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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Irish music with a 5 string


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CanadianCal - Posted - 06/05/2023:  18:32:54


Hello,

Can anyone offer advice on playing Irish songs with the 5 string.

I’m looking at playing along to the following songs:

-Black and Tans by Irish Descendants
- Botany Bay by Masterless Men
- Dirty Old Town by the Pogues
- Fox on the Run by Masterless Men
- Nancy Spain by Masterless Men

Thank you

thisoldman - Posted - 06/05/2023:  19:44:40


Go to "Learn" on the upper left side of the page and search the tab library. I found Botany Bay, Dirty Old Town and Fox on the Run tabs there.

Foote - Posted - 06/05/2023:  19:54:51


Go to Banjo Newsletter and look for the tabs/columns by Jack Dublanica. Nice arrangements with recording of Jack playing the tab. I got into Celtic just before Covid and am still loving learning the tunes. Give a listen to We Banjos Three.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 06/05/2023:  20:31:45


Tom Hanway’s materials are excellent.

Old Hickory - Posted - 06/05/2023:  20:34:03


I don't know if any of those tunes are in Tom Hanway's Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo, but I'll check.



My own approach to Irish/Celtic tunes on banjo is to combine a lot of melodic with some roll-based stuff and small bits of single-string. I use pull-offs and hammer-ons -- some from nowhere -- to avoid tricky or difficult (for me). Hammer from nowhere means I'm sounding a note by hammering without having picked a preceding note on the same string. I do whatever it takes to get the melody. 



I played banjo and bass in a Celtic-Americana band for a bunch of years. I've posted my tabs for Donnybrook Fair, Gallagher's Frolics, Out on the Ocean, and The Lilting Banshee. Plus a simple backup for Dirty Old Town that I wrote out for a discussion of that song a few years ago.



People who are really good at playing Celtic tunes in three-finger style on the 5-string do sixteenth-note triplets or some kind of trill (don't know what to call it) to emulate that embellishment 4-string players do with a flatpick. I can't get the hang of it, so my arrangements never have that flourish.



Good luck.



Edited to add: I just downloaded my tab of Dirty Old Town backup and in the TablEdit file all the open 5th string notes are shown as" -16"    I have no idea what that is.  The PDF shows open 5th.  I'll see what I can find out.


Edited by - Old Hickory on 06/05/2023 20:38:51

mike gregory - Posted - 06/05/2023:  20:34:38


I don't have any ADVICE, but I do have a QUESTION.
Are you going to play with a single flatpick, like the 4-string people do?

Earlier tonight, I was watching some HIGH KINGS and CELTIC THUNDER videos, and one of their banjo players was using a bottlecap KAY.

Surprised that a high-class bunch would be using an entry-level banjo, BUT! it did the job, and that's all that really counts.

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 06/05/2023:  21:40:49


Irish music can be pretty hard to play (on any instrument). I think you will end up with a combination of rolls, melodic and single string - whatever it takes to get the notes. Of these, I think that single string is going to be your friend in the end, as it's the only way to drive the rhythm that is an essential part of this music.

Here is a kind of bare bones example, probably not all that helpful.


Bill H - Posted - 06/06/2023:  02:50:58


I mostly lean into melodic style with Celtic tunes, but developing single string skills can be very essential. Some tunes can be very difficult while others are much more accessible. New England dance fiddlers have a large Celtic repertoire, so I have learned to play these tunes out of self defense. I have some tabs posted, but unfortunately none of the ones you are looking for. I Find Tabledit helpful to build arrangements for Celtic tunes.

stanleytone - Posted - 06/06/2023:  04:01:01


youtu.be/OovjvnuPpL4
Try this for starters

eagleisland - Posted - 06/06/2023:  06:07:13


Given the paucity of bluegrassers here on Cape Cod, I've found that most of my playing these last five or six years has been Irish, courtesy of a lad from Belfast who is a splendid singer and rhythm guitarist. I've had to adapt. Here are a few observations.

In my opinion, the backup to the singer is by far the most important thing, and the most important thing to the backup is the rhythm. I've come to think of the banjo as a percussion instrument, and I do my best to treat the notes (almost entirely ones-and-fives) with the same feel that a bodhrain player would play. This approach seems to mesh well with tunes like Black and Tans and many of the jigs and reels - and with some practice, you'll likely find (as I did) that adapting three-finger rolls can work handsomely.

On tunes like Dirty Old Town, which is straight 4-4 time, there's a similarity to improvising a bluegrass break: identify the melody notes first, get those down, and fill with rolls.

