolin, the backing guitar and beginning mandolin. Just wanted to say hi and thanks.
Santa Clarita, California
Ah, "A Fig for a Kiss" is the name - I could not understand name of the tune just by listening to the video. Maybe it could be put into the summary text? Like: "The lesson ends with Marla playing 'A Fig for a Kiss', ...". One would not have to browse through all the reactions for the name of the tune, then.
Sounds like you got seriously bit by the Irish music bug! Wonderful! Don't worry, the more tunes you learn, the more you internalize about the music, and the tunes begin to organize themselves in your head quite well. Before you know it you will know hundreds of tunes. You won't necessarily be able to call them up by their names, but that's what sessions are for - someone will know that tune you're tying to think of!
Just curious -- what is the tune you were referring to in your message?
Enjoy! My best,
I'm so glad you're enjoying the course! And what a great question, thanks for asking!
To address it -- You do not need to be able to play your reels faster before moving on to the next lessons. Building speed is a process that happens over time. As you continue to build your skills, you will feel improvement in all of the tunes you play.
As you progress, remember that smoothness, sustain and clarity are more important than speed. If things sound choppy or get jumbly when you bring up the tempo, it means you are playing faster than you are ready to play.
It sounds like you have a great practice routine going. Keep up the great work, and feel free to ask additional questions!
All the best,
I am new to playing an instrument, and have been working my way through your course for the last few months and really enjoying it! I live in a rural area without access to any teachers so this is helping me a lot. I just have one question though; I have come to the end of the reels and have no trouble playing each tune at the practice speed at the end of each lesson. I just can't seem to get the speed for the sets of session tunes without missed notes. I am working on getting up to that speed, and also getting the triplets down, which I think will help. What I want to know is if it is OK to go on the jigs if I don't have that speed down? I like learning new songs, and go through them all every day. I would like to keep learning new ones while working on speed an accuracy, but I wasn't sure if that was a skill that had to be mastered first.
Thanks so much!
All the best,
I have enjoyed your lessons here for the past couple of years. I love hornpipes and am glad we are getting into them. Not sure how many you will teach, but two that I would like to learn are The Home Ruler and Kitty's Wedding.
I just love it when people answer their own questions! :-) Seriously though, do let me know if questions arise as you work triplets into your jigs.
All the best,
I'm pretty comfortable with triplets in reels, but I've never really tried putting them in jigs. I noticed that you add a few in the play along tracks for the jigs, but I'm not quite sure how you're playing them even playing the video at half speed. Are you playing them UDU, or DUD? Can you give some advice on placement of triplets in jigs?
I'm so glad you're enjoying the course! To answer your questions --
The pick I use is an old worn Clayton acetal 1mm. I've been playing with this particular pick for probably 20 years or so, so it is worn to a rounded shape and to my bevel. I have noticed that the newer acetal picks are not as smooth as mine is, so they have a bit of a rougher attack. The Wegen M100 picks are pretty much the same shape and bevel. The only thing you aren't getting by your approach is the bevel, which assists in a smooth attack. :-)
And good question about the New Mown Meadow. I first learned it in E/A, but quickly realized that, at least in my session, it's more commonly played in D/G. Pipers and flute players will prefer the D/G setting. String players will love the E/A combo. Enjoy it in both keys!
Thanks again for the note.
I do have a couple questions.
1) What pick are you using? You mention it's got rounded corners, and I've seen a lot of those online. What's the specific brand and model? What's the thickness? I've been using the rounded corners on a standard 1 mm teardrop pick.
2) You play the New Mown Meadow in D Mix / G major. Is that the most common key for that tune? I learned it and then realized my session plays it in E Mix / A major. It wasn't that hard to re-learn it in that key. The B part is actually easier in A.
