The Road To Lisdoonvarna slide

There are 11 recordings of this tune.

The Road To Lisdoonvarna appears in 1 other tune collection.

The Road To Lisdoonvarna has been added to 193 tune sets.

The Road To Lisdoonvarna has been added to 1,632 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: The Road To Lisdoonvarna
R: slide
M: 12/8
L: 1/8
K: Edor
E2B B2A B2c d2A|F2A ABA D2E FED|
E2B B2A B2c d3|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
|:e2f gfe d2B Bcd|c2A ABc d2B B3|
e2f gfe d2B Bcd|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
X: 2
T: The Road To Lisdoonvarna
R: slide
M: 12/8
L: 1/8
K: Edor
E2B B2A B2c d2A|F2A ABA D2E FED|
E2B B2A B2c d3|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
e2f gfe d2B Bcd|c2A ABc d2B B3|
e2f gfe d2B Bcd|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
X: 3
T: The Road To Lisdoonvarna
R: slide
M: 12/8
L: 1/8
K: Edor
D|:"Em"E2B B2A B2c d3|"D"F2A ABA D2E FED|
"Em"E2B B2A B2c d3|"D"cdc B2A "Em"B2E E3:|
|:"Em"e2f gfe "Bm"d2B Bcd|"A"c2A ABc "Bm"d2B B3|
"Em"e2f gfe "Bm"d2B Bcd|"A"cdc B2A "Em"B2E E3:|
# Added by Bryce .
X: 4
T: The Road To Lisdoonvarna
R: slide
M: 12/8
L: 1/8
K: Edor
E2B B2A B2c d2A|F2A ABA D2E FED|
E2B B2A B2c d3|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
|:e2f gfe d2B Bcd|c2A ABc d2B B3|
e2f gfe d2B Bcd|cdc B2A B2E E3:|
# Added by JACKB .

One hundred and nine comments

True Story

While camping in Zion National Park, Utah, USA, I extracted my mandolin from the bulk of packed clothing and began to render a few tunes. Hoping for a spontaneous session to break out as many fellow campers wandered by with mild interest. No dice. My partner found her guitar and we launched into the Road to Lisdoonvarna as the shadow of the looming canyon walls draped over the campground.

The next evening as we were departing the region a restaurant proffering fresh pie caught our attention. We creaked in showing the effects of our 1,800 ft ascent to Angel’s Landing. Sitting in a padded booth with a matchless view of the stone formations on the West canyon we shared a piece of the pie du jour. The muzak, which had been spewing out the usual elevator fare, changed abruptly and the peasant strains of the Road to Lisdoonvarna filled the dining room. After climbing over rocks for much of the day I savored the irony that the rhythm of this tune is in fact a slide.


I have sheetmusic for this and it’s in 6/8 and says right at the top there that it’s a jig.I guess 12/8 or 6/8 dosn’t make much difference, but slide or jig does,doesn’t it?I think I prefer it as a slide.

Single jig

Road to Lisdoonvarna is a single jig. The rhythm is totally un-slide-like, and it is universally played as a jig.

Time Signature

The Chieftens recorded a version of this which starts as a jig, then turns into a reel midway through. Very cool version - I learnt it off a Davey Graham record, who got it off the Chieftens. The first part sounds a lot (to me) like the first part of Dan O’Keefe’s Slide, which suggests it might actually be one of those, but I don’t really know…

Learned this one quick

For some reason, this is the only tune I ever learned after hearing it for the first time. It really stuck in my head. Glad I like it, because I hate it when a tune I don’t like gets stuck there.

The Road To Lisdoonvarna

It’s a slide. I don’t know what universe plays it as a jig; certainly not one where there’s any set dancing anyway. Maybe in slow sessions, I suppose, but it makes a rather boring tune played as a jig. Part of the problem with this tune, (here in the out-back of ITM that is,) is that it was used widely as a beginner tune, over played by a million screeching tin whistles, and dragged through sessions by novices adnauseam. It’s actually a very lovely and danceable slide that suffers from guilty by association.

