Lessons

  • Lesson 90. Thousand Farewells Occasionally Tony will pick up a tune that just seems to feel so natural to play, so easy on the fingers, it rolls off the musical tongue so to speak. This is one of those tunes. It’s eerie but it’s as if Ryan composed this for guitar. It’s the perfect range for the guitar, played ...
  • Lesson 89. Shoemaker’s Daughter “Shoemaker’s Daughter” is a composition of legendary Cavan fiddler Ed Reavy (1897-1988). The A Part of this tune is played in a G Mixolydian Mode, whilst the B Part is in G Major. Transcriptions in Irish music of tunes that change to different modes that retain the same Tonic Note often, mistakenly, use the same key ...
  • Lesson 88. Scatter the Mud “Scatter The Mud” is a tune sometimes played in E Minor but this version is in the more common A Minor (Dorian mode). Tony has arranged this version for Open A tuning (EAC#EAE) but we have included a version in standard tuning for those who wish to stick with the standard tuning.
  • Lesson 87. St Patricks’ Day The tune is in jig time (6/8) but is a set dance and is played considerably slower than normal jig tempo. However, other than tempo, all the “rules” that apply to jigs apply to this tune.
  • Lesson 86. Saddle the Pony A very well known tune, so much so that it is played by musicians outside of the Irish music genre. the standard key is G, but Tony transposed it to A Major on the banjo, then started playing it on the guitar in Open A major tuning and came up with this arrangement. The book also includes ...
  • Lesson 85. O’Rourkes As much as Tony would like to claim credit for this composition it’s not his to claim. This tune was in circulation a long time ago. This tune is normally played in A mixolydian so you will need to capo on the second fret.
  • Lesson 84. Forget Me Not Some musicians play this tune in C, others in D. Tony plays it in D on the banjo but in C on the guitar. For this lesson the capo is on 2, thus it’s in D. In the podcast, Tony talks about the importance of listening to other versions of any tune you are learning.
  • Lesson 83. O’Carolan’s Receipt for Drinking This tune is sometimes known as “Dr. John Stafford”. The tune begins on a C chord. For the accompaniment Tony plays and holds a bass note and then, instead of a full chord, he plays the notes of a chord individually. Tony mentions a lovely harp rendition by “SaulHarp2″ on YouTube.
  • Lesson 82. Mulllingar Races Tony describes how to play a triplet on the lower (thicker) strings when describing how to play this reel.
  • Lesson 81. Máire Rua Máire Rua, translated as “Red Haired Mary”, is a slip jig in G. The B Part of the tune moves into a D Mixolydian mode but as this mode contains the same notes as G Major, that is one sharp (F#), there is no need to change the key signature. The tune moves back to G ...
  • Lesson 80: Garden of Daisies The Garden Of Daisies is a set dance and is played in hornpipe time, but somewhat slower than your average hornpipe. Note that the tempo on the recording of Marie Walsh is the correct tempo for tunes of this type.
  • Lesson 79. Coalminer’s Reel Here we have a tune in Open A (although in the book you’ll also find a version in regular tuning.) The Open A tuning Tony uses is, from the lowest string to the highest: E A C# E A E.
  • Lesson 78. Castlebar Races, and Mouse in the Mug These two tunes are both in G Major and coincidentally have the same three notes at the beginning. The first part of Castlebar Races is played in open position, the second part almost entirely in third position; that is the first finger is positioned at the third fret. It is also used to play any F# ...
  • Lesson 77. McFadden’s Handsome Daughter McFadden’s Handsome Daughter is an A Major tune but for the guitar Tony plays it in G with capo on the 2nd fret. The tune is a composition of John McFadden (1847-1913).
  • Lesson 76. Kid on the Mountain This slip jig moves between E Minor and G Major. The E Minor parts of the tune use the Natural Minor Scale rather than the Dorian Mode.
  • Lesson 75. Crossing the Shannon This tune is sometimes known as “The Funny Reel” and is played in D. On the guitar Tony plays it in C with the capo on the 2nd fret.
  • Lesson 74. Boys of the Town There is at least one other jig known as “Boys Of The Town”, starting on a high G (3rd fret, 1st string). But this “Boys of the Town” starts on a middle G (open 3rd string). The two tunes are quite different and in no way related.