Thanks so much for sharing the link to the Open Music Theory website. I read the bit on 'suspension' and yes, it accurately describes the timing of the technique I call delay. It seems primarily concerned with the harmonic framework (when the chord changes or resolves), which is not necessarily a factor here, but it nails the technique from a melodic perspective. Thanks! -Marla
Thanks for bringing up the notion of "delays" -- a technique I use but hadn't thought about what to call it. Looking around a bit, I think the term "suspension" has the same meaning. See what you think of this explanation of "suspension" on the Open Music Theory website: http://openmusictheory.com/embellishingTones.html
I'm so glad you're enjoying the course! Thanks for your thoughts on another term for the technique I am referring to as 'delay'. I use the term 'anticipation' to mean something else -- when a note comes before (anticipates) the beat, or the place we are expecting it. In the technique I am demonstrating, the note we are expecting on a certain beat doesn't occur until after the expected spot -- is delayed -- rather than anticipated. I suppose it leaves the listener with a feeling of anticipation -- wondering when on earth will she play that darned note!? ;-)
So glad you are enjoying our forays into theory! I would be happy to delve into it more at our upcoming camps. See you very very soon!
Best to you both,
was also a certified Suzuki violin teacher) - Anticipation. The listener is expectiong usually the beat note si his/her attention is alerted ;-)
I am totally fascinated by all this chord theory and how to apply it. I am slow at picking it up and so I hope you will be including some of this in your camp classes this year and beyond. It's all so fun! See you at Portal and DNA.
All the best,
I really enjoy this course. As I continue to work at it, I find that I'm learning new tunes by ear more quickly. I think that I've forgotten them but when I hear the beginning of the tune, I can jump in and play. So, the tunes are lurking somewhere in my spotty memory.
Thanks for all the classes, Marla.
Thanks for your note! I'm delighted you are getting your right hand feeling the music. I hope that leap, and it's a big one, opens up more music, and joy in playing it to you!
Thank you so much for your note. I am more than honored to be a part of your journey back to full health. Music is healing in countless ways, and making music an order of magnitude moreso! I am so happy that you started this journey, and wish you much happiness along the way!
Hi Marla, I am so new at this music journey as I call it. Went through a season of breast cancer and now I am left with it seems half a brain. I started this journey of mine to help my brain make new pathways and wow, is it working. You teach just at the right speed and you have so much fun energy. I also bought a fiddle and am using your lessons to play it as well. Thank you for your time and effort!
My best, Marla
Apologies I have been slow to get your great question! The rhythmic picking is the most important thing to get under your figurative belt from the get-go. Once you get it, then you can focus on other things and it will take care of itself -- but it does take some time to get it. I recommend you put away the tab, and do the exercises, by ear, along with me. Go ahead and download the MP3 files, and practice along with them. Slow them down if you need to until you can play them in rhythm along with me.
As you practice, notice:
- that your picking hand is moving continuously in rhythm - that when a note is held for more than one beat (eighth note), your hand continues to move, doing ‘ghost strokes’ where no new note is struck.
- that your fingering hand is getting the notes to sound clearly, and holding the pressure on the string so that they continue to ring until the next note sounds.
- that you are not changing your rhythmic picking when you cross strings.
- that your stroke is relaxed and big, and don’t worry about hitting more than one string!
Please let me know if this helps! Best of luck, and welcome to the mando family!
You have it EXACTLY! And not just for the reels -- this applies to the other forms too - jigs, waltzes, etc.! And it is a great question about applicability to other forms of music. Though I cannot claim expertise on other forms, my gut says that it would apply to other forms of dance music -- Old Time, Quebecois, etc. - that rhythmic motion creates a pulse in the music. Pretty sure it applies to bluegrass as well (a form derivative of dance music) but likely not to classical mandolin. Try watching videos of great players in multiple genres - it should be immediately evident! Thanks for the great question. All the best, Marla
I think this is the case, but it is Important to keep the right hand moving rhythmically throughout reels, correct? In other words, just because I am not striking a string with my right hand does not mean that I should stop moving it rhymically, correct? Is this important to just Irish music or is it good practice in all forms of music on the mandolin?
Marla here. Once again, time got away from me and it has been a while since I responded to your questions and your posts. So here goes...
Thank you so much for your kind comments. I love to teach this music that I love, and I am deeply gratified to hear that this course is giving you access to the music!
My apologies, but Morgan Magan is not in my repertoire (yet!) It is a beautiful tune - I will have to learn it!
