Simple question. . . .
What key is the tune “Blarney Pilgrim” in?
What key is the tune “Blarney Pilgrim” in?
wormdiet, i would say its in G major although theres a strong suggestion of D at the beginning. I have heard some people play the first part in D major and get away with it thou.
The 2nd part is a G pentatonic scale in most versions, so if you’re backing, play in Gmaj for the 2nd part. The 1st & 3rd parts are in a D hexatonic scale, without an F#, but it can be presumed to have an underlying F# for the purpose of backing because it’d be a bit unusual to go from Ddor to Gmaj. You’re safe enough thinking of the 1st & 3rd parts as Dmix. A lot of people try and back the 1st part as if it was in G, but that just sounds weird. If it started DED DEG|B.. or DED DEF|G… then it’d be in G though.
Actually I’d revise that to: 3rd part is definitely D-based, but it’s possible to back the 1st part in G if you’re a bit careful with the chords, e.g. something like |G / |Am / |C… or | G / | D / |…
On the whole I’d say it’s in G, but that last part’s definitely D.
Without getting too complicated I play it in G and let the experts argue over the ‘in between bits’ I
haven’t seen the film for a few years, but wasn’t the Blarney Pilgrim one of the tunes in the set of tunes played for the irish dancers in the film ‘Titanic’?
The Blarney Pilgrim is a D mixolydian tune.
Different sections of the tune lean in different directions. Like Dow, I would say that the first two sections lean more in the G major direction, and would agree with Dow that the last part is in D if he is willing to accept that it leans more in the Dmix than Dmajor direction (although there is nothing in the last part that clearly says D mix or D major). I do not go as far as cthuilleanpiper, and say the whole thing is in D mix, as there is a whole lot more moving in the G direction in those first two parts.
But the nice thing about the tune is that is is rather amorphous from a harmonic standpoint, which makes it stand out from the crowd in a good way. The fact that its harmonic structure is ambiguous enough to argue about is part of my attraction to the tune. I like tunes where you can accompany them with strikingly different chords on different times through the tune--Earl’s Chair is another prime example.
Oh and wormdiet, what made you think this was a simple question? Actually, I think it is a pretty challenging question!!!
i think it would be lovely if threads were given names that indicated what they might be about, to spare the tendons for those many readers who might not be potential posters on threads with titles such as:
What Do You Think?
You Have to See This!
I’m Just Wondering
I Really Want to Know
I Have a Question
I’ve been making a practice of automatically passing up clue-free thread titles, but today i’m in the mood to ask for clues. now we resume with our regular programming…..
The key of Q
It’s in G. Definitely not Dmix. And I HATE it when backers play the first part as if it was in D - it’s not!
The fact that the third part revolves around what seems to be a D chord, doesn’t stop it being in G.
Sheesh! And I thought *I* needed to learn the rules of harmony!
Well, I said “simple” because I didn’t want to prejudice any responses, actually. the reason I ask is that I got into a heated debate with my bandmate about this yesterday evening. I follow cthuilleann piper and argued that it’s basically in Dmix (with a B part in G). The guitarist, who is more of a newcomer to Irish music, argued for G.
benhall, what’s definitely G about it? (Espec. 1st and 3rd parts) I am actually curious about this.
Is the sticking point the fact that the tune does not resolve to a Dmajor chord with root/major 3rd/5th? And *would* in fact “resolve” to a G major chord if the tune were composed slightly differently (I hope this makes some sort of coherent sense. . . )
Al - the point about harmonic ambiguity is very well taken, which probably why I like tunes like this.
This is an attempt to answer your question, wormdiet. Here’s how to harmonise it, not that it needs ‘harmonising’, of course:
| G | D | G | G | G | D | G | G :|
I think people get hung up on what the last note in a tune is, instead of what the tonic is. What happens an awful lot around here (ie on this site) is that people ignore the fact that modes don’t just have one note (the tonic) that they revolve around - or, indeed, end on.
And I *wish* people would stop talking about tunes ‘resolving’ onto a certain chord, or any chord. That kind of language is fine for classical - tonal - music, using only the major and minor scales. It just doesn’t apply to modal melodies.
| G | G | G | G | G | G | G | G :|
I take it this part’s agreed then.
| D | D | G | D | D | G | G :|
Is anyone beginning to see a pattern? But the fact that it’s in G has nothing whatever to do with the tune ‘resolving’ onto G. Even if the last chord played were a D, the ‘tonic’ note of this modal tune would still be a G.