  • Lesson 73. An t’Athair Jack Walsh “Athair” is the Irish word for “father”, and the Anglicized title “Fr. Jack Walsh” is often used as the title for this tune, as is “Tatter Jack Walsh”. The tune is played in the D mixolydian mode and thus contains the same notes as a G Major scale. A cursory glance at the chords used in ...
  • Lesson 72. Yellow Tinker The “Yellow Tinker” is a tune in the G mixolydian mode. In other words the scale used is a C Scale but played in the key of G. The tune is associated with the playing of Galway accordionist Joe Burke , and perhaps because of Burke, it is very popular and widely played. The first and third ...
  • Lesson 71. Swedish Jig (or Arthur Darley’s) The “Swedish Jig”’”, sometimes known as Arthur Darley’s, is a most unusual tune. In the first part of the tune a time signature change occurs in bar 7 from the standard 6/8 to a 9/8, just for one bar, before reverting back to 6/8. In effect you play an extra half a bar. Also the first part ...
  • Lesson 70. Sonny’s Mazurka Polish in origin, mazurkas are not very common in Irish music. Sonny’s Mazurka is arguably the most well known of the mazurkas played in Ireland. As mazurkas are written in 3/4 time the rules that you use for waltzes also apply to mazurkas. In this tune most of the bars have a crotchet on the first beat ...
  • Lesson 69. Old Blackthorn This tune is one of those lovely 16-bar reels in the key of D Major, of which there are many in Irish music. Structurally it is a very simple tune, containing only three chords. You may experience some difficulty in the first bar when going from the first D triplet then having to immediately cross over ...
  • Lesson 68. O’Carolan’s Draught One of the better-known compositions of the great Turlough O’Carolan. Tony has set this arrangement in 4/4 rather than 2/2 or “cut” time, that is 4 groups of 2 quavers rather than 2 groups of 4. This is a subtle difference although with a tune played at the somewhat slower tempo than a reel, or even ...
  • Lesson 67. Nell Fee’s Tony learned this lovely 3-part polka from the playing of New York button accordionist Patty Furlong. 48-bar polkas are not common in Irish music and are not used much for sets. Tony consulted Marie Brouder here in Melbourne about this. Marie is the number one person on set dancing in Melbourne and she could only find ...
  • Lesson 66. Maggie in the Woods This is an often-played polka, normally in the key of G. Polkas, like marches, are in 2/4 time. That is, there are two groups of quavers, or the equivalent. Where you have two groups of four quavers, you should play: down on the first quaver down on the next quaver. In this tune the only time you play an ...
  • Lesson 65. Jim Connolly’s Jig This is one of Tony’s own compositions, which he wrote in honour of his friend Jim Connolly, an accordion player from Rossinver in North Leitrim. It’s played in C, with a capo on the 2nd fret. The second part is higher than the first. The “normal” speed recording is the first track off Tony’s CD “An Sliabh ...
  • Lesson 64. Gold Ring There are two jigs that carry the name “The Gold Ring” (“An Fáinne Óir” in Irish). One is a 7-part jig in G particularly popular with pipers, and the other, a 4-part jig in D Major. This tune is the D Major tune, and it’s one of Tony’s all-time favourties. Although this is a D tune, ...
  • Lesson 63. Frost is All Over A delightful jig with a strong underlying rhythm, which is probably why it is quite often used for playing at céilithe (social dances). In the second bars of both the third and fourth lines you will note that Tony uses the same finger for the first two notes of those bars (G and F#), plays the ...
  • Lesson 62. First Clan March of the O’Sullivans Marches usually have a 2/4 time signature, but this tune is one of a number of tunes designated as a march, but carrying a 6/8 time signature. (“The Butcher’s March” is another.) This tune is also quite often played as just a normal jig as part of a set. It’s fairly compact in the left hand, only ...
  • Lesson 61. Farewell to Erin The most challenging tune in Book 4, this is totally unrelated to “Farewell to Ireland”. It’s not at all unknonwn to encounter such confusingly similar titles in Irish music! Normally played in A Dorian, but Tony has arranged it for gutar in E Dorian. You can capo up to the 5th fret, but on the podcast there’s ...
