DADGAD Guitar – 2nd Session (Week 2)

I think this may have been the first week where I didn’t have any new chords to show you, but perhaps that is somewhat deceptive. Why do I say that? Because we learned a tune instead, and just like the root key or tonic is the anchor to what chords one would use, the tune is what provides the clues as to which particular chords could be appropriate. For example, when you listen to a tune, do certain notes stand out as important ones that might dictate a chord choice while others are just passing fancies or ornaments? Something to consider as you listen to tunes and try to figure out accompaniment.

We worked this week on the A part of the jig, “The Green Fields of America”. Note that there is both a reel and a jig with this name (and there are a few similarities of the tunes despite the different rhythm). Interestingly enough, when I went to find the notation for the tune, it appears that it is better known by the name, “Maid in the Meadow”. But Eamon taught it to us as the former tune name, and I heard it a few weeks later played by Tony DeMarco when he came through Charlottesville on tour, and he also called it GFA, so it may be that it goes by that name in New York. Yes, I know, another area where there seem to be no definite answers (and while I’m at it, recognize that the notation does not exactly match the way I played it – things to be worked out in a session!). We’ll work on the B part in class after Thanksgiving, but here’s your chance to get ahead!

Listen to Green Fields of America (aka Maid in the Meadow – jig).

I also mentioned in class how I royally screwed up an accompaniment the other night. Just to review what happened… someone broke out a new tune… I quickly figured out the key… adjusted my capo and was playing along more or less fine… A part, repeat A part, B part (phew, no key change… held back on my first strum), repeat B part… thought to myself… great, got it… and came in strong on what I presumed would be going back to the A part of the tune. Instead what I found was a big fat C part with a key change! Wow did that sound miserable and I never recovered. So this was clearly a tune created to put the accompaniment player in his or her place… and it did. So learn from my lesson, while you can play the odds (most tunes are AA BB same key), sometimes that doesn’t work out so well 🙂 Seems like a good segue-way to talk a bit about the structure of tunes in case this area is somewhat new for you. So here’s a brief discussion.

Structure of Tunes

Most Irish tunes follow an “AA BB” form and most of the time, both parts of the tune are in the same key. What do we mean when we say “AA BB”? This means that a tune consists of two parts of generally equal length, an A part and a B part. Generally, one would play each part twice, thus the AA BB notation. So, for 60-70% of the tunes you’ll hear, you are likely to follow this form. Now, if you saw a tune that was AA BB CC, that would be a three part tune. If you saw AA B, that would be a tune where the A part was played twice and the B part once.

In addition, each part could be broken into phrases. For example, a typical A part might have 4 phrases. Interestingly enough, some of these phrases may be repeated in the tune. For example, the first phrase of the A or B part is often identical to the third phrase in the same part. Sometimes, the 2nd and 4th phrases are the same. Finally, in some tunes, the 4th phrase in the A part is the same as the 4th phrase in the B part, and so on. While you can’t count on this (and I won’t venture a guess as to percentages), as the guitarist (or a melody player), it can help you pick up the tune and appropriate accompaniment earlier. Interestingly enough, you might choose to play a different accompaniment on two phrases that are identical to provide a different sound to those parts! But at first, you may find it easier to repeat the same chord pattern that you find pleasing on parts with the same melody before changing things up. As you gain experience, alternative patterns become more second nature to substitute.

Drowsy Maggie

Thanks to Sophie for covering Alex’s class last night. She reviewed several tunes with us and taught us Drowsy Maggie, which I will always associate with Marie Borgman who played the heck out of this tune. The bowing on this one made my head spin. Not a good state to be in before teaching my guitar class. [Speaking of which, this would be a good one for my guitar students to work out – key change, but otherwise, fairly straightforward].

Listen to Drowsy Maggie (reel).

DADGAD Guitar – 2nd Session (Week 1)

Thanks to those who continued on with the DADGAD class. This past week we reviewed reels using accompaniment to Silver Spear (D maj) as an example. I chose Silver Spear for a couple of reasons. One is that it is a fairly common tune and often one of the first reels that students will learn to play. Second is that from an accompaniment perspective, it is a fairly blank slate as tunes go. So it is a great tune to try out different progressions and use chord substitutions to make it more interesting.

Play along with Silver Spear

One important concept that I wanted to re-emphasize here in the blog is the idea of changing your intensity with the phrases as another way to change the feel of a tune and to give the tune more energy. I think the ending phrase (both the A and B parts) of Silver Spear is a good place to add intensity with the chord changes. Try it and see what you think!

I also introduced (yet) another D progression. This progression probably keeps the D feel more than others and is really just stepping down the scale from D / C# / B# to D. Kind of like a descending base line in folk music except that here you’re doubling it up and leaving the base note (D) unchanged. Here is the fingering for the progression.

[Remember that in some tunes the 4th chord is more appropriate to go to A (single finger) rather than D. You’ll just have to trust me on that and listen for it!]

In the 2nd half of class we talked about hornpipes using The Boys of Blue Hill as an example. Again, this is a very common hornpipe, and straightforward in the chord options. Thus, a good one to work on for the rhythm. We discussed the difference in rhythmic feel between a hornpipe and a reel with the two primary differences being the lilt (or pointed to quote Guy) and the strong finishing 2 beats at the end of each A and B part. You will also hear a greater use of triplets in hornpipes than other tunes (a triplet is basically putting three equally spaced notes where two eighth notes usually would be played… see if you can find them in the recording of Boys of Blue Hill).

Play along with The Boys of Blue Hill

Try the boom-chuck (or boom-chick if you’re Susan) approach and perhaps my alternative approach emphasizing those two strong down strokes on the last two beats. Once you’ve got the rhythm working well for you, then try working on this next tune which was taught to Alex’s fiddle students a couple of weeks ago. This has some less standard chording, and will provide a good challenge for you to work on this week. We’ll discuss some options you might use in next class.

Play along with Napoleon Crossing the Rhine

[sorry about the quality… only had time for one take before work… I’ll try to redo if I get a chance]

For more on the differences between hornpipes and reels, I stumbled upon this article yesterday. Also looks like an interesting on-line magazine on all things diddly. Note the underlying rhythmic structure he provides at the end of the article. Probably accounts for why triplets are so often used.