The basic chords for this one are fairly self explanatory. For simplicity’s sake (and thanks to their similar melodic structure) I have used the same loop for the A and B parts.
Bar four is a “seventh foot tap” section and consequently takes chord V, but bar III also sounds like it needs chord V. Its notes are “D G G F# G – A B”. G, B and D, which make up the bulk of this bar, are the notes of chord VII, chord V’s related major chord. This section is therefore firmly in the chord V family. A similar principle applies in the equivalent bar in the B part.
In this version I have substituted A minor to its related major, C major in the second bar. I have replaced Em with its related major, G, in bar three before reverting to E minor in order to make the V – I resolution nice and definite at the end of the section. For a bit of variation I have put Em and G the other way round in the second half of the A part. As before, this progression is also applied to the B part.
In this version I have added linking chords between each chord and its related minor. The way these chords work is that in order to link any minor chord to its related major, or any major chord to its related minor, you take the chord one below the lower of the two and play it in its first inversion as a linking chord. For example, to link A minor to its related major, C, you take the chord which is one below A minor, aka G, and play it in its first inversion, giving you G/B. The B at the bass of this chord acts as a nice little bassline to link Am to C (A, B, C). On the subject of G/B, the chord I give below as G/B has an extra note in it, but for ease of naming I have ignored it. Strictly speaking it should be called Gadd13/B. …Catchy!
Further on, the same technique has been used to link G to its related minor, Em. The lower of the two chords is Em, therefore I use the chord whose root note is one below it in the scale, in its first inversion. One below Em is D, so I use D/F# (D in the first inversion) as my linking chord to join G to Em. This would also work as a link in the reverse direction, linking Em up to G.
This tune is in the key of G ionian. This means the available chords are G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major, E minor and F# diminished, with the main ones being I, IV and V aka G, C and D.
There is a key change in the B part, to A dorian. The chords in this mode are the same ones available in G ionian, but because we are now beginning and ending our key scale on A, the main chords are I, IV and V beginning from A, aka A minor, D major and E minor.
There are no strongly chord IV sound sections in the A part of the tune, so I have stuck to chord I (G) throughout. Chord V, as always, goes in bar four and in bar eight chord V returns to chord I to mark the end of the section. This is the “seventh foot tap rule”- you tap your foot twice in each bar and on every seventh foot tap there is always a chord V.
In the B part we have switched keys to A dorian. You can tell because the first bar contains the notes “E A A G A – G A”. You generally work out which chord family fits with a section of melody by which notes are played on the dominant beats (the ones where your foot taps). In this section the dominant notes are E, A, A, G (followed swiftly by A). As A, C and E are the notes of an A minor chord this clearly shows that a shift to A minor has taken place. The most common of the two minor modes in folk music is the dorian (optimistic minor) and A dorian contains the same notes as G ionian, so it is safe to assume that the B part is in a dorian not A aeolian. This is later confirmed by the inclusion of the F# note which would be F♮ if the part were in A aeolian.
The third bar of the B part starts and finishes on G, so I have put a G chord with it. Resolving from G – Am (chord VII – chord I) instead of Em – Am (chord V – chord I) in the fourth bar works because G major is related to E minor. Every minor chord has a related major chord, which is two above it in the key scale, and these two can always be used interchangeably. In this case E is the 5th note in the scale of A dorian. Two notes above E in the scale is G, so G major can replace E minor for a lighter feeling chord progression.
In the last two bars of the B part you will noticed that I have not ended on A minor as you would expect for a section in the key of A dorian, but on D. This is because I know the tune is about to switch back to G ionian for the A part, so I end the section on G’s V chord, which then wants to resolve back to G to start the next section. Any time a key change is coming up you can always end the current section on the upcoming key’s chord V in order to make the modulation (key change) work.
In this version I have replaced G in the second bar with its related minor, E minor. In order to link these two chords together, I have played an intermediate chord D/F#. This works well because the bass note in the second chord creates a nice bassline – G, F#, Em. It is always nice to link a major chord to its related minor in this way- you can find a complete list of these types of linking chords in my first book, Backing Guitar Techniques For Traditional Celtic Music.