  • Lesson 60. Fairies’ Hornpipe This well known tune comes in the standard 32-bar format, with two parts, each played twice. It is an ideal tune to play if a hornpipe is requested by a step dancer. Unusually for such a melodic tune the whole tune is played within one octave excepting the three F# notes that occur near the end of ...
  • Lesson 59. Dunmore Lassies As the highest note in this tune is the F on the first string you will not have to concern yourself with left hand positioning. In fact by keeping your left hand at a right angle to the fretboard you should not have any lateral movement in your left hand at all. Make sure to play the ...
  • Lesson 58. The Drunken Gauger This tune is a Set Dance. It is played in jig time and has all the characteristics of a jig, but is played much slower. A most unusual feature of this tune is the order in which the parts of the tune are played. There are only two parts to the tune but they are played: AA ...
  • Lesson 57. Devaney’s Goat Devaney’s Goat is one of the many compositions of Eddie Moloney, a flute player from the Ballinakill Céilí Band. The tune is often played in C Major and may have even been composed in that key. However the version that Tony plays is in D Major. The tune is fairly compact for the fretting hand. Being ...
  • Lesson 56-and-a-half – Cripple Creek This bonus lesson is not strictly an Irish tune. In fact, definitely not an Irish tune at all. This is an Appalachian tune often associated with the five-string banjo in both the bluegrass and clawhammer styles. Normally played in G, Tony’s arrangement for guitar is played in C shapes. The normal tempo recording on the podcast has a ...
  • Lesson 56. The Blarney Pilgrim “The Blarney Pilgrim” is a very well known jig. Jack and Charlie Coen recorded this tune on their classic “The Branch Line” recording from 1977. The tune itself is in the key of G Major but, unusually, the most common chord in this tune is in fact the D chord, not the more expected G chord. The melody ...
  • Lesson 55. The Baltimore Salute This tune is a lovely “G” reel and like a good red wine it goes well with almost anything.  Tony learned this tune from the playing of John G. Walsh from near the town of Clifden, in the west of Connemara.   You’ll gather from the notes in the accompanying booklet that Tony is a huge fan of ...
  • Lesson 54. Timor the Tartar This tune is Scottish in origin, and is an example of how closely related the Scottish and Irish traditions are, and yet both music forms are quite different. Tony’s arrangement is in G Major, capo 2, thus the “real” key is A Major.
  • Lesson 53. Three Sea Captains This tune is written in jig time (6/8) but is in fact a set piece, or set dance. During the podcast. Tony comments that, sadly, such set pieces don’t often get an airing at sessions.
  • Lesson 52. Paddy’s Polka (No. 2) This polka is in G Major, so when coupled Paddy’s Polka (no. 1), there’s an interesting key change from D Minor to G Major.. In this tune, the B part can begin on either a G Major or E Minor. Tony’s preference is for the E Minor, so that’s how it’s notated in the booklet (Book ...
  • Lesson 51. Paddy’s Polka (No. 1) This tune is played in D Minor. This is an ideal tune for music teachers to teach their students as it is uncomplicated, and from an accompaniment viewpoint, is very basic – only two chords, D Minor and C. Listen to Paddy’s Polka (No. 1)
  • Lesson 50. Manorhamilton Jig This lesson is one of Tony’s own compositions. On his regular trips to Ireland Tony spends time in the North Leitrim region, which is the ancestral home of the O’Rourkes. Manorhamilton is part of that region. Listen to Manorhamilton Jig
  • Lesson 49. McDermott’s This reel is normally played in D, but Tony’s arrangement is in C, with a capo on the second fret. Listen to McDermott’s
  • Lesson 48. Joe Bane’s Joe Bane was a tin whistle and flute player from the Magherabaun area near Feakle in East Clare. Musicians such as Mary McNamara and Martin Hayes picked up a lot of tunes from him. This is a hornpipe, and Tony plays it in the key of F.
  • Lesson 47. Glass O’Beer Another a 16-bar reel, the first part is in B Minor, and the second in D Major.
  • Lesson 46. Flower of the Flock (in open D) This tune is a 16 bar reel, normally played in the Key of G. Tony’s arrangement is played in an Open D tuning, so to play in G you’ll need to capo the 5th fret. Details on the tuning, and on chord shapes for Open D, are provided in the booklet (Book 3). The tuning is D ...
