Hornpipes Playalongs

The Rights Of Man – E aeolian


The Rights Of Man

This tune has been widely played in both Scotland and Ireland since at least the middle of the 19th century. It is named after Tom Payne’s 1791 book of the same title, which refuted Edmund Burke’s Reflections On The Revolution In France and supported the cause of the French revolutionaries in light of the government’s failure to protect their human rights.

Basic chords

The tune is in E aeolian. This means that the complete list of available chords is:

Em, F#m, G, Am, Bm, C, D, 


I have broken this tune down primarily into chords I, IV and VII. This is effectively the same thing as breaking the tune down into I, IV and V. Chord VII (D) is the related major of chord V (Bm) which means that the two can be used interchangeably- I have mainly used chord VII as I like its brighter feel and find it easier to play at speed. The only time I have used chord V (Bm) is to make a clear marker for the ends of the sections.


In this version I have used chord VII (D) in the second bar. This is because this bar contains an F# note on its fourth beat, which is a chord V family indicator. This means that chord V or its related major chord VII can sound nice over this bar. As I went for chord VII I have used chord V at the end of the fourth bar for contrast.


The C major in the third bar is a substitute for E minor (chord III substituting for chord I) as you can always replace a minor chord with the major which is two above it in the scale (its related major) or the one which is two below it. The fourth bar has changed from D to Am-D. This is because if you have a long block of any chord you can always make it more interesting by working your way round the circle of fifths (using only chords from within the key) to FINISH UP on that chord. In this instance I have resolved from A to D instead of just playing D. As I am in the key of E aeolian, the A chord has to be A minor.


In the B part I have substituted a C for the E minor chords in the second half of the A part. It is common to replace a minor chord with the major chord two notes below it for contrast, as this chord contains two of the same notes. In this instance C is two notes behind E so C major is a good substitute for E minor.

Jazzy substitutions

These are a fairly standard set of jazzy substitutions. As you can see I have more or less maintained the progression from the simpler substitutions, just adding the “right kind” of seventh note to each of my chords to give each one a jazzier flavour. As we are in E aeolian, our complete list of available tetrads (chords with sevenths) would be the same as in G major, aka G major 7, A minor 7, B minor 7, C major 7, D dominant 7 (often just called “D7”), E minor 7 and F# ½ diminished. If you wish to understand exactly why these are the available chords you can find a complete guide to the music theory involved in my book Backing Guitar Techniques For Traditional Celtic Music.


They can be played with the following “standard” jazzy barre chord shapes:

Em7 barre chord for Irish guitarD7 barre chord for Irish guitar Bm7 barre chord for Irish guitar Cmaj7 barre for Irish guitar Am7 barre chord for Irish guitar