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Johnny's Gone To France

Genre: Fiddle/Celtic/Irish  Style: Minstrel (Stroke Style)  Key: G  Tuning: Standard Open G (gDGBD)  Difficulty: Intermediate
Posted by jkacur, updated: 5/13/2015
Download: PDF

Notes: This is from the version in Ryan's Mammoth Collection. You have to do a few techniques like alternate string pick-offs, a 2 note m-finger arpeggio, and fretting the fifth short string. There are three spots where I do a quick-up pick. I have fairly small hands, and this is the only way I can get the necessary volume on the high bs, but you might be able to do a hammer-on with your pinky for a more consistent melodic clawhammer style.I see that O'Neil's Music of Ireland (the 1850 melodies one) has a version, number 1437, that has some grace notes, tripplets, and "c"s raised to "c#s". I haven't explored that one yet... We'll see what happens...

8 comments

Tom Hanway Says:
Thursday, May 7, 2015 @2:30:52 PM
That's a very enchanting melody, great find, and fine tune setting. I wouldn't mess with that. For up-picking in Celtic fingerstyle, I would move some notes to different strings and experiment with timbre, maybe add a tiny bit of ornamentation, but I wouldn't mess with that lovely melody, and I'd try to get as much resonance as possible, similar to what you have done. Gorgeous tune, lovely arrangement, it's hypnotic!

jkacur Says:
Friday, May 8, 2015 @4:14:19 AM
It really is a lovely tune isn't it? It rings like a bell on a banjo. I think it's an interesting question for arranging, how much ornamentation should you include? I'm inclined to show some options in footnotes, and leave the melody rather bare boned to give room for creativity for the player to add their own ornamentation..

jkacur Says:
Friday, May 8, 2015 @4:17:21 AM
Yeah, like I said in the notes with the original posting - the O'Neil's version raises the c to C# in those two measures, maybe that one is closer to the version you found? I haven't played with that one yet.

Tom Hanway Says:
Friday, May 8, 2015 @12:12:16 PM
This tune has more variants than can be fathomed by looking at a single tune setting; in fact, John McFadden famously played this, and he was distinguished for his spontaneous improvisation and ornamentation. If the snapshot in the 1907 O'Neill's 1001 setting is indicative of his version, or even O'Neill's own version on flute or pipes, including a raised C and triplets throughout, this would be a good version to learn. The earlier version in Ryan's Mammouth Collection is probably not the definitive version by even 20th century standards, though it might have been the common version in the mid-19th century. In any case, the versions are pretty close, so it's more a matter of personal taste and artistic license. Both versions are fine, considering we're dealing with something of an antiquated tune. In a sense, we could both be restoring it, bringing it back into the session, so thanks for that, my friend. Good find! (I deleted my early post because I dug up Ryan's Mammouth Collection and O'Neill's 1001.)

jkacur Says:
Friday, May 8, 2015 @3:24:51 PM
Cheers Tom, I look forward to seeing what you do with it.

jkacur Says:
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 @1:31:09 AM
I reworked this a little bit. I learned from Tom's fingerstyle version, and in measures 9, 11, and 13, moved the high "f#s and "g"s to the second string for my clawhammer version, which immediately made it much easier to play than the leap I was doing from the 5th fret to the ninth (for the high "b". Also, in clawhammer it can be a bit difficult to go from a lower string to a higher string. On the 3rd beats of measures 2, 6 and 10, I showed three different ways to accomplish this, when moving from the low "f#" to the low "g". One is what Ken Perlman calls the "marp" (arpeggio with whatever finger you use for "m" in clawhammer (can be m or i), which allows you to move to the "g" on the open string. Then I showed how you can do it as a hammer on, and finally as a slide. Of course the sound quality is different, so you can mix and match for subtle effect. In the same spirit of showing more than one way of doing the same thing, in measure 11 and measure 13, I showed going from the high "g" to the high "b" once as an "m-arp" and once as an up-pick.

jkacur Says:
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 @2:13:34 PM
Okay, I had to update it one hopefully last time, I added some ornamentation. Enjoy, Cheers!

Tom Hanway Says:
Thursday, May 14, 2015 @6:07:38 PM
That's cool, John, but keep going, there is no best setting for this, no present-day or historical setting that exceeds the rest. It's about feel and personal style, how it sounds, and how a player keeps it interesting and alive. Playing in the Irish or Celtic context is almost the antithesis of classical music, i.e., playing the notes exactly as they are written. Variation and ornamentation are just a part of it; it's about style and what one plays in the moment that really matters, especially with other players at the session - not in a musical vacuum - also being able to make reel tempo (in this case) and being creative within an Irish/Celtic traditional context. It's how it *sounds* that matters, not how it is mapped out. Nice job transcribing, now play it man, get off the page, and get loose with it, my friend. The trick is not to get stuck in the perfect setting, which is the antithesis of playing this music. Bring your technical skills and imagination to the fore. The best players consistently improvise within traditional parameters, keeping the tunes easily recognizable while adding there own quirks and personalities to them. You get the idea. Best ~ Tom

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