Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

My niece is just starting out on standard tuned guitar, and is very motivated to learn some Irish Traditional music accompaniment. We’re looking for tunes that my wife and I can use as examples which we can all play together to help our student lean the basics of guitar accompaniment for ITM. Since good guitar accompaniment in session has, in our experience, been unfortunately uncommon (though the guitar players at our current regular sessions are excellent and respectfully take turns), we consider this an important contribution.

It would seem that tunes with a simple chord structure, and that do not require too many chords or fast chord changes, would be good candidates. Tunes that could be played slowly, and still sound good, could be good ones to start with: jigs, slow reels, hornpipes, and marches for example. We are especially interested in tunes that are themselves particularly engaging.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Posted by .

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Sorry if this sounds unhelpful, but I’m at a loss to think of tunes that *wouldn’t* work well. Have a look at Dow’s list, and dive in. You really only need six or seven chords for almost any tune I can think of - D, Em, Am, A, G, Bm and maybe C. Sure, you can use more when you get more advanced, but those seven are more than adequate to get started. Oh - and IMHO reels sound fine played slower.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

The best thing to do is to somehow introduce a variety of traditional Irish/Scottish music.
Live performance, internet, radio or whatever, a listener could then pick some favorite tunes.
It is those favorite tunes which could then become an inspiration for a musician of any age.

Guitar accompaniment is demanding

She should learn to play the whistle. Until the accompanist knows the tune she cannot accompany properly. The best guitar accompanists know the tunes they are accompanying as well as the melody player. If you don’t know the tune how accurately can you play the chords that support the melody?

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Why learn the whistle? much better to sing the tune, most people can sing a tune, then accompany on the guitar.
Humours of Tulla Lilting Banshee is a good starting point, NOT MANY CHORDS.
Then try learning songs that are also tunes, so you can sing them , Lannigans Ball ,Frost is all over etc. Sean South etc

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

I wouldn’t go so far as say she should learn to play the whistle. That’s quite a lengthy learning curve in addition to learning the tunes and would just suck the energy out of learning the guitar at the same time. Whistling a tune or humming it at home should suffice to learn the melody. I do know an individual that can cover literally every tune I’ve heard at her session with just a half-dozen or so chords and some walking bass lines on the guitar. She can do it to any tune whether she’s heard it or not. If the tune is too obstreperous, she just sits it out - as most of us would anyway.

One more chord - F#m. There’s no evil in learning the basic chord positions and using a capo to shift the key as required either. That one only took me 55 years to learn… ;^)

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

I’m in agreement, learn some tunes on the whistle, then learn to back them on guitar.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Your niece can get some pointers from your Sessions guitarists /
If not a member here has put some good pointers together for starters: https://thesession.org/members/7960
It has a link to Dows 50 tunes, common in sessions.
This is a good tune book for Children: http://karenashbrook.com/documents/ChildrensSessionBook.pdf
E dorian tunes like Cooleys, Swallowtail Jig, can be played with just 2 chords, Em and D.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Tunes in G are typically quite easy on the guitar in standard tuning; that would include A Dorian.

E Dorian is also pretty easy, and by that point you are pretty much into the key of D. Now you’ve covered about 90% of session tunes.

Maybe start with Hornpipes and Jigs for learning the rhythms. Reels can be more difficult. Polkas might be easiest, but I don’t have many favorite polkas.

Regarding rhythm, she should get professional input, as that ends up being pretty important for good guitar accompaniment.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

"I’m in agreement, learn some tunes on the whistle, then learn to back them on guitar."

Wouldn’t it be something if a person could do both at the same time!

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

alternately, learn to pick melodies on guitar, starting with some simple D major tunes like the Home Ruler,
Rolling in the Ryegrass, John Egans Polka, My Darling Asleep - that will not only help her find her way round the frets but help her understand how the chords correspond with the notes of the melody

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

I’ll add my two-cents to the importance of learning the tune before, or at least along with, the backing. While I can’t say that knowing the melody automatically leads to great backing, I can say that in my experience (ITM or other) no backer and I include myself here, who didn’t know the tune could rise above pedestrian (and I’ll include those who choose to play in DADGAD, that tuning is not a substitute for learning melodies).

It’s true that in the keys of D and G there are only 8 basic chords one needs to know to do simple, but adequate backing. Yup, just 8 chords but how to use them is SO important. (Add just 6 more and you can cover the additional keys of A,C, F along with all the relative minors.) That said the guitar/zouk is capable of so very much more. To bring out the richness that the guitar can add one needs to be intimately familiar with the melody. Also I’d agree that learning the melody on an instrument, I’m not picky about which one, is IMO better than lilting it, although I think lilting is a wonderful skill. I just think that the untrained voice is just too subject to error by itself to be trusted by the inexperienced.

