I’ve been putting this one off for a while, but it’s finally time to examine the style of one of the absolute giants of Irish backing guitar- John Doyle! Famous for his work with Solas, The Teetotallers, McCusker, McGoldrick and Doyle, Usher’s Island and many more, John Doyle is a hugely versatile player who brings a wealth of interesting techniques to Irish guitar accompaniment. In this series I’ll be breaking down the most common chord shapes he uses for backing tunes, by examining a live clip of John Doyle and Liz Carroll at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston from 2009 (see below). In the next part I’ll be going into more detail on the chord techniques he uses later in the clip, and in the final part I’ll be examining his simple strumming style for reels and how he uses syncopated accents to make loads of cool rhythmic variations.
Here’s the original clip:
And here are all all four parts of my guide to John Doyle’s unique Irish guitar backing style:
I had a request recently for a video examining the Shetland guitar style of Tich Richardson who famously played with Boys Of The Lough. Tich tragically died in a car crash in 1984, so his characteristic guitar style is not widely known, but from the few surviving recordings of his playing we can see a hugely creative and versatile player who melded the classic “Shetland” bum-chak style with forrays into fingerstyle, altered tunings and countless creative, jazzy chord voicings.
In this video I examine one fantastic clip of Tich playing with Boys Of The Lough fiddle player Aly Bain. The full clip can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wP68ftFMA0
You can find my previous videos on “Peerie” Willie Johnson here.
This week’s free guitar lesson from Folk Friend is responding to a request from Shane Tully who asked for a guide to John Fahey’s Sligo River Blues. Well it’s a great tune, so I was only too happy to oblige! I have made a free tab which shows you the entire song and in this videos I will be running you through all the chords, picking techniques and general top tips you will need to get this classic tune sounding great on your acoustic guitar!
In this video I’ll be running you through an Irish folk guitar chord progression and unusual strumming technique used by Dennis Cahill. The clip I show is from a live performance with Martin Hayes Live at the Irish Arts Centre, NYC, which you can watch in full below.
I should point out that in the B part of the clip, the second and third time through Dennis Cahill actually plays a slight variation on the chords I show. You can find diagrams for the variation on the accompanying blog for this video which is available here.
If you’d like to buy a whole album of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, I particularly like Live in Seattle, which you can buy here. Please support Folk Friend by buying through these affiliate links, which gives me a small commission and enables me to continue to make more free videos!
Of course all their albums are brilliant and if you like more orchestral, arranged sounding folk music then check out The Gloaming too.
This week’s free Irish guitar lesson from Folk Friend will be delving into some of the shapes popularised by Django Reinhardt which went on to define the sound of gypsy jazz… and how you can recycle them to make your Celtic backing guitar sound cool!
For examples of the amazing “Hot Club” sound of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappeli, check out the brilliant Platinum Collection album available here. Support Folk Friend by buying through this link- I will get a small commission if you do, which enables me to make more free videos!
For this Irish guitar lesson, we’ll be working with a reel in the dorian mode called The Star of Munster. The recording I play along with in this clip is by Matt Coleman:
There is also a slower version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QprRbpc21k
And an even slower version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37OBWkXIlC4
I had a lot of positive feedback from the first Folk Friend Irish guitar lesson covering the unusual playing style of one of my acoustic guitar idols, Dennis Cahill. In fact I had so many messages about it that I’ve decided to have a more in-depth look at some unusual chords he uses to accompany a cracking Irish reel called The Old Bush. Thanks to my mum as ever for acting as my inexhaustible encyclopedia of tune titles!
You can watch part 1 of my guide to Dennis Cahill’s guitar style, which covers picking technique, using dynamic changes to build energy and some more standard chord choices, here.
The original clip of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill live from the Irish Arts Centre in New York City is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkxtRbQ_0ZE
Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill play this tune on their album The Lonesome Touch, which you can buy here: https://amzn.to/37FqH5H
Full disclosure- this is an affiliate link so I get a few pennies if you buy through it! Thanks.
In this free Irish guitar lesson from Folk Friend, I’ll be looking at how to play polkas. These are a type of tune written in 2/4 which are infamous amongst Irish and Scottish backing guitarists for their speed! The polka is also a common dance and tune type in western European folk music.
We’ll be demonstrating using John Ryan’s polka, a very common session tune. If you’d like to practice along at home, you can find my slow, medium and fast playalong track with on-screen guitar chords here.
A clawhammer style arrangement of John Ryan’s can be found in my book Irish Tunes For Fingerstyle Guitar, available in the Folk Friend online shop!
