The Kesh is written in the key of G ionian, so the available chords are G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major, E minor and F# diminished.
The second bar goes “A – – A B D”, so it could be seen as a chord V bar. In order to avoid having chord V right near the start of the tune I have played A minor (chord II) instead. This works pretty well as most of the bar is full of A notes!
The third bar could take either C or G. I’ve gone for G for contrast and because this makes a more satisfying chord progression.
As in almost all folk music, the fourth bar takes chord V. On the repeat it resolves back to chord I for the second half of the bar, in order to make the section sound finished.
The seventh bar of the B part is really a chord I section- its notes are “G – – A – -” (either a whole bar of G or half a bar of G and then half a bar of D). However, replacing chord I (G) with chord IV (C) in this section creates extra tension which is then diffused byt eh resolution from chord V (D) to chord I (G) at the end of the section.
In bar three I have replaced G major with its related minor, E minor. In the fourth bar I have played chord V in its first inversion. This means that of the three notes normally in a D major chord, D, F# and A, the middle of the three, F# has been played at the lowest pitch within the chord instead of the root note D which would normally be the lowest note in a D chord. The reason I have done this is that it sets up a nice walking bassline from the E at the bottom of the E minor chord, via the F# at the bottom of D/F# (aka D in the first inversion) to G at the root of the G chord.
In the B part I have replaced G with its related minor, E minor and C with its related minor, A minor.
In this version I have taken the progression from the previous section and converted each of the chords into “the right kind of seven chord”. These are the “tetrads”, or four note “jazz” chords, where as well as the 1st, 3rd and 5th which make up the notes of a regular triad (three note chord) you also add the 7th note from the root note’s scale. You can discover the theory behind these in my first book Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music.
For any major key the list of tetrads available is:
Chord I – major 7 –
Chord II – minor 7
Chord III – minor 7
Chord IV – major 7
Chord V – dominant 7
Chord VI – Minor 7
Chord VII – ½ diminished (rarely used in folk music)
So for our tune in G major, the options are G major 7, A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D (dominant) 7, E minor 7 and F# ½ diminished. These simply replace the equivalent triad from the old progression, so D becomes D7 (note that it must be D7 NOT D major 7 because it is chord V), G becomes G major 7 and so on.
You can also add any chord extensions (extra notes) to a jazz chord, so long as the notes you add are from the key you are currently playing in. For example instead of playing D7 for my chord V I have used D9. This works fine because the 9th note in the D chord is an E, and E appears in the scale of G major so adding it sounds fine.
In bar four of the B part I have broken up a chord I bar by playing half a bar of G then half a bar of its first inversion, a G chord with B at the lowest pitch in the chord. This creates a nice little bassline to lead up into the C chord in the next bar. The same principle applies to the momentary shift from C back to G/B in the next bar- it creates movement in the bassline.
In bar 7 of the B part, I have used a nifty trick to create a chromatic link from a C chord to a D. Instead of just playing C major 7 followed by D7, I insert a C#½ diminished chord as a passing chord. You can use this to create a chromatic link between ANY two chords whose roots are separated by a semitone. For example, within the key of G, you could link G – Am (G – G#dim – Am), Am – Bm (Am – A#dim – Bm), D – Em (D – D#dim. – Em) etc etc. It also works in any mode, for any two chords whose roots are a tone apart.