I have had a few requests to talk about chords in the lessons, and I have begun to add this to the discussion of the tunes in the lessons that I am recording now. In Irish music there are not specific chords that go with a tune. The music is not always accompanied at all, and when it is, there is a great deal of discretion in the hands of the accompanist, who can shade a tune in many ways with their harmonic and rhythmic choices. What I have begun to include in the lessons is some discussion of ways that a mandolin player might add harmonic elements to their playing of a tune. Though it is not our primary role in playing this music in a session, it is fun to add a bit of accompaniment from time to time.
Wondering whether there are folks in the greater Austin, TX area who might be interested in an afternoon get-together (regular or ad hoc) to play tunes together? Leave a response here on the blog, and I will connect you to the person who is asking!
My best to you all for a happy thanksgiving!
Just joined your course and am enjoying it! A request, please include the chords for your selections.
I deeply admire your musicianship and your passion for the instrument/music. I listened to a couple of your albums as well. With the great ones, there is always a sense of wisdom present in the sound and style. Thanks for sharing this course. It seems to be quite rare. I am not finding anything else online like it.
I could not be more delighted to get your post! So wonderful that you have been bitten by the bug, and have found a way to pursue your passion! I wish you many many happy hours spent playing Irish music. Welcome!!
I am slow again at getting back to you. Back home after nearly a month in Ireland - a fabulous trip it was!
So...Nancy - I will be seeing you next week and we'll take a close look at your pick grip. My apologies that we haven't managed to get a close-up photo posted yet.
And hello Colin - nice to hear from you! Thanks for your suggestion to talk about chording a bit as I teach the tunes -- I will begin to work that into subsequent lessons, and yes, I will be recording some lessons on O'Carolan tunes this week! They'll be out starting in October.
And hi Anne! Whelan's jig is not composed by John Whelan. Apparently it is associated with the playing of Tommy Whelan, a flute player from East Galway. It is unclear whether he wrote it.
Anything I missed? Best to you all, Marla
Really enjoying the course, even though I have been doing this for a while, I needed some discipline as you noted at Swannanoa a few years back, and especially while recovering from ankle surgery I have been getting as much out of playing along with the lovely "feel" you have, and getting back to basics. Really helps to try to stay away from the banjo :) Here is another request to add a little bit on chords for each tune (even just YOUR favorite choices on the sheet music and then later in more detail. You know, because sometimes it's just you and the fiddle....(and a dozen other reasons).
Oh...and second the O'Carolan calls! More! More! (Thank You)
I am late in responding to some of your thoughts and questions, so here goes!
Anne, I can't wait to hear your polkas and what you are doing with hornpipes, and yes, the checklist is a great tool, though I cannot take credit for it! We can thank the thoughtful folks here at Peghead for that!
Nancy, Yes, it is important not to have too much pick sticking out, as the tail can wag the dog, so to speak. I will get with the Peghead team to find out how I might go about posting a photo, or a still from one of the videos that shows my grip well. So, please standby for more on that.
And Rick, what a nice suggestion to learn Eleanor Plunkett, and thank you for your kind comment! We haven't delved into O'Carolan's music at all yet, and we will definitely need to go there. I have a somewhat different approach to playing O'Carolan that is not shared by all. ;-) I treat it like I do other types of Irish music and enjoy interpreting it and varying it in a personal way. Many people feel that his music should be played 'as written.' You can find notation of the tunes at http://www.oldmusicproject.com/occ/tunes.html and other places, but I am happy to share my take on some of the tunes if I will be forgiven my interpretations!
I think I know how to do those up triplets, some of them are quite ok but a slow lesson on that point is worth it
To Jim A -- Mr. Nygaard is a skillful editor! I often display a wicked 'tune-face' like so many of us, but Scott knows when to switch to the camera trained on my hands! It is true, but it is also true that 'tune-face' is usually a sign that the player is not relaxed - at least it is in my case. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the experience and you will smile too. If not yet, soon!
To karlec50 -- I'm glad you figured it out! Standard notation was not designed with modes in mind other than major (Ionian) and natural minor (Aeolian) - it can be tricky learning tunes that are in other modes from standard notation!
To james.rankine -- I'm delighted to hear this -- enjoy the polkas!