  • Lesson 45. Fisherman’s Jig The Fisherman’s Jig is in fact a slip jig. Slip jigs comprise only a small percentage of the Irish Music repertoire and you can attend session after session and not hear them at all. Tony often plays this with Na Ceannabhain Bhána (which we had in Lesson 16 in Book 1).
  • Lesson 44. Echoes of Killarney We return to our ‘normal’ program with a slide.
  • Lesson 43-and-a-half. Danny Boy This is a bonus lesson, since it’s not within the genre that we’re studying. Rather, it’s Tony’s arrangement of Danny Boy, also know as The Londonderry Air. It may be a bit daunting for the newcomer. Sheet music and tab notation are provided in Book 3.
  • Lesson 43. Crib of Perches Tony picked this tune up from the late Billy Moran. Billy was a button accordionist from Galway who migrated to Australia in the late 1940′s and made an enormous contribution to the musical heritage of Australia. The A, or first, part is played using the D Mixolydian Mode and the B or second part uses a ...
  • Lesson 42. Cliffs of Moher This week we have a lovely jig. Tony talks about the use of overtones to enhance your playing, and which can be used to good effect in this tune.
  • Lesson 41. Charles O’Conor This week we have another piece by the famous blind harper, Turlough O’Carolan. Tony mentions “The complete works of O’Carolan”, published by Ossian. This is currently out of print. He also mentions “My heart belongs to Jenny”, by Duck Baker.
  • Lesson 40. Caisleán an Óir Caisleán an Óir is a hornpipe. This arrangement is in D Dorian, a type of D Minor, but without a Bb in the key signature. The D Dorian has the same notes as the C Major Scale.
  • Lesson 39. Bernie Cunnion’s Technically not too demanding, this is a lovely tune, quite typical of the beautiful music that emanates from the hills and valleys of North Leitrim. The recording on this podcast episode is from Tony’s CD “The Maid At The Well”. (You can purchase this CD, or individual tracks from it, on iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and other ...
  • Lesson 38. The Ash Plant This is a short reel, with 16 bars. It’s in the key of E Minor, with two sharps in the key signature, which means it’s in the E Dorian mode. Tony sometimes refers to this as the “Irish Minor”, and many Irish minor tunes use a Dorian mode.
  • Lesson 37. Andy McGann’s Not to be confused with “Andy McGann’s Jig” (which we had in Lesson 19), this is a completely different tune. It’s one of the many compositions of the late New York fiddler Andy McGann. It is in the key of D, but on guitar Tony plays it in C, with the capo on the second fret. This ...
  • Lesson 36. Swallow’s Nest This tune is a composition of the late Paddy O’Brien from Nenagh in Co. Tipperary. Paddy O’Brien’s tunes are often very challening, but are also very musical. You will need to move your left hand into the third position when you reach the 11th bar. You can use the gap provided by the open E at ...
  • Lesson 35. Silver Spire This reel is in D, so there are no notes that are played on the first fret. Also the highest note in the tune is the F# on the 1st string, 2nd fret, so you won’t have to move your left hand. The tune does require picking on all six strings. Keeping your left hand ‘square’ to ...
  • Lesson 34. Sunny Banks A 16-bar reel consisting of two four-bar sections, each repeated once.
  • Lesson 33. Star of Munster Originally in A minor, this tune is sometimes played in G minor – for example by both Martin Hayes and Kathleen Collins have recorded in G minor. Martin pointed out to Tony that many A minor tunes are played in G minor in his native East Clare. Tony’s version here however is in the original A minor.
  • Lesson 32. Padraig O’Keefe’s This tune is a slide. The time signature is 12/8, which means basically 12 quavers per bar, but more correctly 4 groups of either quavers or crotchet/quaver combinations. A traditional Irish musician would count 4 beats per bar, each count being for 3 quavers or the equivalent: so *1* 2 3, *2* 2 3, *3* 2 3, ...
  • Lesson 31. Old Joe’s Jig Normally played in D, Tony’s arrangement is in C, with a capo on the second fret. The highest note is an A (5th fret, 1st string), and so the whole tune can be played from the open position. When fingering the high A note, remember to stretch the 4th finger to reach the note, and try to ...
