Jigs Playalongs

The Cliffs of Moher – A dorian

Basic chords

This tune doesn’t have any strong chord IV sections in the A part, so in the simple version I have simply stuck to the “folk formula”- chord V on every seventh foot tap, resolving to chord I at the end of each section. The B part’s third and fourth bar very clearly outline a G major chord. The notes of the melody here are G A B D B A, G A B D B D. The notes of a G major chord are G, B and D. NB- when picking chords to accompany a tune, the most important notes to listen to for chord choices are the ones on the dominant beats which I have written in bold text. In the interests of simplicity for the beginner guitarist I have used E minor instead of G major- this is valid as E minor is G’s related minor, so the two chords can be used interchangeably. Aside from these two bars, the B part also follows the standard formula.


In the A part of the tune I have switched A minor to F major. This is actually a chord borrowed from the aeolian mode. In the key of A dorian, the F chord should be an F# diminished as in A dorian’s related ionian mode, G ionian. However if we were in A aeolian the 6th chord would be F major. A minor chord can always be substituted for either the chord which is two above it in the scale (its related major chord) or that which is two below it in the scale (another chord with which it shares two notes in common). In this instance I have used the chord two below as it would be in the aeolian mode instead of as it would be in the dorian mode. The reason that this nifty trick works is because there is only one note different between the dorian scale and the aeolian one. Compared to a major scale, the dorian mode has a flattened 3rd and flattened 7th while the aeolian has a flattened 3rd, flattened 6th and flattened 7th. It is this flattened 6th which gives the aeolian mode its darker character than the dorian. By borrowing the F chord from A aeolian, your accompaniment will give the tune a darker flavour than it would have had if you had used the F#dim (or a substitute thereof) which you would expect in the dorian mode. You can get away with this in the third bar of the Cliffs of Moher because there is no 6th note in the melody anywhere in this bar. This is a common feature of Irish melodies, that in minor (dorian or aeolian) tunes, the 6th note rarely appears, meaning that you can often use the chords of either the dorian or the aeolian mode, or a combination of both, for artistic effect. You can find out more about this technique in my free video on the subject here.

In the B part I have followed the G chord outlined in the second bar, and then replaced it with its related minor (Em) in the third. I have substituted an F (again, borrowed from the aeolian mode) for the A minor in bars 5 and 6. Bars 7 also outlines the notes of a G chord, so I’ve added one in.

Jazzy substitutions

In this version, I wanted to go for a “gypsy jazz” flavour, so I have begun with the “Django chord”, aka an A minor add 13 (I’ve notated it as Am13 on the video to save space- the difference between an actual Am13 chord and this Am add 13 chord is that Am13 should contain the flattened 7th note, G, as well as the root, ♭3rd, 5th and 13th, but this chord does not).

I have replaced the F majors throughout with F major 7. This F chord is borrowed from the mode of A aeolian. A aeolian is related to C ionian and therefore has the same chords as that mode. In C ionian, F would be chord IV and therefore if you wanted to play a tetrad (jazzy 7 chord) for it, it would have to be F major 7- hence that is the chord which I have used in this context.

Once you have descended into jazz land, any chord which resolves down a fifth can be replaced with a dominant or altered dominant chord. For this reason I have replaced my chord Vs in this version with an E7#5 chord. This is a really classy chord V and, due to its flattened seventh and altered chord tone, the #5th, very much sounds like it wants to resolve back to chord I immediately afterwards (resolving down a fifth, from V to I).

When the A part repeats, I have made a change to the chords for contrast. In the 5th bar of the A part repeat I have borrowed the D minor chord from A aeolian (acceptable as there is no 6th note of the A dorian scale in this bar of the melody) and played an ascending aeolian chord run from the Dm7 – Em7 – Fmaj7 before ending the section with my altered dominant V – I.

For the B part I have used a more traditionally dorian set of chords. Whenever you are playing in any mode other than ionian, chord VII becomes a dominant chord (9, 11 or 13). For this reason I have used G13 in the third and fourth bars. I also like G13 and Am add 13 together as they are particularly easy chord shapes to switch between at speed.

The D9 chord used in bars 7 and 8 gives the section a characteristically dorian feel. Recall that A dorian contains the same chords as G ionian, meaning that the IV chord in the dorian mode is equivalent to the V chord in the aeolian mode, and therefore has to be a dominant 7 type tetrad. For this reason my inclusion of a D9 here provides a very clear jazzy dorian vibe.

When the B part repeats, the tune contains a section in bars 5-6 of the repeat which is basically a descending scale from the 5th (E) down to the second (B), punctuated with E notes (E – E D E E, C E E B E E). I have sought to replicate this descending figure in my chords by descending from Fmaj7 to Em7. The next bar is an ascending scale and includes the 6th note of the A dorian scale, F#. For this reason I have played D/F# in my chords for this bar. As that sets up an ascending bassline from E – F#, it seemed right to use G13 instead of an Em or E7 type chord for the last chord V section. This continues the upward motion in the bass and then takes me back to my root note, E – F# – G – A.

Playalongs Reels

Crock Of Gold – G ionian / A dorian


Basic chords

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.

Jazzy substitutions

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.