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New Celtic Music for Saint Patrick's Day

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Mar 16, 2022 - 11:39:29 PM
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72 posts since 8/5/2006

Hello all,

I've always wanted to write a celtic song, and find that it's a challenge to make it sound authentically Scotts-Irish in origin. I think that there are certain phrases, chord changes, and inflections/flares that we can add (such as triplets, pull-offs and grace notes) to try to make it more celtic-feeling. This is my first attempt at writing a celtic song, and I incorporated some elements that I think are convincingly Irish. Maybe some of our banjo friends from across the pond can chime in on some of these elements that define the music of their culture?

I titled this song "O'Connell Street" and hope it finds you well on this Saint Patrick's Day. It is from my upcoming debut solo album "Just a Little Talk with Myself" and features myself on banjo and pennywhistle, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Byron House on bass, Cody Kilby on guitar, and James Seliga on mandolin. Produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered by my banjo hero Scott Vestal - he is just excellent at everything!

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPCFd8AnaLM

Anyway, I am on the lookout for all kinds of celtic music this Saint Patrick's day. I want to begin writing more new celtic tunes for the banjo. I especially can't wait to listen to Fiona Ritchie's Thistle and Shamrock program. Be safe, and if you're out on the gargle on O'Connell Street or anywhere else in the world, bring a DD or take an Uber ride home! Maybe one year soon I can find myself on O'Connell Street enjoying the fine music of Dublin in person.

Cheers!
Steven

www.stevenmoorebanjo.com

www.facebook.com/roamingome

www.instagram.com/roamingome

Mar 17, 2022 - 2:36:14 AM

406 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Steven Moore

Hello all,

I've always wanted to write a celtic song, and find that it's a challenge to make it sound authentically Scotts-Irish in origin. I think that there are certain phrases, chord changes, and inflections/flares that we can add (such as triplets, pull-offs and grace notes) to try to make it more celtic-feeling. This is my first attempt at writing a celtic song, and I incorporated some elements that I think are convincingly Irish. Maybe some of our banjo friends from across the pond can chime in on some of these elements that define the music of their culture?

I titled this song "O'Connell Street" and hope it finds you well on this Saint Patrick's Day. It is from my upcoming debut solo album "Just a Little Talk with Myself" and features myself on banjo and pennywhistle, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Byron House on bass, Cody Kilby on guitar, and James Seliga on mandolin. Produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered by my banjo hero Scott Vestal - he is just excellent at everything!

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPCFd8AnaLM

Anyway, I am on the lookout for all kinds of celtic music this Saint Patrick's day. I want to begin writing more new celtic tunes for the banjo. I especially can't wait to listen to Fiona Ritchie's Thistle and Shamrock program. Be safe, and if you're out on the gargle on O'Connell Street or anywhere else in the world, bring a DD or take an Uber ride home! Maybe one year soon I can find myself on O'Connell Street enjoying the fine music of Dublin in person.

Cheers!
Steven

www.stevenmoorebanjo.com

www.facebook.com/roamingome

www.instagram.com/roamingome


Hi Steven Moore

Great post

If your seeking to acquire more knowledge in playing Irish Celtic music on the 5 String Banjo check out Heath Joyce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDdu0MfKNnk

https://pickinlessons.com/

 

Here is another great resource. Alas no 5 strings in sight but they do have some great jam sessions 

https://www.youtube.com/c/irishmusicacademy/videos

Edited by - FenderFred on 03/17/2022 02:41:56

Mar 17, 2022 - 3:10:16 AM

Bill H

USA

1912 posts since 11/7/2010

Very nicely done. I have been somehow dragged into several Irish tunes by a fiddler friend and have found it extremely challenging. Yet, I find I am drawn to it. I have been hearing more Celtic music on the five string lately and will admit it has become an irresistible pursuit.

Mar 17, 2022 - 5:05:26 AM

349 posts since 11/9/2021

Very pretty. Especially the B part, with the band dong the emphasis on the walk down notes. Celtic 4 string uses a lot of tiny trills which can make tunes more 'celtic-y' in feel.

Mar 17, 2022 - 5:53:16 AM

72 posts since 8/5/2006

When I was writing this song, I think one of the elements I relied on to make it feel more celtic was the time signature. In 6/8 time, and being a 3-finger style player, a couple of simple rolls fills out a 6/8 measure nicely. Another thought was to swing the rhythms a bit (thinking "da, dat da, dat da, dat da" with each "da" being a downbeat). Then I added some "pushes" as I like to call it, where the chord change comes before the next anticipated beat. This is especially dominant in the B-part where the chords are 4, 4<1, 5, where the 4<1 measure is a short 4 and then quickly going to the 1 ahead of the downbeat.

Accentuating the style of the music for banjo specifically, I added some flare with some hammer-ons, pull-offs, and triplets, and tried to include the root notes of the chords along with the melody at least during the first pass through the song. I played the melody by myself several times while writing it and felt like it needed those chords behind the melody to realize the whole vision of the song, so I added root/bass notes to it on the banjo. At the recording session, once the song was supported by the rest of the band, I probably could have left those extra bass/root notes out (it would have made it easier to play!) but decided to leave them in. I feel like it really gives a celtic drive on the banjo in a way that can't really be done on some other lead instruments (like pennywhistle or fiddle).