  • Lesson 30. Miss McCloud’s Probably originally a Scottish tune, this is a very widely played reel. The last two bars of both sections are identical. Tony reminds us not to try to play too fast.
  • Lesson 29. Maid at the Well A favourite of Tony’s, he plays this jig in F, although it’s normally played in G. The key of F is not very common on guitar – and this is our first tune in F. Practicing the F scale is the best way to get used to it. The accompaniment includes a B flat bar chord, but ...
  • Lesson 28. Lord Inchiquin Another tune by the highly influential Turlough O’Carolan. Planxty Irwin (which we had in Lesson 14, in Book 1) was another O’Carolan tune. This is in 3/4 time, with emphasis on the first beat of each bar: *one* two three, *one* two three, *one* two three. In this episode, we’ve also included a version with Tony playing the ...
  • Lesson 27. The Kesh Jig A nice simple jig. The tune is mostly played in the open position, so you don’t have to move your hand until the last two bars. For the last two bars, you use the first finger for G – the third fret on the first string, the third finger for A (the 5th fret) and the fourth ...
  • Lesson 26. Green Fields of America (in Open D) In episode 9, we had this reel in the ‘normal’ tuning. In this episode, it’s in Open D tuning. The tuning (from lowest pitched string to highest) is D A D F# A D, . As the tune is normally played in G, the capo is on the 5th fret. The chord shapes for Open D are, of ...
  • Lesson 25. Forty Pound Float A common polka, which Tony tells us has received some rough treatment. Make it easier to learn by using shortcuts: the first bar is identical to the third and fifth bars, the last two bars of the first section are the same as the last two of the second section, and bars 9 and 10 are ...
  • Lesson 24. Crowley’s 2 Often played with last week’s tune – Crowley’s 1. The tune is in D; the sheet music in the booklet (Book 2) shows it in C, with the capo on the second fret (to bring it into D). In this episode, Tony also talks about combining tunes into sets.
  • Lesson 23. Crowley’s 1 Two tunes that are often played together are Crowley’s 1 and 2. The legendary Connemara single row melodeon player Johnny Connolly plays these two on his first recording ‘An t’Oileann Aerach’, available on CIC Records. The tune is in D; the sheet music in the booklet shows it in C, with the capo on the second fret ...
  • Lesson 22. Calliope House This is a nice lively tune in the key of D. Tony plays this tune with the high part first and the low part second, although it may have originally been played the other way around. Because it’s in the key of D, there are no notes on the first fret. Use your first finger for the ...
  • Lesson 21. Britches Full of Stitches This is a very common polka, and because of its simplicity is ideal for learners. This tune is often used when playing for dancers but it is a lovely but simple ‘stand alone’ tune. The left hand doesn’t need to move at all; the notes are all in the first three sets on the four highest-pitched strings. ...
  • Lesson 20. The Banshee (McMahon’s) The Banshee is a reel that’s sometimes know as McMahon’s. The first part is in G Major; it changes to E Minor in the second part. The last two bars in the first and second parts are identical, which will help in learning.
  • Lesson 19. Andy McGann’s Jig The first of the Book 2 lessons is Andy McGann’s jig. Andy McGann was born in West Harlem and composed very many tunes. There was an Andy McGann tribute on RTE in 2004. Although this tune is normally in G, Tony’s version is in C, with the capo on the 2nd fret, putting it in the ...
  • Lesson 18. The Wise Maid The final lesson in the series is a reel. As we are in the key of D left hand fingering is to use the first finger for the second fret, second for the third fret, third finger for the fourth fret, and fourth finger for the fifth fret. The accompaniment is a little complicated. Tony uses ...
  • Lesson 17. Mist Covered Mountain The Mist Covered Mountain is a very haunting piece in A Dorian. Normally it’s played in the key of D, but Tony’s arrangement is in the key of C, with a capo on the 2nd fret. Tony talks about trying to arrange music so that it seems as if it’s naturally written for the guitar. There’s a very ...
  • Lesson 16. Na Ceannabháin Bhána A slip jig. Slip jigs are in 9/8 time – think of each bar as having 3 groups of 3. The chords are very simple – just G, C and D.
