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Irish and Celtic Fingerstyle Banjo

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Pioneering 5-string styles to play traditional tunes from Ireland, Celtic lands, ex-Celtic lands, and the Celtic diaspora.

82 Members, Created 5/11/2012 -

Administrators: Tom Hanway (owner) , peter somerville

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Celtic tabs: Donnybrook Fair & Gallagher's Frolics

From Old Hickory on 3/3/2013 1:37:18 PM

I posted these to the Hangout tab archive back in 2011.

They both tend more to the melodic style rather than the Celtic three finger style as Tom describes it. But I think the melodies work.

In Donnybrook Fair, over time, I've started fingering it a bit differently. Whenever there are two "E" notes in a row, instead playing 2nd fret at 5 twice in a row (as in measure 3) I tend to play 1st string at 2 followed by 2nd at 5 (as in measure 12).

Gallagher's Frolics is the first fiddle tune I worked out because I needed to play it for my band and there was no tab arrangement available.


Tom Hanway says:
3/16/2013 11:05:44 AM

That's cool, I'll check these out soon. Show in Athlone tonight, gotta cook dinner and get on the road. Thanks for sharing. Best ~ Tom

Tom Hanway says:
3/20/2013 11:31:50 AM

Well, let's focus for a minute on 'Donnybrook Fair'; okay, if "melodic style" means playing each successive note on a different string in - like Keith or Thompson usually do in "melodic" style - this deviates from that tendency by having a lot of notes played on a single string, and not just in one place. It's not pure melodic style, not bluegrass banjo either, being in Irish 6/8 time. Now, it's surely informed by melodic style, as well as older styles. It's a fine Celtic tab, very tasty! Thanks for posting.

Tom Hanway says:
3/20/2013 11:46:30 AM

Okay, 'Gallagher's Frolics' feels more in the melodic style, with some exceptions in the A part, and I see fretting-hand work to get some of the notes. That's a nice touch, because it means you're probably feeling the tune with both hands, personalizing it. Nice arrangement. This is still a Celtic tab, even if it's informed by "melodic style"; in other words, Celtic banjo can be partially or wholly "melodic style," as well as partially or entirely "single-string," or an amalgam of these techniques, also using fretting-hand techniques, all of which you do! Lovely stuff! ;)

Old Hickory says:
3/20/2013 12:14:29 PM

Thanks so much for your comments and compliments, Tom.

Yes, I'm not feeling constrained by melodic convention or prohibited from using Scruggs technique. I am, however, trying to avoid very long passages of single-string, mainly because it's something I've rarely done and so I'm not very good at it. What I'm after is something that comes out sounding like me.

I'm doing my best to capture the tunes in a way that compliments what our fiddle/dulcimer and whistle players are doing. (Fiddle and dulcimer are one in the same musician, so there's never both in any one tune or song). I credit the fiddle player for getting me to feel the Celtic rhythms.

Here's how I work these out. I find an ABC notation file that sounds closest to the version our fiddle player plays. I print out the melody line in standard notation then write the note-for-note melody as tab with absolutely no regard for fingering. Then, I try to play what I've written, and that's when I start to look for realistic, logical or comfortable ways to execute it -- applying my banjoistic technique, keeping notes where they are, shifting notes if necessary to simplify fingering. The result is what you see.

Besides single-string in general, another weakness I have is variations. These tabs represent the single version I've worked out for each tune. It's not much of an issue of I'm not playing more than one solo in a tune. But variation in melodic style or Celtic style is just one more thing I need to work on. I've been playing for over 40 years (sometimes it doesn't show) and there's always plenty more to learn.

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