Replacing the G from the third bar with a C works because you can always replace a chord I section with chord IV, or a chord related to chord IV. Therefore, either C or its related minor Am are valid substitutes for a chord I section. In this instance I have linked C to Am using another linking chord, G in the first inversion, otherwise known as G/B. You can find a diagram for this chord below.
I have also used the G/B chord to create bass movement in bar seven. This chord sounds fine in context because it’s an inversion of chord I, and this is a chord I section.
In the B part I have used two minor substitutes for G major in bars three and four. G major’s related minor is E minor, and a major chord can also be substituted to the minor chord whose root is two above its own in the key scale. In this case that is B minor (G – A – B).
The last two bars of the B part use a chord progression which would commonly appear in G ionian, to make it clear that the tune still has its roots in that mode; C – D. This would be chord IV – V in G ionian, and would traditionally be followed by G major (chord I). In the first playthrough of the B part the last chord is A minor as the tune is going to continue in that key, but on the second playthrough it reverts to G major ready for the A part which is back in the original key of G ionian.
In this version I have added nice jazzy tetrads (four note chords instead of the usual triads or three note chords). When adding tetrads or more complicated “jazz” chords into folk music in major keys, chords I and IV become major 7 type chords, chords II and VI become minor 7 type chords and chord V becomes a dominant type chord. You can learn a lot more about how to implement these types of chords in my book Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music. For our purposes the complete list of available tetrads is: G major 7, A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D (dominant) 7, E minor 7 and F# ½ diminished (again, if you want to understand what a “half diminished chord” is then please see my book).
For the A minor 7 chord in the B part, I like to use the barre chord version (pictured below). I then like to use the high E minor and B minor barre chords which are nearer to this chord than the more common voicings found lower down the neck. Generally speaking, B parts are usually higher pitched and more energetic than A parts, so I often match this by using higher chords (incorporating low open strings as bass notes where possible) in my backing.
In bar four of the A part I have used D9 instead of D7. You can theoretically add ANY notes to a jazzy chord V in a major key, so any dominant or altered dominant chord would do. However the ones I particularly like the sounds of are 9 and 13 chords. Experiment with using these chord types in place of V chords in other keys!
In bar seven of the A part I have used the chromatic link Cmaj7 – C# ½ diminished – D9. This works well because any time you have two chords whose root notes are separated by a tone, you can always link the two by using the diminished or ½ diminished chord whose root lies on the semitone in between them. This works well if you are ascending- if you wish to create a descending chromatic link then using a dominant 7 chord works better, eg D9 – C#7 – C major 7.
In the B part I have used the same tricks mentioned above to convert my substitutions version of the tune into a jazzier version of the same progression. Note the chromatic link reappears in bar seven.
This tune is in the key of G ionian, and therefore has G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major, E minor and F# diminished as its chord options with G, C and D being the main ones. I always like to start out by breaking a tune down into “chord I sections”, “chord IV sections” and “chord V sections”. In the A part there aren’t any sections which really sound like they NEED chord IV. That means that most of the tune could have been accompanied by chord I (G), but I thought this was a bit dull, so I have thrown in a bar of chord IV (bar three), which works nicely because any time you have been playing chord I for a while you can always throw chord IV in for a bit of variation.
The final bar of each line has to be chord V (D). This is because the V chord always goes on every seventh foot tap, aka every fourth bar. You will notice that, unlike most tunes, McMahon’s actually has no V-I in the last bar of the A part (bar eight), but instead stays on chord V for the whole bar. The tune actually ends its A part on a long D note, and consequently sounds like it should stay on chord V instead of returning to chord I to make the section sound finished as most other tunes would.