  • Lesson 15. Man of the House ‘Man of the House’ is a 16-bar reel, normally played in Em (Dorian mode). Tony’s version is in Dm (Dorian). Its name in Irish is Fear an Tí , which literally means ‘Man of the House’.
  • Lesson 14. Planxty Irwin This is a finger-style arrangement of an O’Carolan tune. The tune was written in G. Tony’s arrangement is in open D, with strings tuned as follows (from lowest sounding to highest): D A D F# A D. The booklet contains both the finger-style information, and a traditional version if you’re not quite ready to tackle that! If you’re learning ...
  • Lesson 13. The Kerry Polka This lively tune is not just a Kerry polka, Tony says, but *the* Kerry polka. Tony refers to a nice recording of this by a Connemara accordion player, Sonaí Choilm Learaí (on CIC Records). This is a tune that fits very well with the guitar. It’s in the key of G. Chords for the accompaniment are G, C, A7, ...
  • Lesson 12. Chief O’Neill’s This is a hornpipe in the key of D. The arrangement in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (revised by Myles Krassen) contains F# throughout the whole of the tune, but it is often played with F naturals in the second part. Tony’s arrangement is the older style, with F# throughout. Hornpipes are played considerably more slowly than reels. Chords for ...
  • Lesson 11. Cronin’s Hornpipe When learning this hornpipe, note that the last 6 bars in the B section are identical to the last 6 in the A section. The tune contains a high B – which is not at all unusual. It requires you to move out of the open position. The sheet music in the booklet (Book 1) shows ...
  • Lesson 10. The Lark in the Morning This is a four-part jig – probably the most widely played four-part jig in Irish music. Because it has a total duration of 64 bars, it can be very handy for set dancers who may occasionally ask for a tune of that length. Normally it’s played in D Major, but Tony’s version is in C Major, with ...
  • Lesson 9. The Green Fields of America This is a reel in the key of G. The tune is also known as Judy Brallaghan. Chords are C, G and D. This tune has first- and second-time endings. In the sheet music, the bars marked ’1′ are used the first time you play, and the bars marked ’2′ are for the second time. Kerr’s collection of ...
  • Lesson 8. The Green Mountain The Green Mountain is a Reel. It’s usually in the key of D, but our arrangement is in the key of C, with a capo on the second fret. Custy’s Music in Ennis is mentioned during the episode. The musician whom Tony mentions is Dympna O’Sullivan, and the CD is Ceol na mBan.
  • Lesson 7. Jimmy Doyle’s Our first polka. This is in the key of G. Polkas, like slides, are common in south-west Ireland. They are in 2/4 time.
  • Lesson 6. The Morning Star This is a reel in the key of G. Reels are the most challenging pieces in the repertoire of the traditional musician because of the need to play them at speed and yet include ornamentation. A very nice rendition of this is on Martin Hayes self-titled album (accompanied by Randall Bays). Martin’s website is www.martinhayes.com – when ...
  • Lesson 5. Off to California This tune is a hornpipe, and it’s in the key of G. Hornpipes are played in a 2/2 time signature, which is subtly different to a 4/4 signature, which Tony discusses in this lesson. Tony also talks about the use of ‘triplets’. The booklet (Book 3) is over 30 pages in length contains introductions to ...
  • Lesson 4. Cock O’ The North Cock O’ The North is a slide in the key of C. Most slides are from south-west Ireland (Kerry and Cork). Slides are written in 12/8 time. Normally there are not 12 notes in a bar. Instead, there will be a mixture of crotchets and quavers. Tony points out that the first part of the ...
  • Lesson 3. Tobin’s Favourite Tobin’s Favourite is a lovely and well-known jig in the key of D. Incidentally, in the booklet, we introduce some scales at this point. Practicing your scales is a great way to get your fingers loosened up, and to get the right fingering into ‘muscle memory’. Once again in this lesson, Tony emphasizes the importance of practice.
  • Lesson 2. The Hole in the Hedge Our second lesson is a jig called ‘The Hole in the Hedge’. Originally in D, Tony has transposed it into C. In this lesson, we also discuss ornamentation in Irish music.
  • Lesson 1. The Blackthorn Stick Our first lesson is a popular jig in the key of G. It’s also a good one to start with because it is played entirely in the open position – which means you don’t have to move your hand up and down along the neck of the guitar as you are playing. Do download the ...
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