Co-Founder, Editor, Engraver, Transcriber
In the Little Diamond polka, when you play the first triplet, as it's written in the sheet music, do you really play B C A ? Even if the C note is slightly touched ? Because I'm hearing (and find easier to play) A B A.but I would prefer to play it as you think it must be played ;-)
Yes your explanation is very clear and you focused it very well in the latest beautiful polka The Little Diamond. Now I have all the elements to get into it.
Many thanks, it helps me a lot :)
Yes, your question about the slide is clear. I use my ring finger to slide, and I only do a slight slide and then release it. With my pick I strike the open E string as well, so that it continues to ring. So, the slide is really a grace that introduces the clear sound of the open E string. Does that make it clearer? :-)
Your F style mandolin will play any kind of music you like! Though there is a 'general preference' for A style mandolins in Irish music, this is not dogma, and there are many fine players who play an F style to great effect. I think the 'preference' is partly based on the rounder tone of the A style instruments-- which can allow the player to treat it a bit more like a fiddle, if you will, aiming for the sound produced by the bow. F Style mandolins are designed to be more punchy and percussive - a sound that can also be favored in Irish music - leaning more toward the style of the tenor banjo. I think the 'preference' is also partly based on adoration of the early icons of the mandolin in Irish music -- Andy Irvine, Mick Moloney, etc., the mandolins they played (and still play) and the style that has evolved from their initial popularization of the mandolin in the tune playing tradition.
Anne - great idea! We are overdue for some sets in general -- polkas and other forms!
I have a question about the slide effect on the A string to get the E note, most of the time, I rarely get the E note.
I know that you already explained how to do it but I don't remember, which finger is sliding ? Is it the middle or the ring ? And does it go to the E note on the A string or just slightly slide ?
I hope I'm clear...
I'm glad to work on polkas.
Beautiful first one with Charlie Harris's polka.
I remember that I have started listening Irish music with that Kevin Burke album "Up close", many many years ago. The set of polkas that Kevin Burke is playing on that album is very punchy, very pleasant to hear.
During that polkas's period, may I ask you to teach us a set of polkas ?
I have a F- holed mandolin, will this work with Celtic music??
Those days, I find that my right hand is going crazy...I mean, I don't know why but bad movements on that right hand have came keeping me from playing nicely...
Sometimes you don't look after your technics until the day you find your sound becomes less beautiful
So...I have reviewed the "Picking-hand technique" lesson to slow down and refind the basics.
And then back to playing slowly some tunes, paying attention to the right movement.
And yes, Anne, that's a really good observation -- fear of stumbling can absolutely interfere with the act of playing with others. It can keep us from listening, accommodating, taking risks, etc. I hope that in watching the video you were comforted by my stumbles, which, if you didn't hear them as such, just watch my face!
that was a really interesting lesson with lots of food for thought! I love this Irish course anyway, but this was really a treat. Thanks to both of you!
Thanks for that new lesson "Playing in a Duo", it's full of good advices, very useful, I have to listen to it again and again because there's a lot of informations.
Yes, very useful, above all the fact that you have to listen to your partner, which I confess, I rarely do...so focused on my playing, not because I love the way I'm playing, but when I'm playing with others I'm always afraid to stumble (yes ok Marla, you are saying so often that's not a big deal... it's true but...you know...) and then I don't open my ears towards my colleagues...
I have personally loved that lesson and hope there will be others like that, I mean it's very pleasant when you and Dale are playing a set, so we can play with both of you, and I love so much Dever the dancer...nice set with Hunting the hare.
I’m so enjoying your wonderful lessons.
Thanks so much,
I'm going to try to answer your questions, but first I think we had better define "back-beat," as I'm not sure we're using the term in the same way. When I say 'back-beat' I am referring to a place in the rhythm of an Irish Reel. If you count a measure of all 8th notes "1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and" there are four downstrokes in that measure 1,2,3 & 4. (All the "ands" are upstrokes). Of the four downstrokes, 1&3 are the primary beats (the ones on which you tap your foot), and 2&4 are the back-beats.
So yes, the backbeat is always there - it is part of the rhythm of any reel. Does Anything for John Joe articulate a melody note on every back-beat? Almost. Everywhere except the second-to-last measure of the B part, where the High A is initiated on the "3" and held through the backbeat (for a dotted quarter note, or three counts).