In addition to the above, the tune is, in its entirety, in a *hexatonic* mode with tonic G. So, for pedants like me, it would be great if all you guitarists could play all of the D chords in the pattern above *without* the F sharp - what seems to be known as a power chord, ie either ADAD (blocking the bottom and top strings) or ADADA (just blocking the bottom string). Obviously, I’ve assumed standard tuning - it’s much easier in DADGAD - use 1 or even no fingers and you’ll be fine.
If you want to add some variety to the backing, there are points in the tune where you can add E’s to the D chords - or G chords for that matter, and there are the occasional moments when an Emin chord fits. There are one or two other things you can do, but I’m beginning to feel I’ve gone on enough …
No …. Just one more thing, on reflection: use DADGAD for this tune and others like it. Bung a G on the bottom string for almost all the tune, and do what you like with E’s, B’s and a sparingly used C. Bingo! One ‘harmonised’ tune - in G hexatonic … throughout … all three parts …
[nods vigorously and encouragingly]
Quote: It’s in G. Definitely not Dmix. And I HATE it when backers play the first part as if it was in D - it’s not!
Funny thing is, I think exactly the opposite - can’t stand the first part backed with a G major chord to start. My rough outline of first part:
|D | D/F# | G | C - Am7| D | D/F# |G C| Am D ||
The worst thing that ever happened with traditional music was that it was ‘discovered’ to be modal (thanks Cecil). It’s too simplistic a scheme and the music has to be shoehorned into it a lot of the time.
I have heard it played in A. I think Tommy Peoples plays it in A. And now that I think of it, since he usually tunes up to E Flat, it would be A#, …. Usually it is in G if it is played in most sessions.
Benhall, I really don’t see how you can say that the last part is in G. A2D B2D|A2D ABc|. It’s really obviously based around D. Dmix chords work best. And you’re the one who gives out about harmonising with notes that aren’t in the tune??! Give us a break!
Ben (and others) thanks for the explanations. . . . I see that this is a matter of some controversy.
“The worst thing that ever happened with traditional music was that it was ‘discovered’ to be modal (thanks Cecil). It’s too simplistic a scheme and the music has to be shoehorned into it a lot of the time.”
Uh … it IS modal. Bit daft to ascribe the “discovery” of that to Cecil Sharp, when the musicians themselves knew all along.
I should read up on Bunting, if I were you. (Even though the harp tradition was a separate tradition which is now dead except some think they’ve ‘revived’ it even though they couldn’t possibly know what it sounded like blah blah blah …)
Dow. I think you’re confused over the basis of modal tunes. and even so-called modal ‘harmony’. That last part is in the same hexatonic mode based on G as the rest. My point made above, in fact, was that modal tunes may not ‘revolve’ around just the tonic of the mode. In this case, the third part revolves around the note D. That doesn’t change what mode it’s in. And it isn’t in Dmix.
Try looking up on things like inverted modes, modal modulation, that other word (is it ‘plangent’? sorry no time to look it up right now), and things like that. You’ll find the answer is both more complicated and, ultimately, much simpler than you would have thought.
Glad to see your guitarist has good instrincts, wormdiet. I should stick with him/her if I were you.
… and if you understand modal music properly, it doesn’t have to be “shoehorned”, continuo. It fits quite naturally.
Without hearing examples of what y’all are talking about, I’m having trouble seeing this as much more than a semantic argument or violent agreement. Since G major and D mix have all the same notes and chords couldn’t you say the whole tune is in G with the third part dominated (no pun intended) by the V chord (D)?
Even in academic classical music theory, it can be arbitrary whether to say a stretch of music has modulated to another key or is just temporarily favoring another tonal center. If you get too A-R about it, you can call every chord change a key change.
Anyway, what matters in the physical world is what chords you play with it. That would be a more interesting conversation.
Err … yep, you could say exactly what you just said, Bob. And I for one would completely agree with you. Trouble is, nobody who said it was in D would agree with you.
“Dow. I think you’re confused over the basis of modal tunes. and even so-called modal ‘harmony’. That last part is in the same hexatonic mode based on G as the rest.”
Sorry Ben, you’re wrong. The last part is not based on G. Might be the same scale but the “home note” is different. To miss that is to miss the character of the tune, and not be attuned to how the mood changes from part to part. = your loss and your confusion, not mine. I think instead of moaning about backers all the time, you should try learning some guitar accompaniment sometime. Then you’ll come to understand how modes work.