When it comes to fiddle tunes - especially reels and jigs - the above approach to backup also works well. Lead breaks are a different story: bluegrass figures do NOT fit particularly well and, as others have noted, familiarity with melodic technique - and a whole lotta practice - seem pretty much to be required.

Instrumentals from the Celtic canon tend to rely on lovely, largely-scalar melodies set against a comparatively simple chord structure. Vocal numbers, on the other hand, are really about the story and the skill of the singer in telling it. I think the best thing the banjo player can do in that situation is stay the hell out of the singer's way.

steve davis - Posted - 06/06/2023:  06:14:50


Hang around as many fiddlers as you can.
Once I opened up my ability to play melodically in uncapoed D and A with Soldier's Joy and Kitchen Girl
I found other tunes much more approachable.
The thing is with tunes is there are so many of them.

steve davis - Posted - 06/06/2023:  09:41:46


Once you get used to navigating melodically it becomes quite easy.

Like anything...get through the growing pains and then relax.



I just learn each new tune like a fiddler would.I have to play them as often as possible for things to remain second nature.



And popular tunes like Bye Bye Blues.



I just got done running through that a bunch of times.It had been 6 months or so since I played it in earnest and I kept getting hung up on my efficient way with the B part.



I had to make a mess of it a few times until the light came on.This is why I stay in touch with good fiddlers.To keep me on the right track and add to my "inventory" of tunes.


Edited by - steve davis on 06/06/2023 09:47:35

steve davis - Posted - 06/06/2023:  17:36:13


Hornpipes are my favorites (especially Huckleberry) .I like their rhythm.



Alan Munde and Butch Robins are two of my favorite players of fiddle tunes.There can be a lot of drive in fiddletunes.


Edited by - steve davis on 06/06/2023 17:42:03

Eddie Collins - Posted - 06/06/2023:  22:06:34


I agree with those suggesting you investigate Tom Hanway's materials. He did a deep dive into Irish and Celtic as a 5-string player using 3-finger style.

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 06/07/2023:  06:29:56


A lot of folks on this thread are talking about fiddle tunes. But all the tunes mentioned in the original post are SONGS. It sounds to me like CanadianCal is asking about strategies for accompanying singers who are doing contemporary Irish vocal repertoire.

steve davis - Posted - 06/07/2023:  08:52:27


One of the best things a banjo can do with singers is be very careful.


Edited by - steve davis on 06/07/2023 08:53:20

johnedallas - Posted - 06/07/2023:  12:15:20


I guess I should chip in here! I'm an Irishman who played in an Irish folk group here in Germany for 20 years. All my band-mates were Germans, so I was the front-man. My job was singing and playing 5-string banjo!



Our repertoire was stylistically somewhere between The Dubliners and The Chieftains, so I was the poor man's Luke Kelly, so to speak. As Steve said, the best thing a banjo can do with singers is be very careful. This was no problem for me - I just played the banjo as if I were accompanying myself. As a matter of fact, at the start, I sort of "conducted" the songs with the banjo, i.e. used a lot of "dum-ching" to establish tempo and rhythm.



With me, a singer, as the leader, we did mostly songs. When our fiddler got a bit more familiar with the repertoire, we did jigs and reels as well, and here I played (rhythmic)  backup on 5-string, or in unison with the fiddle on banjo-mandolin. Later, I took up the Anglo concertina, and played unison melody on jigs and reels.



Since the group disbanded, I've been playing - among other things - Carolan pieces on finger-style (classic) 5-string. But that's not really Irish - it's more baroque music.



Cheers,



John

johnedallas - Posted - 06/07/2023:  12:15:33


I guess I should chip in here! I'm an Irishman who played in an Irish folk group here in Germany for 20 years. All my band-mates were Germans, so I was the front-man. My job was singing and playing 5-string banjo!

Our repertoire was stylistically somewhere between The Dubliners and The Chieftains, so I was the poor man's Luke Kelly, so to speak. As Steve said, the best thing a banjo can do with singers is be very careful. This was no problem for me - I just played the banjo as if I were accompanying myself. As a matter of fact, at the start, I sort of "conducted" the songs with the banjo, i.e. used a lot of "dum-ching" to establish tempo and rhythm.

With me, a singer, as the leader, we did mostly songs. When our fiddler got a bit more familiar with the repertoire, we did jigs and reels as well, and here I played (rhythmic) backup on 5-string, or in unison with the fiddle on banjo-mandolin. Later, I took up the Anglo concertina, and played unison melody on jigs and reels.