I know I have not addressed all of your questions, as I am not understanding them all given how I define the backbeat. Let me know if this definition has helped clarify some things, and I'm guessing you'll have follow-up questions. I will try to answer them!
What tune(s) (Slide or jig) would you suggest to play with An Choisir ?
Very nice slide, very pleasant to play :-)
Thank you so much for your comments. I'm sooooo glad you are finding the course so helpful, and I think you're right, it IS better than my DVD! Seriously, I have given much thought to how to structure the progression of the course here on Peghead. The platform gives me a great opportunity to build a set of skills from the ground up, and to continue to build on them over time.
Interesting suggestion for a mandolin/mandola accompaniment course. I will bounce it off the kind folk here...
All the best,
I'd also be super-interested if you could persuade the friendly folk round there at Peghead Nation to hire you to make an accompaniment/back-up course (with mando & mandola). And maybe not only Irish stuff, but more Noctambulish also.. (though I'd be a happy subscriber with either style).
Take care, God bless.
-Juha from Finland
To answer your question, I would rather measure beats per minute (bpm) than base it on the speed adjustment scale of the video interface. You can use a metronome, or a metronome app to get a feel for the speeds I mention.
For reels I will reference comments I made in the blog in April of last year...
"There is a wide range of tempos at which Irish tunes are played. And this will vary from session to session, from player to player, and even from tune to tune (some tunes like to meander, and some like to soar!) It is only when we are actually playing for dancers that the tempo needs to be within a certain range. For example, reels might be played anywhere from 90 to 125 bpm. They need to be closer to 115/120 for the dancers, but I find playing at a tempo of 95/100 to be a much more musically fulfilling experience."
Pretty much the same tempos apply to jigs - and, not surprisingly, I prefer them on the slower side!
A metronome tip I have found helpful, is to set your metronome to 1/4 time for both jigs and reels, so that it only beats the primary beats. In a reel, it will beat on the first of each set of 4 eighth notes, in a jig it will be the first of each set of three. Since the metronome is not beating out any in-between beats, there is no conflict between the evenness of the metronome and the somewhat weighted pulse of the music.
I hope this helps!
On the videos there is a speed parameter. Very useful to work the speed.
According to you, depending on the type of the tune of course - reel, jig - what would be a "normal" "right" speed ?
Jigs : 1.25 ? 1.5 ?
Reels : more ?
Well... it's just to have an idea, for myself, sometimes I can reach 1.25 but it is often to the détriment of the position of my right hand, so...I have to be careful, even if I think it's a good thing to work that speed.
Thanks for the answer
All the best
Everything you present is so crystal clear that I am already up to Banish Misfortune. I am learning tunes at an amazing rate. I now understand how to put sets together and even spontaneously put one together while practicing flute one day. I am having so much fun with my mandolin, thanks to you. It's so relaxing to sit out on the front porch on a cool evening and play all the tunes that come into my head. Can't wait to head down the road to Portal and try out some tunes in the sessions and with you.
Thanks for teaching on Peghead!
I do rest the heel of my hand (on the pinkie side) on the E-string side of the bridge. That is somewhat unusual though. Many people will rest the heel of their hand (on the thumb side) on the G-string side of the bridge. I feel that the position I use gives me a wider range of motion, making it easier to stay in continuous motion. You might try experimenting with that. You may find you need to let your right shoulder relax and drop to get into that position.
Yes, Scully Casey's - I love that tune. I play it in Em (Dorian). I learned that setting from Laurence Nugent's 'Two for Two' recording (which is referenced on irishtune.info). I realized later that more people play it in Am, but I really like it down in Em. :-)
Editor and CoFounder
The tab is incorrect for the end of the B part of the Kilavil Jig in case you want to correct.
Love the course.
Anne - This may sound counter-intuitive, but you might find it easier to play the up/down/up triplets by trying it faster, rather than slower! Get your right hand going in the jig rhythm. Make sure you are relaxed and flowing, and that your stroke is big enough so that you are in continuous motion, that your upstroke is a return stroke from your downstroke - there is no stop in your motion. Then, once you are really grounded in the rhythm, try throwing in the triplet as a natural embellishment of your upstroke - let it be light, like the upstroke naturally is. Think of it as leading the ear to the downstroke that will follow on the next beat. Let me know if this helps at all!!