Best of luck to your niece. Stick with it, it’s worth the effort.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Coupla thoughts, dfost …

First, there are some tunes for which the harmony just rocks between a couple of chords - usually Em/D (e.g. Swallowtail jig) or Am/G (e.g. Swallow’s nest reel). Perhaps useful to get used to accompanying these, and then moving on to tunes with more changes or alternative chord patterns. (e.g., when in G, use Am7 instead of C sometimes)

Secondly, some guitar players feel the need to strum all six strings at once on every beat. This is when the sound gets obtrusive and ugly. I like accompaniments better when the player has a lighter touch, and works from, say, an alternating bass note (mostly avoiding 3rds) and either finger-picks or lightly strums selected upper strings. Also, leaving gaps can be a very effective part of accompanying tunes.

Hope useful. It’s really all down to listening to the best players you can find and putting in the hours.

Cheers

Posted by .

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

In some ways it is much easier to learn a tune than play an accompaniment to it. The latter can be a bit of a dark art.
When learning a tune you’ve got the melody and its associated melodic rhythm laid out bare for you to follow, either in aural or visual form (or both). When accompanying a tune you are taking the same source material but “translating” it into chords (which aren’t the melody) and associated rhythms (which aren’t the same as the melodic rhythm) that must also fit with the original tune.
It’s not necessary to be able to play the tune or even lilt it, but you must be able to "understand" it (i.e., make sense of it in terms of phrasing and structure). Also, if you are to become a successful accompanist you must be able to hear (chord) changes and distinguish between different changes, just as a melody player must be able to hear different notes and recognise different intervals. So, for example, you need to be able to recognise a I-IV change and know that it’s not a I-V change.
The successful accompanist must also be able to employ rhythms appropriate to the type of tune being played, which implies being able to recognise the type of tune being played.
It’s a long hard road.
So I would second starting with some dorian tunes, where often you can just use two chords, one major and one minor, and preferably reels or other up-tempo tunes with an even number of beats per measure.
Beyond that, there is nothing compares to sitting beside an experienced player and listening and watching how they accompany; how they cover up for when they don’t really know the tune; how they vary their playing when they do.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

"So I would second starting with some dorian tunes, where often you can just use two chords, one major and one minor, and preferably reels or other up-tempo tunes with an even number of beats per measure.
Beyond that, there is nothing compares to sitting beside an experienced player and listening and watching how they accompany; how they cover up for when they don’t really know the tune; how they vary their playing when they do."

Oh yes. There are many tunes which can be accompanied with just two chords - one is "home" and the other is "away" (I read that somewhere, and it’s a great summary of what happens in Dorian and Mixolydian tunes). Listening to a number of good players backing the same tune and taking mental notes of what they do is a good exercises. Even for tunes that fit the simplest and most predictable two-chord "pattern", each one may solve the problem in a unique way, and have a pretty good reason for doing so.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

The book I first used when learning to play and accompany tunes was The Fifer’s Delight by Ralph Sweet. My wife would fiddle and I would strum. It is a New England fife book, and includes not only a lot of common session tunes like jigs, reels, polkas and hornpipes, but also marches and contradance tunes. (Note: Fife tunes are written in the common session keys, so don’t worry you will find things in B flat or something.) The settings of the tunes are nice and clean, easy to follow, and similar to the settings you hear in sessions here in the NE. And there are chords on each tune, nice, straightforward chords that change in appropriate spots. The chord choices might be a little too simple for an advanced player, but they are perfect for a beginner. I ordered it off of the Sweet company web site, and I am sure it is still available. Many other tune books with chords get a bit too cute and intricate with their choices, making them not as attractive for a beginner.
And if you want to have some more fun, there is another book, called The Fifer’s Delightful Companion, which has harmony parts to all the tunes. Not something you would want to do in a session, but in the family band setting, you could have a lot of fun with it.
Enjoy!

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

The fiddlers fake book also has good chord settings and substitutions in brackets for thoses into that sort of thing. Some great tunes from outside the genre as well, rags, bluegrass as well as the often interesting trad settings .

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

diddle the tunes its not necessary to learn another instrument.

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Robert Dalton’s suggestion: listen to and learn the tunes and play with other musicians. Be patient.

Posted .

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

I know I have come late but maybe I get to put in the last word.
I don’t think learning the guitar through learning accompaniment is altogether viable (not sure that is the scenario). Maybe that’s because of my pathway. I feel you need a fair degree of competency on the instrument before trying to learn to accompany others.
There are a few different pathways to achieve this but a guitar teacher isn’t a bad idea.
Learning to play the whistle is not wrong but would put off a large majority of guitarists (maybe that’s the aim) a much closer skill would be the mandolin but playing the tunes on the guitar is better again because it improves your feel of the neck and where the notes are. Learning the tunes is an essential feature but you can also learn tunes by practicing accompaniment with recordings or just listening, listening, listening.

Skype Lessons

Interested in Skype Lessons?I can also teach the tune on guitar which is very helpful to learning accompaniment

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Here is a reasonably priced resource I’ve found helpful:

http://www.oaim.ie/


Wayne

Re: Tune suggestions please to help teach a beginner how to play guitar accompaniment

Thanks again to everyone for the helpful suggestions.

Posted by .