McMahon’s is something of an unusual melody and can be quite tricky to find the right chords for. The B part changes key, to A dorian. A dorian contains the same notes as G ionian, but you can tell the mode has changed as there are suddenly far more As and Es (A dorian’s root and 5th) on dominant beats of the melody, making the section feel a lot more A minor-y and a lot less G-y! In the dorian mode the main chords are chords I, IV and V as normal, but chord V can also be replaced with its related major if you prefer a less dark sound. For that reason I have broken this part of the tune into chord I (Am), chord IV (D) and chord VII, which is chord V’s related major (chord VII is G, the related major of E minor). You can gain a much better grasp of how and why chords fit together using the Amazing Mode Wheel, available here.
As we are now in the key of A dorian, I have begun the B part on A minor. The third bar is pretty vague in its tonality- its notes are “E B B B G – F# G”. To me this sounded most like a G chord (G, B and D) but really I’m never too sure with this tune whether there is really any right answer! The fourth bar is a bit more clearly a G major section; “E B B A B – – -” . We would expect a chord V in this bar for our seventh foot tap, and chord V (Em) in the dorian mode can always be substituted to its related major chord VII (G) for a lighter sound, so another bar of G is a good fit.
In the B part’s final bar, the tune is transitioning back to being in G ionian. For this reason I have ended the section on chord V from the original key of G ionian, aka D major. This makes the transition back to G seem natural.
In this version, I have added a G/B chord, otherwise known as G in the first inversion. This is a very common technique, which creates a nice linking bassline from G up to B and then on up to C. A G major chord normally contains the notes G, B and D. It doesn’t matter what order you pile the notes within the chord, but it is traditional to have the root note at the lowest pitch. For example G, B, D, G, B, G or G, D, G, B, D, G would both be valid G major chord voicings. If you invert the chord so that its 3rd, B, is at the lowest pitch within it then the chord is said to be “in the first inversion”. To play chord I, chord I’s first inversion, then chord IV is a very common technique in folk backing and will work in any key.
In bar six of the A part I have replaced G major with its related minor, E minor for a darker variation. Any chord can be replaced with its related minor at any time, unless it is chord V in a major key which has to be chord V and cannot be substituted.
In the B part, I have capitalised on the vague tonality of the tune to put in a more “pop music” type chord progression. For example the second bar contains the notes “D B B A B – – D”. This could be seen as the top of a G major chord with an A thrown in, so I’ve stuck a G in there instead of the A I went for in the previous version. The third bar contains; “E B B B G – F# G” which is so vague as to be basically a free for all. I decided to go on round the circle of fifths from G to C as progressions which go up in fifths always sound nice and this is basically a chord I section which means you can put anything from the chord I or IV families here without any adverse effects!
Basically there are so few clearly defined chords in this section (each bar contains notes from multiple chord families) that I have simply plumped for a chord progression which sounds good in its own right, and more or less fits with the melody.
In this version I have converted each of the chords from the substitutions version to a jazzier version of the same. When adding tetrads (four note chords) or more complicated “jazz” chords into folk music in major keys, chords I and IV become major 7 type chords, chords II and VI become minor 7 type chords and chord V becomes a dominant type chord. You can learn a lot more about how to implement these types of chords in my book Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music.
Therefore in my version, G major becomes G69, the quintessentially gypsy jazz sounding substitute for a major chord (replacing chords I and IV in a major key with 69 chords always sounds nice). In bar two, B minor is a substitute for G major, because a major chord can be substituted for the minor chord two degrees below it within the key scale (its related minor- in this key G is related to Em) or the one two above it in the root scale (in this case G can sub to Bm). As we are in jazz-chord territory I play Bm7 instead of plain Bm. As the following bar’s Am has become A minor 7, and this chord is an identical barre chord to Bm but two frets lower on the neck, I have slid down and played the intermediate chord on the way to provide a nice chromatic link, Bm7 – B♭m7, Am7. Finally I have used D9 in place of chord V, because chord V always becomes a dominant 7 type chord when you get to jazz land, and adding any extra notes from the root scale always makes a jazz chord jazzier! In this case a D7 chord would contain D (root), F# (major 3rd), A (5th) and C♮ (flattened 7th). The 9th note in a D major scale would be E, and E is also in our key scale of G ionian so adding an E note to my D7 chord to give me E9 sounds good. As a general rule, using a 9 chord (D9, A9, etc) in place of chord V in a major key pretty much always sounds great.