Thanks for A Fig for a Kiss. I requested it almost a year ago, and it was worth the wait. It's a great tune-I hope other students like it.
Thanks too for tips on pick direction and making your playing sound better.
Great tune A Fig for a Kiss ! I love so much those slip jigs...Do you now plan teaching The Humours of Brandon ? I love that set figuring on your CD The Morning Star.
I have difficulties with the triplets played on jigs, on the second quaver, my difficulties come from the "up/down/up" of the pick, i have to work on it slowly because this action is not natural. I'm more comfortable on the "down/up/down".
It's a lovely jig called The Quilty Shore, also known as Scully Casey's. It is most commonly played in Am, but I like it and am playing it there in Em. Here's more about it -- https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1734/
What's the tune you only play the A part to in your Irish Mandolin Overview video clip?
Hello Caroline - So glad you enjoyed the lesson, and it sounds like you have reached a level in your playing where the tunes are making sense and coming to you more easily -- which is not just a comment on my teaching, you know! :-)
I do use a lot of double-stops in my playing - mostly just by hitting open strings along with the melody. I don't know to what degree I call them out in the prior lessons, but even if I do not, I bet if you go back and re-listen to the opening segments of each lesson and the play-along tracks, you will hear some that you might be able to incorporate into your own playing. Going forward, I will be sure to call attention to double stops that I tend to use in the tune that I am teaching.
Here's a fun thing to try -- when you are playing in D, try widening your stroke on your right hand and playing the melody so that all the down-strokes hit both the D and A courses. When the melody is on the D string, there will be an open ringing A string to accompany it; when the melody is on the A string, there will be a lovely D drone... Have fun!
I would like to add my thanks for your great lessons. I have lots of tuition video tapes and DVDs but they have never quite fired my learning engine in the way that you have. It takes great skill to teach well and we are lucky to have you guiding us through these wonderfully melodic Irish mandolin lessons.
Very beautiful slip jig with Dever the Dancer, it's amazing how you can change a very simple tune in a colourful and in an up-tempo dance with all the variations. These lessons are very very helpful.
Thanks for your great feedback on the course. I'm so glad you have gotten so much out of it! Just so you know, the course is ongoing -- new lessons are added every month! In March we will be starting on some slip jigs. I plan to get to other types of tunes as well. Everything builds on the right hand techniques you learn for the reels and for the jigs, so I have started there so that everyone gets a solid foundation. More is coming! :-)
Just wanted to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing each section in this course.
I think what really helped me along was paying attention to the "modes" or understanding the variation of the tune relative to its key. If you know the mode then its easier to add passing notes or improvise a little.
The triplet/treble section was extremely helpful.
I'm working on adding double stops and had a lot of fun with Trip to Durrow adding ds.
Finally the emphasis on rhythm straightened things out quite a bit. Just thinking about rhythm helped to moderate my speed and it was needed!
Long way to go but knowledge helps!!
In the next course if you could consider adding some sections on what we should know about O'Carolyn, harmony in ITM (is it used and is it legal?) playing Airs,barn dances, slip jigs, slides etc.,List of required tunes to know among all forms.
Well I just wanted to say thanks!
Yes playing at a pace beyond my ability is something I'm good at! I shall heed your advice - slow down, slow down!
But since you asked... :-) I noticed that you are losing a bit of tone and clarity because your left and right hands are not always completely in synch. My suggestion would be to slow the tempo down a bit to practice, really paying attention to getting each note to sound clearly. I can always hear the clipping in my own playing when I am not warmed up enough, or know the tune well enough to play it at the tempo I am attempting it.
I hope this is helpful and encouraging - you are getting a really nice feel in your playing! Onward!
Great course - you're really helping me get the pulse of the reel into my mandolin playing - I usually play tenor banjo in sessions and find this easier.
I've recorded Dunmore lasses - any criticism greatly received.
Tell me - what would you be seeking in a second class at Peghead?
I was thinking of trying to diversify and push the mandolin using GDAD just a bit but I don't want to be a Bouzuki either (at least not this week.)
I like the open drone sound! Very pretty. Maybe for certain tunes as accompaniment with a little melody mixed in.