Here’s the clip of the amazing Steve Cooney and Seamus Begley playing polkas to which I refer in the video:
Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Duncan Cameron, a Canadian singer, multi-instrumentalist and Youtuber from Ontario, Canada. We had a long chat about such wide-ranging subjects as tunings used for Irish and Celtic backing guitar, the styles of classic guitarists like John Doyle, Paul Brady and even Django Reinhardt, the differences between the various styles of folk music prevalent in Canada, how to accompany Irish songs and loads loads more!
Here are some links to Duncan Cameron’s social media and music:
Here are Amazon links where you can buy all of the music we mentioned in this video. These are affiliate links- if you buy through any of them I receive a small commission which enables me to continue to run this channel. Please make sure that you click the correct one for your country otherwise I won’t receive any commission- thank you in advance for supporting Folk Friend!
La Bottine Souriante
Tony Mc Manus
Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill
Paul Brady and Andy Irvine:
Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger (only available in UK)
Liz Carroll and John Doyle
Finally, here is a clip from the work of Dr Aindrias Hirt which gives further information on his theory on the “natural scale”.
Dr Aindrias Hirt: https://otago.academia.edu/AindriasHirt
(Extract from “The European Folk MUsic Scale- A New Theory”, paper by Dr. A Hirt available at the link above):
“What I found is the following. If a trained art musician hears a natural trumpet playing in the lower range (see Figure 15: G3, C4, E4, G4, A4, C5), that musician will classify the tune as tetratonic (four notes per octave; that is, four notes ascending including and starting on C4, and then the octave, C5). If the tune happens to rise to D5, the diatonically trained musician will then assume that D4 is in existence (a note an octave lower)25 and declare that the tune is pentatonic (missing F4 and B4, but having five notes per octave; that is, five notes starting at C4 and then the octave, C5); this implies that the pitches present are G3, C4, D4, E4, G4, A4, C5, D5, when in fact D4 does not appear in the tune at all. A similar erroneous assumption may occur again on a different note (F5) as a shepherd’s trumpet ascends in pitch. A tune that would be classified as pentatonic (missing all Fs and Bs), is declared to be hexatonic once F5 is found; this is because the trained art musician will assume that the lower octave F4 is in existence. To explain this last point in more detail, examine a tune which scholars have classified as pentatonic (having C4, (D4), E4, G4, A4, C5, D5, E5) until the tune ascends to an existing F5/F♯5. Once the tune includes F5/F♯5, scholars will assume that the lower octave F4 exists, and the tune is then declared to be hexatonic (missing B4, but not F4), resulting in a scale of: C4, (D4), E4, (F4), G4, A4, C5, D5, E5, F5, etc. This classification occurs even though both D4 and F4 do not exist. Simply put, because diatonically trained musicians think in terms of seven notes per octave and “octave equivalency,” it has never occurred to them that they were dealing with a system that was not octave-based.”
This free Irish guitar lesson from Folk Friend covers one of the most popular tunings out there; drop D. This is a great tuning for beginner folk guitarists as it has the nice low, booming bass notes of a tuning like DADGAD but without the need to learn loads of new chord shapes!
If you are interested in finding out more about the amazing guitarists Tim Edey, John Doyle, Arty McGlynn or Paul Brady who I mentioned in the intro then please consider buying their music through the links below. These are affiliate links so I receive a small commission if you buy through them, which enable me to continue to make free Youtube content for you! Please note that you will need to click the link for your country otherwise they WILL NOT WORK.
Tim Edey: UK: https://amzn.to/2TlMzwg
Canada: Not available- sorry!
You can also buy a full DVD of John Doyle teaching Drop D guitar here:
In this week’s free Scottish and Irish guitar lesson from Folk Friend, I’ll be looking at the playing of the amazing folk / gypsy jazz fusion artist Peerie Willy Johnson, a fantastic traditional guitar player from the Shetland Isles. In the first part of this video I’ll be showing you a set of guitar chords he used together often and some of the principles behind his chord choices. I’ll also be showing you how you can emulate his “La Pompe” strumming pattern (as borrowed from Django Reinhardt and other gypsy jazz guitarists). In the second part, I’ll be looking at his recording of the classic, traditional hornpipes Harvest Home and Ragtime Jane, taken from the amazing Willy’s World album, and showing you how he applies jazz theory to come up with outstandingly original chord progressions for folk music and how you can take his chord choice techniques and apply them to your own guitar playing!