In the B part, I have more or less taken the chords from the basic version and converted them into the right kind of tetrad. Recall that the chord options for A dorian are the same as the ones in G ionian. This applies in tetrad land too, so the complete chord options are G major 7, A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D (dominant) 7, E minor 7 and some sort of substitute for F# diminished. As we are in A dorian, chord I is Am7, chord IV is D7 and chord V is Em7.
This tune is in the key of E dorian. That means the available chords are E minor, F# minor, G major, A major, B minor, C# diminished and D major. These are the same options which would fit a tune in D major, as dorian is the second mode and E is the second note of a D major scale. You can find out more about how this works using the Amazing Mode Wheel or in my first book, Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music.
Throughout the simple chords, I have used chord VII instead of chord V. chord V in the key of E minor is B minor, which is hard to play, and in any mode other than ionian you can always replace chord V with its related major chord. In this case, Bm’s related major is D which sounds brighter and is easier to play.
Bar three of the tune sounds very much like it needs chord VII- the notes are “F# D A D B D A G”. The majority of notes in this bar are D, F# and A, the notes of a D major chord (chord VII).
The tune has no clear chord IV sections in either the A or B parts, so I have used the same basic chords for both.
In this version I have substituted the E minor in bar two to its related major (G) for variation.
Likewise I have added the B minor (chord V) back into bar IV.
For contrast in the second line of the A part I have removed the brighter D major chord and just used B minor for a bar and a half instead. This is partly because I like the sound of it and partly because changing to Bm for just half a bar would be very difficult at speed!
In the B part I have added a D major (chord VII) in the second half of the first bar. This works well because the section contains an F# note, which is normally an indicator of chord V or VII (chord VII is D major which contains D, F# and A).
In the second half of the second bar of the B part I have added a G major chord, the related major of E minor, because the bar begins on a high G note.
In the third bar I have inverted my D major chord (by adding my thumb on the second fret of the bottom string). This is because on a guitar both Em and G have nice low bass notes on the bottom string. D on the other hand has the D string as its lowest note and consequently sounds weedy in comparison. For this reason putting the F# on the bottom string in the bass gives a fuller sounding chord and creates a nice conjunct bassline between the three, Em – G – F# . Generally speaking it is nice to try and keep the bass notes of your chord progressions as conjunct as possible- avoiding any big jumps makes your chords sound a lot more fluid, deliberate and musical.
When you want to add four note chords or tetrads to any tune’s accompaniment, you need to know which major key would contain the same chords as your key mode. We are in E dorian, which contains the same list of available chords as D major. For tetrads in a major key, chords I and IV become major 7 chords, chords II, III and VI become minor 7 chords and chord V becomes a (dominant) 7 chord. That means that the list of tetrads available in D major would be:
D major 7
E minor 7
F# minor 7
G major 7
B minor 7
C# ½ diminished (rarely used in folk music- we’ll replace it with chord V in the first inversion, aka A/C#).
Adding any notes from the key scale on top of the base chord will just give you a jazzier sounding version of the same chord, for example in place of G major 7 you could play G major 9, G major 11 or G major 13.
As we are in E dorian, our chord I is E minor 7, chord IV is A (dominant) 7 and chord V is B minor 7. In any mode other than ionian chord VII also becomes dominant, so our D chord would be D (dominant) 7 instead of D major 7. Chord VII is related to chord V, meaning that the two can be used interchangeably.
In the A part I have switched to high barre chords. I particularly like to use the E minor 7 barre chord on the seventh fret when playing in E dorian or aeolian, as this has a nice tinkly feel but with the low E string left in for a good solid bass note.
G add 6 is just a C major shape slid way up the neck.
D add 9 is an easier version of a D barre chord which can be played with just two fingers- useful at speed! Flatten the ring finger to fret the D, G, B and top E strings.
Using a 9 chord as chord IV in the dorian mode gives it a really nice jazzy twist- to me a IV9 chord sounds almost flirtatious!