D Ionian songs mainly? Where to begin?
Will you be running a second class at Peghead soon?
And hello Paula! That is a question I have not been asked before. I think, given that we use the same standard GDAE tuning as the fiddle, many of the tunes are built around the tuning - they use the range of the instrument, leverage the open strings, etc. For playing the tunes as a melody player, I would not be inclined to explore open tunings in the way that Old Time fiddle players do. That tradition uses open tunings quite a bit, and though it is not my area of expertise, I believe that is related to the huge role and influence of the 5-string banjo in that music.
I have explored a bit of using open tunings on the mandolin for song or tune accompaniment, where having open ringing tones is more important than having all the notes within easy reach for a fast moving melody! GDAD is very sweet for that purpose.
That was a bit of a ramble - let me know if I've addressed your question!
Any thoughts on using alternate tunings for playing ITM on Mandolin?
I just joined Pegheadnation at the suggestion of a friend. I have been looking for Irish mandolin online lessons for quite awhile now, so I am excited to be a new member. I love that you have your grandfather's old mandolin. My grandfather played the mandolin, as well, and I would thrill to have his old mandolin if it were around.
I received the following question from one of the course participants, and I think the question is very likely on others' minds as well, so I thought I would share the exchange here:
Q: How do I find my place at an Irish session if the other instruments are so loud I can't hear myself play? Do I just stop playing? I love the low growl of the Tenor Banjo, the voice of the fiddle, but I don't think I would hear myself play? Do I search for a quieter Session?
So yeah, hearing yourself in a session. This is something that mandolin players struggle with. There are many small things you can do to make it easier...
First of all, make sure your house is in order — that your instrument is well set up — that the action is not too low, that your strings are heavy enough to get good projection — and that you are using a heavy enough plectrum to get good volume and tone from your instrument (I suggest around 1mm).
When you are playing at home, note that by angling your instrument slightly toward your face, more sound comes to your ears. This also makes a space between your mandolin and your body, which allows the back of the instrument to vibrate more freely, allowing for more volume. If you play with a strap and don't rest the instrument on your lap, this will be hard to do, but using a toneguard could help. Toneguards: https://www.google.com/search?q=mandolin+tone+guard&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
Finally, position yourself in a session so that you can hear yourself. If you find yourself to the right of a banjo or accordion player, it could be difficult. Ask if they mind trading seats with you so that you can hear yourself better, or just (politely!) move away from them. Try moving to the back of the session, where you are behind most of the sound and will be better able to hear yourself while you are gaining confidence and skill. So much of the session experience depends on where you are sitting which dictates what you can hear. Experiment!
Other thoughts anyone would like to share?
The Derry Hornpipe is not a tune that I already play. I just gave it a listen. It provides a good opportunity to practice your arpeggios! In the next series of lessons I will be going into slip jigs, and will get to hornpipes after that...
I just wanted to suggest for another time the Derry hornpipe, have you already played it ?
I have found it on the Foinn Seisun vol 3 : https://comhaltas.ie/shop/detail/foinn_seisiun_3/
All the best
So glad you are enjoying the course! Yes, I will record some sets of jigs soon. Just planning my next lessons, so your suggestion is well timed!
All the best,
Very happy to have subscribed to your Peghead Nation lessons, there's a lot of fun playing all your tunes, will you post also sets of jigs ? It's so pleasant to play along with you on those sets.
Thanks again for being so present every day when i'm playing my mandolin.
You are right - this is dance music. Paddy's Gone to France is a reel, and were you playing for dancers, a tempo of 112-120 bpm would be appropriate. When playing in sessions, the tunes do not need to be at dance tempo, and many of them are well served by playing them a little slower, particularly for a mandolin player. My happy place is around 100 bpm. I find I can be more musical at that tempo than at dance tempo. But playing them faster has its merits too! Hope this helps.
And thanks for your comment about scale patterns and modes. I'm glad you are finding that helpful!
I really enjoyed learning "Paddy's Gone to France". Since Celtic music is often "dance music", I suspect this would be played at a much faster tempo. How fast should we play this if we were the musical accompaniment for Celtic dancers? How many BPM on a metronome?