Since the group disbanded, I've been playing - among other things - Carolan pieces on finger-style (classic) 5-string. But that's not really Irish - it's more baroque music.

Cheers,

John

steve davis - Posted - 06/07/2023:  12:47:07


I like playing melodic harmonies to fiddletunes.
I first saw this as a melodic harmony tab of Devil's Dream sent in to BNL by a 16 year old Bela Fleck.

steve davis - Posted - 06/08/2023:  06:25:54


Joining a contra dance band is a great way to learn tunes.

CanadianCal - Posted - 06/08/2023:  18:16:17


Thank you everyone

Helix - Posted - 06/21/2023:  01:39:49


Luke Kelly: Dirty Old Town (1976) It's in the video Library here.

richrichrich - Posted - 06/22/2023:  18:11:37


Contact Larry Kernagis larry_kernagis@yahoo.com He is a professional banjo player/teacher, and also plays Irish songs in the band "Def Leprechaun". Im sure he can help you out.

quote:Originally posted by CanadianCalHello,

Can anyone offer advice on playing Irish songs with the 5 string.

I’m looking at playing along to the following songs:

-Black and Tans by Irish Descendants
- Botany Bay by Masterless Men
- Dirty Old Town by the Pogues
- Fox on the Run by Masterless Men
- Nancy Spain by Masterless Men

Thank you

TTtheBear - Posted - 06/23/2023:  05:19:17


If you're on the Cape, just hang out at O'Shea's on Rt 28 in Dennis.

FenderFred - Posted - 06/23/2023:  10:10:25


quote:

Originally posted by CanadianCal

Hello,



Can anyone offer advice on playing Irish songs with the 5 string.



I’m looking at playing along to the following songs:



-Black and Tans by Irish Descendants

- Botany Bay by Masterless Men

- Dirty Old Town by the Pogues

- Fox on the Run by Masterless Men

- Nancy Spain by Masterless Men



Thank you






Not these specific tunes but you may care to check out this site for Celtic banjo in the three finger style.



pickinlessons.com/

Tractor1 - Posted - 06/23/2023:  11:27:25


I am like Old Hickory kinda--I like melodic spiced with hammers and pull offs--

Tom Hanaway advocates a lot of single string--I never was a fan of fast single string--my personal taste and baggage--melodic does have inherent problems also--but I can handle them a bit better

Dave Hum played some great celtic type songs-youtube.com/@davehum/videos

I probably do a couple dozen from that genre--great music for sure


Edited by - Tractor1 on 06/23/2023 11:31:17

Fathand - Posted - 06/29/2023:  17:31:57


quote:

Originally posted by CanadianCal

Hello,



Can anyone offer advice on playing Irish songs with the 5 string.



I’m looking at playing along to the following songs:



-Black and Tans by Irish Descendants

- Botany Bay by Masterless Men

- Dirty Old Town by the Pogues

- Fox on the Run by Masterless Men

- Nancy Spain by Masterless Men



Thank you






When I was learning banjo in the late 70s/early 80s, "melodic clawhammer" was a thing.  Celtic/Irish type fiddle tunes played in down picking/drop thumb styles. I learned  Red Haired Boy at the time.



Melodic style 3 finger has famously been used for many of the same type tunes.



Fox on the Run was famously covered as a bluegrass song by The Country Gentlemen and was a later crossover hit in Canada by the Good Brothers.



Dirty Old Town was written by an Englishman about an English town  (“the Salford wind"), for an English stage play. Not really Irish, but vocal pieces are generally easy to play in several 5 string styles including Scruggs.



In short, yes you can play Irish Music on a 5 string, the melodies may be a bit more challenging than some genres. You should decide on finger picked or clawhammer technique and start with one of them, you can always switch or add another later.

mikehalloran - Posted - 06/29/2023:  22:02:28


There is a long history of the 5 stringed banjo in Celtic music going back to the mid 19th C. The 4 string is a relative newcomer from the 1960s. Although The Dubliners popularized the 4 string of Barney McKenna, Luke Kelly's instrument of choice was always the 5 string.



Jen Finer (Pogues) pays a Gibson ESS with another on stage as a backup—never saw him use a flat pick. The late Tommy Makem played a Vega Pete Seeger as did Pete himself now and then (Pete started as a tenor player, BTW). Finbar Furey, Seamus Eagan, Margaret Barry, Allison de Groot, Ron Block and Pecker Dunne are also noted 5 string Celtic players—some 3-finger, others claw hammer.



Deering has some lessons on their web site:



Celtic Tunes on the 5 String Banjo

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