In the B part I have used some different variants on the chord shapes, though the theory is exactly the same. If you don’t want to learn any more shapes you can use the old versions- I just find these ones easier to change between in this context.
In bar five of the B part, I replace a chord I sounding section with chord IV. You can always do this, in any key. I then follow it up with a C major chord. This is “borrowed” from the mode of E aeolian. Only one note differentiates the dorian and aeolian modes- in dorian the sixth note is how it would be in a major scale with the same root note (in the case of E dorian it would be C# as in an E major scale) and in aeolian the sixth note is flattened, giving the mode its darker feel. As the sixth note of the scale is rarely used in Irish melodies in minor keys, you can often get away with “borrowing” chords from the other minor mode. C major makes a good substitute for E minor, because they contain two notes in common- C contains C, E and G and E minor contains E, G and B. As this bar contains neither a C nor a C# in the melody, you can get away with this substitution which provides a darker sounding progression than the C# diminished chord from the dorian mode would have done.
This tune is in the key of D dorian. Therefore the available chords are D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished and C major.
In the A part there are no sections which sound strongly like they need anything other than chord I. Consequently the whole part can be backed with chord I, with chord V in bars four and eight, resolving to chord I to mark the end of the section.
In the B part, the second bar contains the notes “C – G C E C G C”. As this is clearly outlining a C chord (chord VII), I have put one in.
Although it is customary to play chord V throughout the fourth bar in an Irish tune, this particular one sounds better with chord I for the second half of the bar. This is because the notes are “C B C D E D D -”. You can hear that the second half of the bar is very clearly finishing on a strong D, therefore I like to put a D minor chord here to match.
In this version to break up the huge chunk of D minor I have replaced the second bar with chord VII. In a chord I section you can more or less play whatever you want, and I like chord VII here as the second half of the bar contains a C note on a dominant beat, so sounds quite chord VII-y .
In bar seven I create a link from C down to A minor by using G/B, a G chord in the first inversion. This is a very common trick to link any chord to its related minor- play the first inversion of the chord below the related minor chord to create a nice descending bassline. For example, you could play D – A/C# – Bm or G – D/F# – Em. In this particular context G/B works well because it’s in a chord I section and you can always play chord IV (G) in a chord I section, so an inversion of said chord is also perfectly fine.
In bar three of the B part I have replaced chord I with chord IV. You can always replace chord I with chord IV in a chord I section.
I have re-used my link from C down to its related minor A minor as in the A part.
In this version I have replaced all chords with tetrads. The tetrads available in D dorian are the same as that in C ionian, except that now we begin on D minor7. The complete list is: D minor 7, E minor 7, F major 7, G (dominant) 7, A minor 7, B ½ diminished (we will avoid the diminished chord by playing the first inversion of chord V, aka G/B).
In bars three and seven, I have used B♭ major 7 as a substitute for D minor. This chord is borrowed from the mode of D aeolian. The dorian and aeolian modes are only differentiated from one another by the sixth note of the scale (which is flattened by a semitone in the aeolian mode) and Irish tunes in minor keys rarely feature the sixth note in their melodies. This means that if we wish to, we can “borrow” chords from the aeolian mode. B♭ major seven contains the notes B♭, D, F and A. The upper three notes form a D minor triad, so so long as the section in question doesn’t have a B♮ in the melody this will make a good dark substitute for a D minor chord.
In the B part I have used the standard trick of linking a minor chord to its related major using the first inversion of the chord whose root is one below the starting chord. In this case I am linking D minor up to F major, so I use C major (chord VII) in its first inversion, aka C/E.
You will notice that in bar four I have committed the ultimate folky sacriledge and missed out the chord V bar! You can sometimes get away with playing chord IV instead of chord V in the dorian mode- it can give a cool optimistic ending to a phrase of a tune. Just bear in mind that you HAVE to go V-I at the end of a section to make the section sound finished. In other words it is sometimes OK to play chord IV in the 4th, 12th, 20th or 28th bar of a tune in a dorian key, but not in the 8th, 16th, 24th or 32nd.