Unfortunately, I think it probably is about more than semantics. . .somebody favoring one approach will probably choose certain chords over others, whereas a person thinking in different terms will naturally pick other chords.
The only way to settle this is with dual-fisted 9mm semiautos, in a large parking lot at dawn, on harleys. Go nuts.
Dow, Dow, Dow, Dow, Dow … sigh …
I’m NOT moaning about backers. And, don’t know why I say this, but you do realise that I used to play guitar, don’t you? (And mandolin, and tin whistle [trying to revive that one] and concertina.)
I know a lot of tunes from a backing point of view. The reason I don’t play fretted instruments now is that it was buggering up my fingers for playing fiddle. And fiddle is my first love … as both my wife AND girlfriend know full well.
But, back to the point: just because that last part revolves around D does not change the mode from G hex to Dmix.
btw, this tune doesn’t seem to get played much these days, ’cos everyone seems to think it’s hackneyed.
But I think it’s great!
“…just because that last part revolves around D does not change the mode from G hex to Dmix”
No, but it changes it from being G hex to a hexatonic scale beginning on D.
That’s because the A2D pattern outlines the D-A perfect 5th too strongly for the ear to hear it in any other scale than one with D as the home note. Your ear is hearing the same thing as mine, I’m sure, it’s just that what’s coming out of your gob is a load of scheidt, and what’s coming out of mine is pure, unadulterated, glittering truth 🙂
Actually, fair play to ya, Dow. I was wating for a well-honed, reasoned, and really barbed, not to say sophisticated, insult to wing its way back.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned, sophisticated insult. Wait for it …
AND THAT WAS NOTHING LIKE A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED, SOPHISTICATED INSULT!!!
(I’m hearing it in G, and *understanding* the pure majesty of this simple, beautiful tune btw.)
I hate agreeing with Dow……..
So I won’t! 🙂
Actually, to be honest, I broadly do. The problem with this tune is that at any point in the tune the use of a D or G note as the ‘root note’ is not completely unbelievable. Having said that the second part is definately in the key of G. I would also say that the third part is in D mixolydian - it just is. The D note screams at you there.
The problem, and the cause of the main dispute though is that first part. The truth is that whether you start with a D chord or a G chord neither seems to quite fit. Both are muddy and make do. The solution - Start on the E minor. My preference an Em9 chord - recognising the invisible presence of that F# in the scale. It also is just a really nice chord - beautiful in fact and adds real interest to the tune. I play in DADGAD so it is not really a proper Em9. It is 224000 or EBF#GAD. I still therefore have the D note on the treble string as well as a G note. Essentially, I am hedging my bets but I am not ignoring the strong presence of the E at the start of the tune. As for whether the part is technically in G major or D mix - right now I couldn’t give a rat’s ass! 🙂
Actually, how about this for a chord sequence for the tune:
Em9 | Em9 | D | D | Bm7 | Bm7 | Cmaj7 | C maj7 :|
Em9 - 224000
D - 004200
Bm7 - 9x779x
Cmaj7 - 10 x 9 9 10 x
Am I giving too much away here?
I should say that is for the first part - in case there was any doubt.
I’d have to double check but I’m almost certain that Bunting never mentions modes. And the musicians? Read Bunting again - they hadn’t any ‘modal’ theory or anything similar. And I doubt you can even find ONE single example of a musician talking about modes, scales, harmony before this century….
shoehorning - I’ll admit a lot of tunes do fit into modal theory, but loads don’t.
Continuo, I hope you’re only referring to Irish folk musicians prior to 1900. . . . Modes were taught as a foundation of music theory to every university student in the middle ages.
Yeah, the Bunting thing …
I’m sorry, I was a bit lazy above. I know *Bunting* himself doesn’t seem to have understood modes, but there is, by all accounts, plenty of evidence that the harpists he was notating did. Evidence in his notes commenting in a rather confused way about how the harpists left notes out and played flattened notes and things like that. That, together with the modal tunes which emerge - again, by other accounts, I haven’t tried this myself - if you try to play what he notated, somewhat bowdlerised into major and minor scales, using the notes actually available on the old harps.