Much to respond to here! I will be heading into Peghead studios shortly to record the next lessons for the class, and though I hate to disappoint you, we will be delving into jigs next. Polkas and slides, though in many ways 'simple' tunes, are not simple to play on the mandolin without more experience under your belt, and a good understanding of when to use your 'jig right hand' vs. when to use your 'reel right hand.' So, we are going to spend some time exploring jigs and developing the jig hand before getting there. Patience!
My understanding of the name 'Paddy's Gone to France' is as a reference to actually going to France to fight in the Napoleonic wars, which many Irish did, as sympathizers with the Napoleonic cause. Most who joined perished in the fighting - perhaps that is a more serious connection between the two titles. Just conjecture here. No claim to any actual knowledge.
Thanks for the note and for hanging in with the class!
A Fig for a Kiss is a great tune! Yes, I will plan on teaching it down the road a bit when we get to slip jigs. Thanks for the request!
Your timing is amazing! I was in Peghead Studios earlier this week recording a batch of new lessons, and one of them directly addresses this question. Though I'm not sure what you mean by cheater triplets, and whether you are making a distinction between triplets and cheater triplets, I think you have the basic idea. You can replace any two consecutive 8th notes that start on a downbeat (either the primary one or the backbeat), with a triplet. Doing so is very common when the two 8th notes in question repeat the same note, and you will hear this all over the place in Irish music played on the mandolin and tenor banjo. It's a great starting place for learning to add triplets into your playing, and exactly where I start in the lesson. So, hang in there! Scott - will that lesson be posted in July?
Thanks for the great question!
Thanks for this great course on the Irish mandolin.
Do you plan on teaching "A Fig for a Kiss" anytime in the future? I've always liked the tune, and you do fine job on it in your youtube video with Jimmy Crowley on the Humours of Bandon Set.
Is it okay to use "cheater triplets" in any place in a reel where the same note value is repeated 2-3 times in a 4-note group? For example, could the "ADDD" opening of "The New Mown Meadow" be played with a triplet on the back beat;i.e., "AD(3DDD"? And could the "GGAG" sequence in the 4th measure of that same tune be played as "(3GGG AG"? I'm not sure my use of ABc notation is correct or clear at all but I hope you can figure out my question! Thanks.
So glad you are enjoying the lessons! To answer your questions...
The Morning Star is a wonderful tune and I would be happy to teach it. If you are referring to the version I recorded, that is an unusual setting of the tune -- most people don't play it that way. It would be more useful to learn the 'standard' version, or maybe I should teach both!
As far as strings go - I use GHS strings - their medium sets come in the gauges that I like to use: 11-16-26-40. Many medium sets of various brands have a 15 on the A string, but I find that a 15 does not give me a big clear tone on the A string. Typically I use the bright bronze, but have tried their phosphor bronze and their silk & steel as well. For me, the metal/alloy doesn't make a huge difference, as I prefer them 'broken-in' to new. I like to hear the sound of the wood of my instrument, rather than the sound of the string itself, so I am not a frequent string changer. Sometimes I will just change my As & Es if they lose their tone, and leave the wound strings in place for longer.
To some degree, the brightness comes from the choice of plectrum - I use a 1mm thickness. Using a thicker pick can reduce the brightness of your sound.
I hope this is helpful!
1) can you do a lesson on "the morning star"
2) what gauge and brand of strings do you use, and how often do you change them. Your sound always seems so bright!
I have one suggestion. Might you provide some idea of what speed tunes like this might be played at during a session? Either by playing through at speed or offering a metronome count. I see videos of Irish sessions and they are often breakneck speed. So some discussion of how these are played in vivo, as it were, would be great.
Thank you again.
All the best, Marla
Maybe you're going to add them later but I would find having chords with fingering placed on the sheet a helpful addition.
Gordon Alexander <
When demonstrating a particular picking or other fingering style (ex: rhythmic picking) it would be easier to see if you perhaps had a tighter camera shot (zoom in a bit) on the hand. I am no spring chicken (pushing 60) so my vision isn't all it used to be. Thanks so much. A big fan from Alaska.
I also liked her discussion of the Gibson A Style mandolin, in another segment she did. There was a lot of depth to what she had to say and it was very informative for those of us who are still thinking about what kind of instrument to own.
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