In the fifth bar I have borrowed B♭ major 7 from the aeolian mode again, which is fine as there is no B or B♭ note in the melody anywhere in this bar. I have followed this chord with Am7, even though it is not a chord V section, because it provides a nice conjunct set of chords dancing around the chord V and coming to rest on it in order to resolve back to chord I (the root notes being B♭ – A – G – A – D).
This tune is in the key of D ionian. That means that the available chords are D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major, B minor and C# diminished.
The third bar of the A part contains the notes “F# B B A B C# D B”. This sounds like a chord IV section to me, as G major contains G, B and D and two of the dominant beats in this bar are on B notes, which do not appear in chord I (D, F# A).
In the B part I have used an E minor (chord II) in the third bar. This is because the bar is basically running up the D major scale beginning from E, which is the same thing as saying “running up the scale of E dorian”. Of course an E minor chord fits nicely with an E minor scale!
In this version I have used D/F#, aka the first inversion of D major, to provide a nice linking bassline from D up to G. You can play this chord by looping your thumb round the back of the neck so that it frets the second fret of the bottom E string.
In bar three, instead of going directly to chord V, A major, I have resolved to it from the chord which is a fifth above it within the key scale. You can always do this- if you have a whole bar or more of a given chord you can play the chord whose root is a fifth above it before the original chord. I have also replaced half of bar seven, which previously just contained G major, with its related minor E minor. A major chord’s related minor is always the one whose root note is two below its own in the key scale (in this case G – F# – E minor).
In the B part I have replaced G with its related minor, Em and D with its related minor, Bm. It is always acceptable to switch chords I and IV in any key to their related minors for variation. I have also used the first inversion of chord I, D/F#, in several places. This chord sounds like it wants to move up to G, so it can be a good way to add a sense of movement to your chord progressions.
In this version’s A part, I have used D in the first inversion, or D/F#, as a linking chord to create a sense of movement between chords I and IV (D and G). The G major in the second bar works because you can always replace a chord I section with chord IV if you wish to.
In bar three I have replaced G major with its related minor, E minor. The related minor of any major chord can be found by going two steps down in the key scale from any major chord- in this case G – F# – E (minor). I proceed up the chord scale from Em – D/F# (a substitute for the F# diminished chord) – G – A, in order to arrive at chord V for the second half of the chord V section in the fourth bar. Remember that bars 4, 8, 12, 16 etc (multiples of four) all take chord V!
In bar 5 I have used both of the minor substitutions available for a D major chord- B minor and F# minor. B minor is the related minor of D major, and F# minor is the chord whose root note is two above D in the key scale. You can always substitute a chord for either the chord whose root note is two below it in the key scale, or the chord whose root note is two above it in the key scale. Both of these chords will have two notes in common with the original chord and so both will make good substitutes.
In bars seven and eight I have missed out the D/F# from my ascending chord run. This is because I have to get back to A in time to go from V – I at the end of the section. If I played the full ascending progression from the end of the first line, I would end the B part on chord V (A) instead of going from V back to I (D) to make it sound finished.
In place of A major I have used A7 as my chord V. You can always replace chord V in a major key with a dominant 7 chord, or any other dominant chord like a 9 or 13.
In the B part, just to show that it CAN be done, I thought I’d stick an actual chord VII in. I have used the tetrad (four note chord) form, C# ½ diminished in bar two. This chord contains the notes C#, E and G. An E minor chord would work well in this section, and this chord contains two of the same notes so it’s theoretically an acceptable option. You will probably find in practice that it doesn’t sound that great though- you could replace it with G, Em, D, Bm or loads of others!
In bar six I have slid my F#m chord down one fret for the second half of the bar. This creates a nice chromatic link down to the E minor chord in the following bar. Any time you have two chords whose roots are separated by a tone, you can slide between them in this way using barre chords.
This tune is in A dorian. That means that available chords are A minor, B minor, C major, D major, E minor, F# diminished and G major. If you’d like to fully understand the modes and why certain chords fit certain keys then you’ll need my first book Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music, or an Amazing Mode Wheel from Finale Guitar.
