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The Green Fields of America

Genre: Fiddle/Celtic/Irish  Style: Minstrel (Stroke Style)  Key: G  Tuning: Standard Open G (gDGBD)  Difficulty: Intermediate
Posted by jkacur, updated: 5/14/2015
Download: PDF

Notes: I would call the playing style melodic clawhammer. I didn't show the high drone. In Irish fiddle music there aren't a lot of places to add that, but in this piece just about every quarter note sounds good with an added high drone for variation. This one is fairly simple, beginner's should try to tackle it too. I will add a video sometime soon, but was anxious to share my tab with the world first. Enjoy!


peter somerville Says:
Monday, May 4, 2015 @3:33:35 PM
nice! It plays well and very accurate to what the fiddle would play.

jkacur Says:
Monday, May 4, 2015 @3:46:42 PM
Thanks Peter, I tried to be accurate to what the fiddle would play so that this would fit in well with an Irish Trad session. However, I'm experimenting a bit with diverging in a more "banjoistic" way in some other tunes.

Tom Hanway Says:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 @8:24:53 AM
Lovely! That's a faithful rendition; in fact, it's an exact replica of the notes found in O'Neill's Music of Ireland (The 1850), published in 1903. But this is tab, and it's really good tab! I like where you placed the notes on the strings. Now, just an observation, I see no right-hand suggestions (downstroke or upstroke), and there are lots of ties everywhere, which can be interpreted all kinds of ways. How do you play the notes (and I don't mean the fretting hand)? What I see suggests some hammering-on, pulling-off, and maybe even some sliding. There is another famous air (with or without words) by this title, one that Martin Simpson, The Chieftains, and others have recorded, and it's completed unrelated. Folks today often distinguish the air and the reel by leaving out the word "The" in the title (to indicate the reel). Confusingly, O'Neill's Index leaves out "The" in the Index, but then uses "The above the tune setting (so it's listed two ways). It's also one of those tune titles (like 'Toss the Feathers') that has many unrelated melodies using the same title. Old Time and Irish settings for the reel tend to leave out "The" in the title, helping to distinguish the tune from the slow plaintive air. In Old Time, the parts are sometimes reversed (April Limber). I appreciate your bare bones setting, whichever way you play it. It's true to the O'Neill setting (for any instrument), and it's simple and economical. This is more of an old Irish than a contemporary Old Time (American) setting. (See The Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, Volume One, for two Old Time settings).

Tom Hanway Says:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 @10:53:33 AM
This is cool, here's a version of the song (Molly Brannigan), sung by the legendary Irish tenor, John McCormack:

jkacur Says:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 @2:06:17 PM
Hi Tom, thanks! (for both the compliment and taking the time to give me some feedback) And, yes, I did get the notes from O'Neil's, perhaps I should indicate that at the top. As I am making more and more of these, I think it is important to track the sources. This is "melodic clawhammer" So, I very seldom use upstrokes. I haven't found a great notation for that. My notation is probably influenced mostly by Ken Perlman's books, and Mike Iverson's web site. I see that Ken has used "V" FOR an upstroke in some of his books. Mike's notation is especially concise, so, it's a tie if it is the same note, otherwise it's a slur. There is no need to indicate whether a slur is a hammer on or a pull off, because that is obvious by whether the note is higher or lower on the banjo string. If it were a slide, I would indicate that by straight line between the notes. I never heard about "The" being used to distinguish between a reel or not, interesting! I have been playing guitar in an Irish Session in Hamburg, so this music is very influenced by that. I love American old time music as well, but it's simply not played very often in Germany. I do ornament the tune with the high g-drone but felt it was not necessary to indicate that in the tab, banjo players would automatically put it in. Thanks for the tip about the Phillips Collection, putting it on my wish list. :)

jkacur Says:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 @2:07:39 PM
Oh, and btw, I have your book about Celtic 5-string, but so far I've been focusing on clawhammer, I expect to start doing scruggs or blue-grass style picking soon with my teacher, but I really love the clawhammer style so far.

Tom Hanway Says:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 @4:36:28 PM
Thanks for posting, it's made me tab this tune once and for all. I usually just slop my way through it, though the melody is etched into my one-brain-cell, haha. Here is the common title and spelling for this reel: 'Greenfields of America', which, incidentally, helps to distinguish the tune from 'The Greenfields of America', which is an ambiguous title for two distinct melodies, one an air, often sung sean-nós (unaccompanied), and the other the reel, same as yours, O'Neill's #1240. Thanks for posting, you've given a few of us homework, I know Peter Somerville is mad for this tune, and so am I.

jkacur Says:
Thursday, May 7, 2015 @4:28:13 AM
After looking at the version in "Ryan's Mammoth Collection", I had to steal the partial measure of "a" and "b" eighth notes before the "A" part and the partial measure of a quarter note "d" before the "B" part. (well, I notate it in cut time like in O'Neils, and Ryan's using 2/4, but that is irrelevant. I don't want to muck with the elegant simplicity of the piece, but I really like those little additions. Tom, I believe you when you tell me that this tune is more common in the States, since I've never heard it played at our Irish Sessions in Germany, but I just browse through my fiddle books looking for something interesting to play now and then.

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