I'm really enjoying exploring non-bluegrass music styles from the world on the 5-string banjo. I've written a couple of Asian-inspired music bits on the banjo that were incorporated into other songs. There is a recording of Bela Fleck playing an Asian-flared song called Jade Princess that I quite like. But lately I've had the celtic bug! Bela's County Clare comes to mind, Alison Brown's "Going to Glasgow" and Rex McGee's "Bm" (B minor from 24 creations for solo banjo) are some that come to mind.

Mar 17, 2022 - 3:24:41 PM

655 posts since 5/20/2008

It's a fun, lovely bit of music.  But a few points about authenticity.  I apologize in advance if any of my comments come across as being a bit prickly.

Many folks consider the word "celtic" to be problematic.  You never hear of professional "celtic" fiddlers, banjo players, etc.  It's an imprecise, umbrella term that, frankly, raises the ire of many folks serious about the music of Ireland, Scotland, Cape Breton and beyond.  Use the word "celtic" at a serious session to describe what you play, and you may find folks quickly getting quiet, looking at their shoes, or heading to the bar.  I would also avoid the term "Scots-Irish".  

Think of Scottish, Irish etc. traditional music as different dialects of a much older, more common language.  If you ignore the dialect, then you will miss the authenticity.  Understand that folks playing this music spend entire lifetimes immersed in Irish or Scottish or Cape Breton music.  I'm not suggesting you stop because of the immensity of it all, just wanting you to appreciate that you are dipping your toes not only into one genre, but many.  And each dialect is vast.  Another way of stating it is that just because you are playing the notes of a particular Irish or Scottish tune, that does not mean you are playing in Irish or Scottish style

Next, just for clarification, and if you are going to go further into this music, unless lyrics are involved you are not playing songs.  You are playing tunes.  

The great majority of banjo players serious about Irish and Scottish music avoid the 5-string altogether.  There are other threads on the Hangout devoted to the pros and cons of 5-string at serious trad. sessions.  We need not get into that here.  Just be aware that, as with overuse of the word "celtic", if you walk into a serious Irish pub session and pull out a 5-string, don't be shocked if you are not made to feel overly welcome.  Standard instrument for Irish and Scottish trad. is the 4-string.

Avoid like the plague 3-finger rolls and pattern-picking filler.  In Irish and Scottish sessions, you are expected to play melody. Or not at all.  Vamping and noodling in the background is just not done in serious sessions, and you could even be asked to leave.  The other problem with rolls is that they scream out Bluegrass, and therefore would be not at all in the tradition.

There are some folks, whether clawhammer or 3-finger, that can play Irish and Scottish tunes really well.  It's tricky, and requires looking deep into a particular tradition.  My advice is to ditch the term "celtic" entirely from your thinking, and figure out over time which dialect you are drawn to the most.  Then go deeper into that dialect.  Don't be a generalist, unless that is what you aspire to be.  Nothing wrong with being a generalist, as long as you are aware of what you are and are not playing. 

For what it's worth, I play trad. Scottish music on bellows pipes and fiddle, and I play Southern Mtn. tunes clawhammer style on my banjo.  I don't cross over.  

My intent is not to beat you up.  The recording is really nice.  You just might want to think about focusing your efforts.

Mar 18, 2022 - 2:17:27 AM

phb

Germany

3341 posts since 11/8/2010

Your song reminds me of some of the music that Lluís Gómez plays with the Barcelona Bluegrass Band. They mix bluegrass with celtic (the North of Spain has an often overlooked Celtic cultural background), gipsy, blues and probably some more.

Mar 18, 2022 - 8:22:21 AM

72 posts since 8/5/2006

Thanks all!

I think Matt offers a lot of good critique and advice in his post above. Thanks for sharing, Matt. I'm from the world of 3-finger style bluegrass/newgrass and really don't have enough exlerience with other music genres to speak authoritatively about them. My tune O'Connell Street was specifically written in my estimation of creating new Irish music. But I think it is safe to say I have definitely caught "the bug" and feel a deep dive into this is a journey worth traveling for me, learning tunes that are either Irish, Scottish, or Cape Breton style, and being able to distinctly differentiate them by learning more about each. It's something I am definitely interested in and want to find a way to construct a 3-finger banjo approach that is complimentary of those genres.

Also, I am not exactly a "traditional" bluegrass banjo player, as the song I included here might demonstrate, which I feel has allowed me to garner some level of acceptance in the times I have dabbled in other genres. I have found find that Old-Time jammers dread 3-finger style banjo players entering the circle, but I feel if you ask nicely to join, and you can quickly demonstrate that you're not going to drown them out with piercing metal pick volume and rip away at a bunch of Scruggs-style licks, but rather contribute in a way that aims to be tasteful, thoughtful, respective of the melody, and supportive of the collective group, you can win over the group's approval and secure your spot in the circle. I suspect it may be a similar experience in being a 3-finger banjo player attempting to grace the Irish, Scottish, or Cape Breton jam circles as well.

Mar 18, 2022 - 2:50:49 PM

655 posts since 5/20/2008

Steve -

I've attached a link to the amazing Alison DeGroot playing some traditional Irish jigs. I know you don't play clawhammer, but this will give you an idea of what can be achieved.


youtube.com/watch?v=E-uuczw46HQ

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