Actually, I think we’ve reached a consensus of sorts here. You can’t shoehorn this tune into modes - it’s “unfair” on the tune. This is where I agree with Ben (and I HATE to be seen to agree with him) - that in the absence of the 3rd, you have a really ambiguous scale of D-E-G-A-B-c which could either be seen as an unusual hexatonic scale with its homenote on D (usually a Dhex would be something like D-E-F#-G-A-B or a b7 hex of D-E-F#-A-B-c). I suppose that because the D-E-G-A-B-c scale is the same notes as a “normal” Ghex scale G-A-B-C-D-E, then that’s what makes the key ambiguous, and open to interpretation. You can’t really call it a “mode of Ghex”, because there are lots of different possibilities for Ghex. I’m assuming there’s no name for the scale other than Dhex. (Would be interested if anyone knows any more about names for hex scales).
To throw a spanner in the works with the pentatonic and hexatonic scales in this tune, I’m assuming it’s more of a piping tune, is it? In that case, a piper would probably be droning on D the whole time, which would give an entirely different effect to a guitar accompaniment anyway: a D drone with a sort of keyless, ambiguous floaty scale making the tune.
B*ll*cks b*ll*cks b*ll*cks! I’m very much afraid we MAY hve reached a consensus. Dow hisappointing! 🙂
Don’t like the word ‘shoehorning’ because it implies that in order to do anything with this tune you have somehow to make it do something it doesn’t. However, I think the point is that, because it’s in a ‘gapped’ mode, it is, of its nature, ambiguous.
Hmm … agreeing with Dow … there must be an argument in here somewhere …
Ooh! I know! The beauty of this tune lies in its ambiguity. So we need all backers to only play chords/notes that don’t interefere with that ambiguity.
Admit it guys - I was right! 😉
its not a simple question,
ihavent tried em 9 at the beginning,but IMOthe first part is in d modal,thesecond part is in g,the third part is in d modal.thefirst part is not in g major anyway.
its possible for thefirst bar,of the first part to be either a g modal dyad, [gd]or a dmodal dyad, [da] Iprefer the latter.
Maybe “Blarney Pilgrim” is in the infamous key of “Off”? (he suggested jokingly)
Seriously, though, when someone plays “Blarney Pilgrim” at our local Session, I use chords that harmonize with the tune and most definitely do not clash with it.
“Uh … it IS modal. Bit daft to ascribe the ”discovery“ of that to Cecil Sharp, when the musicians themselves knew all along.”
That’s ethical blend at his best. I miss your replies like this, Ben Hall. ;
No, dear God, it’s not in D Mix. What is wrong with you people? Who hurt you? 🙂
Back it in D Mix and I will ban you from my session for life. 🙂
Wasn’t this post in the deep bosom of the ocean, buried?
Ailin, you’ll survive to review another thread.
There are a couple of settings of TBP with chord suggestions to try out posted here under ‘Tunes’, and a slightly different third one at: http://www.rudemex.co.uk/library/Alphabetical/Blarney%20Pilgrim,%20The.pdf . No doubt plenty of others elsewhere.
I’ve found that a thing about backing is that either you want only one accompanist (if any) at any one time in a session, or you need a rehearsed backing section all playing the same pre-decided chords. Since a lot of tunes can be harmonised several ways - some of them quite, er . . . idiosyncratic - you can do without two or three chord sequences going on simultaneously.
I don’t think any of these tunes are ‘in’ any one or other key or mode, are they? They’re pure melody, with no built-in harmonic structure or theoretical hinterland. But anyone playing chords behind a tune can use whatever theoretical or instinctive approach they like. If thinking that the Blarney Pilgrim is ‘in’ G major makes you play chords that sound good, then fair enough.
Personally I see the Blarney Pilgrim through a kind of 1-4-5 rock lens. Viewed like that, the following chord structure comes to mind as a basic framework (one chord per bar):
1st part: G / D / C / C / G / D / C / C
2nd part: G / G / G / G / G / G / C / G
3rd part: D / D / C / C / D / D / C / C
In my mind the G is the ‘1’, so the 4 and 5 emphasis of the last bit is distantly reminiscent of the tail end of a 12-bar blues, giving a satisfying return to G when the first part comes around again.
G/DG G/DG G/DG GDG/x2
I would largely agree with Joe Evans ’ chords, though I would play slightly different left hand chords on the melodeon, simply because of the push /pull nature of it, than if i was backing it on guitar or zouk. I can’t help wondering why this has resurfaced after lying undisturbed for 13 years?
Christy Taylor it may be my fault this has resurfaced. A friend was talking about Saint Patrick’s Day and the Blarney Stone earlier this month so I sent her a link to a version of The Blarney Pilgrim on YouTube. Then I looked up The Blarney Pilgrim here on Thesession.org and read the comments. You are welcome to blame it on me if you want to.