Jig Types—My Nemesis

Jig Types—My Nemesis

Someone told me a good way to make a few pennies is to start playing for the Irish dance competitions around here. I thought, hey, good idea—guess I better start figuring out what the different jig types are.
What is the difference between a slide, single jig, double jig, triple jig, does it even matter, and examples of each…I think I have slip jigs down! (9/8 time, right?)
I’m particularly wondering if the difference even matters. Will a dancer get thrown off if a jig I thought was a double turns out to be a single?

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Sorry. You might want to figure this out before you start playing in competitions. You would be better having a RL discussion with the organisers: each type of jig and slide has a particular style. Although they might be more concerned with the bpm.

Posted .

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

I know—I’m not even going to try contacting dance studios and competitions until I have a little better idea of what I’m doing. And yes, bpm is my other question! 🙂

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

The BPM question is a real thing. Check out Ryan Duns’ video on playing for the feis — which is honestly mostly about playing with a metronome. ;) https://youtu.be/ux6qJgW1Y3Q


Listen to tracks of each type of jig and see what dancers want. Play along after listening through a bunch of times. A lot of the practice CDs have tunes played at a number of BPMs, so dancers can work themselves up to performance speed — and so can you!

Once you feel you’re playing along with albums effectively, make friends with an experienced dancer or instructor, and see if they’d work with you a bit to confirm that your playing meets expectations! You then might be able to play with their dancers in non-competitive settings before diving into that world. And you can attend a feis as a spectator, listening intently to the musicians.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

I would urge you to get John Doonan´s albums and listen attentively. At the Feis and Flute for the Feis. These are dance tunes played in the strictest tempo, for competitive dance. John Doonan was a godfather to dance competitions in the Irish community in the north of England for twenty or more years. This is the real deal for playing for dancers.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Slip jigs rather nice - in 9/8 time. I’ve found them a pain to transcribe, such long bars of music. "Fig for a Kiss" "Kid on the Mountain", Liz Carroll (US/Irish Fiddler) has written some good ones too.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

3/4 Jig "Dog on the Pavement" posted by me, an obscure but happy tune aka "Il Cane sul Pavimento". Have almost got it by memory, easy and fun.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

For a quick overview about the different types of jigs (and all the other tune types) I would recommend Alan Ng’s site irishtuneinfo - Rhythm (Tune Type) Definitions:
https://www.irishtune.info/rhythm/
Especially the part "A note about the terms "light jig" and "heavy jig" (aka "treble jig")"

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

By all means, consider playing for dancing if that’s something which really interests you but don’t just think of it as a way to "earn a few pennies".

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Seriously, if you want to play for dancing in a way that helps dancers in competition you are going to need more knowledge and experience than you seem to have. It will really help to have a grasp of dance steps and styles as well as tune types and tempos. For example, some of the bpm only really makes sense if you understand what a treble step is. See if you can find dancers or teachers to practice with. Watch videos. You really don’t want to screw up in competition and incur the wrath of those feis mums 😉

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

If feis mums are anything like soccer moms or theater moms, then goodness, no I don’t! Johnny Jay, this is not just a way to earn a few pennies for me—I was playing a gig, and a stepdancer happened to be there and she really enjoyed it and told me I could possibly do competitions.
I’m definitely going to embark on a learning journey—I’m using this question as a jumping off point. Thank you all for your valuable suggestions.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

OK, Emily.

Someone else had submitted a comment prior to my post along the same lines and I was sort of agreeing with it. However, I notice that it’s now been been deleted either by the poster or Jeremy. I don’t know why.
Unfortunately, this now makes my post appear more conspicuous and over critical which wasn’t really my intention.

So, please accept my apologies re this.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

I hope you know you are risking your life playing for young solo dancers, because you are going to get the blame for their failure. The musician played the wrong tune. He played too fast. He played too slow. Having said that it is a great experience to be capable of playing all those different tempos and solo dances such as the Kilkenny Races, The Blackthorn Stick, The Blackbird, The Drunken Guager etc etc. About forty years ago I decided to have a go at local level. I listened to an LP by accordionist Jimmy Early and copied all his tunes for the various dances. I have to say I enjoyed it. I think that LP was called Music for the Feis. The late Johnny Connolly was a great man for playing for the Sean Nos dancers competition although it sometimes meant him playing Miss McLeod’s for everyone of them, so be prepared for repetition .

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

I’m a dancer so I hope I can be of help. For soft shoes apart from slip jigs there are light jigs in 6/8, which are played fast and have a distinctive ending, e.g. like Connaughtman’s Rambles or Blackthorn Stick. Then there are single jigs, which are often danced to slides (12/8) like Dennis Murphy’s. If you mix up the jigs dancers will be confused because the steps don’t fit and not only feis moms, but also adjudicators will complain.
For hard shoes there are treble jigs, which basically are light jig tunes played slowly.
What I’d advise you to do is go to Spotify and search for Feis music, e.g. Sean Softley, There the tracks are listed under the names of the dances and you can also see the speed for the different levels: Beginner dances are played much faster than intermediate or open dances. You can find the regulation speeds on the websites of the different organisations like CLRG or WIDA.

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

"The BPM question is a real thing. Check out Ryan Duns’ video on playing for the feis — which is honestly mostly about playing with a metronome."

Yes, this.

One way to get comfortable with a metronome is to try placing your beat at the leading edge of the click. Then, after you’ve got that, try placing it at the trailing edge. Then play it at the center of the beat. Think of it as a game, not as "work."

This can take a while, but once you get comfortable, you’ll have a new mastery of the met. And tempo.

Posted by .

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Metronome in Irish music, since when.

Posted .

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Another important thing is being able to keep going if you mess up. Coming at this from a Highland dance standpoint, but the main competition piper in our area is someone I trust completely, because I know that if something goes wrong— pipes cut out or whatever— when he comes back in, he will be precisely in the same place in the music that he should be, and I can just keep dancing and he’ll catch up. I’ve danced with other pipers before who if there is an issue or they mess up, will go back and correct it… that doesn’t work when the dancer is moving on and can’t/doesn’t go back with you (in a competition, they cannot; in a performance, they can’t read your mind to know where you’re starting again)!

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

The highest compliment paid to Irish traditional musician… "(s)he plays for dancers".

Because it is probably the hardest challenge - the tune has to lift the dancer yet retain precise and unchanging rhythm at the "right" pace for the dancer. If the timing is off by even a small amount or varying in a way that the dancer does not anticipate - it is going to cause upset.

There are easier ways to "make a few pennies". Certainly not a zone for somebody who is still figuring it out or learning the differences between the rhythms and types. Join a Céilí band would be my suggestion (and ideally one which actually does "play for dancers" regularly).

Re: Jig Types—My Nemesis

Thank you for all the advice, guys! No, I’m certainly not looking to crash a dance competition, fiddle in hand, but I’m using this as a sounding of what I might be getting myself into. Right now I’ll continue learning tunes and using my metronome!
(As a classically trained fiddler I don’t mind my metronome…)