In bar two I have used a G major chord, which is chord VII within the key of A dorian. This fits well because the melody notes are “B A B D G – A G”. The notes of a G chord are G, B and D so this chord is an obvious fit for this bar.
Chord V appears on every seventh foot tap (or fourth bar) as usual. In most tunes I would resolve to chord I at the end of the first play through the A part. In this particular one I prefer not to, until the end of the repeat of the A part (either is fine).
The B part’s harmonic structure is basically the same as the A part’s, so I have used the same chords.
In this version I have replaced the E minor in bar four with its related major, G major. In any mode other than ionian, you can replace the minor V chord with its related major chord. A minor chord’s related major is always the one whose root note is two notes above it in the key scale- in this case E (minor) – F# – G (major). As well as this substitution, I have added an approach chord to the G- I approach it from a semitone below.
As G is chord VII in the mode of A dorian, you might expect me to approach it using F# diminished, the chord in the key whose root is one below G. However folky guitarists tend to avoid diminished chords as they sound rather unpleasant. Instead I use the first inversion of a D major chord, which in practical terms is just a D major chord with your thumb looped round the back to fret an F# on the second fret of the low E string. This substitution works because D major contains the notes D, F# and A, and F# diminished contains F#, A and C- the two chords share two notes. In any key you can avoid the diminished chord by using the first inversion of the chord whose root is two notes lower in the scale, eg F# dim becomes D/F#, C# dim. becomes A/C#, B dim. becomes G/B etc.
In bar seven I have replaced A minor with its related major, C.
In the B part, inverting the G chord in bar two creates a nice walking bassline from A up to its related major, C. A G chord contains the notes G, B and D, so its first inversion has the B at the bottom pitch within the chord.
When we begin to introduce tetrads into the dorian mode, the available options are I minor 7, II minor 7, III major 7, IV (dominant) 7, V minor 7, VI ½ diminished and VII (dominant) VII. In this case, our options are A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D (dominant) 7, E minor 7, F# ½ diminished and G (dominant) VII. Notice that as dorian is the second mode, these are the same jazzy options which would be available in the key of G ionian, with the addition that in the dorian mode chord VII is also a dominant 7 chord.
If you recall that you can play chord I, chord IV or any chord related to either of those two in a chord I section, you should have no trouble decoding why the first line works well.
In bar seven of the A part, I have “borrowed” an F major chord, as if we were playing in A aeolian instead of A dorian. In Irish music in minor keys, the sixth note of the scale (in this case F) is rarely used in the melody. This means that you can often use chords from either mode- you only have to stick rigidly to the “right” chords for the dorian mode in bars which contain the sixth note. As this bar contains no F#s in the melody, I have used the darker sounding F major chord. I then use D/F# (a substitute for F# diminished) to create a chromatic link up to a G (chord VII)- F – F# – G.
This chromatic link is continued by using G# diminished to link G back to A via G#. You can always use a diminished chord whose root note is on the semitone between two other chords to create an ascending chromatic link. If you want to create descending chromatic links then use a dominant 7 chord instead.
In the B part I switch to shapes which are higher up the neck, as shown below. I invert the G chord in the second bar, to set up an A – B – C bassline between the first three bars. C major add 13 is a valid substitute for C major, because adding any extra notes from within the key scale to a chord will just give you a jazzier version of the same. C major add 13 is a C chord with an A note added so this sounds great in the key of A dorian.
Remember I said that you could borrow chords from the aeolian mode in a dorian tune if the melody didn’t contain the sixth note in the bar in question? Well, bar five of the B part actually DOES contain an F#, but it’s right at the end so I think the guitarist can get away with a dark, moody F major 7 chord there. I like to play the first four bars of the A part using light tinkly chords a way up the neck, and for contrast play the second half low down using the dark brooding chords of the aeolian mode.
Finishing on an Am13 gives the tune a cool, gypsy jazz style flourish!
A part jazzy chord shapes
B part jazzy chord shapes
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