GUILT by association that is… geesh! Where’s my copy editor?

Lots of people play it as a *single* jig. As a regular jig, no, but a single jig, yes. What’s the diff between a single and a slide, again? Something about the ending?

Single jigs and slides are synonymous. If they call it a "single jig" it’s a slide written out in 6/8, a slide will show up in 12/8, as this one does. I haven’t seen any collections of tunes that include both slides and single jigs in separate categories, just like hop jigs and slip jigs don’t come together either. It’s just another imperfection in the scheme of ITM tune identity… don’t you just love it?

Not according to several folks (such as Harry Bradley) they’re not synonymous! I got sharply brought up on that one. Don’t ask me what the diff is, though, all I can remember is something about the endings being different. Harry Bradley also teaches that Slips and Hops are different, too.

Can you find his explanation and post it here, Zina?

Zina, you’re right, Jack’s wrong, slides and single jigs are not the same thing, and I’ve seen several collections where they are listed separately.

Single jigs are played the same way as you’d play a double jig, i.e. at the same speed and amount of swing, the only difference being that there are more quarter-eighth note groupings, and the part endings are more likely to be like a slide, e.g. |d3 d3:| as opposed to |dfe d2e:|.

Hop jigs are to slip jigs what single jigs are to double jigs.

Slides are different altogether. Unlike a single jig (but like triplets in a hornpipe), they’re supposed to be played with no swing at all, i.e. you don’t make the 1st eighth note of any 3 any longer. This and the fact that they’re played faster gives slides a much more flowing feel. Any slide may be played as a single jig. Any single jig may be played as a slide. Most people are familiar with how to play slides. It’s very rare to find anyone with any interest in single jigs, which is why single jigs are usually played as slides and transcribed in 12/8.

That’s pretty subtle and heady stuff. So is the tune submitted here a slide, jig, or single jig?

Well it’s not a double jig so rule that out. As for single vs. slide, if you disregard the 12/8 time sig (which by convention possibly implies that it should be played more like a slide), it simply depends on how you play it. If you play it at jig speed and swing your 3x8th groupings, you’d be playing for a single jig dance. If you play it fast with no swing on the 8ths, you’re playing a slide. I’ve heard it played both ways.

Jack said: "it makes a rather boring tune played as a jig". I would tend to agree. Single jigs aren’t my cuppa tea really. I prefer this one as a slide.

Slides and single jigs

Ok, I’ve been researching this and as far as the tune submitted here, Road to Lisdoonvarna, it’s considered by members of IRTRAD to be the quintessential slide.

Dow wrote: "Zina, you’re right, Jack’s wrong, slides and single jigs are not the same thing"

Sorry Dow, a majority of folks disagree with you. I challenge you to come up with multiple examples of single jigs. And if you do, define what makes them single jigs and how they are distinguished from slides. If you fail to post any, it will be taken that you concede. If you do come up with examples, you can expect careful scrutiny.

I’ll be waiting. 😉

We’ve had this debate before without resolving much of anything. In Fintan Vallely’s Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Liz Doherty writes that "A slide is in effect a fast single jig. It is in 6/8 or 12/8 time and the predominant rhythm involves the alternation of crotchets and quavers creating the feeling of long and short." Interestingly, for the purposes of this encyclopedia, slides are listed under the heading "Jigs."

Doherty goes on to say, "Brendan Breathnach’s rule of thumb was to identify the tune end: ‘a three-quaver group followed by a crotchet or a dotted crotchet marked a tune as a jig, while an ending of two dotted crotchets indicated that it was a slide.’" Professor Doherty even says "Some double jigs lend themselves to being played at brisk tempo and can double as slides (and slides played more slowly as double jigs). It is how the tune is played that matters."

That’s a fine kettle of contradictions. Are we to believe Liz Doherty or Brendan Breathnach? I tend to agree with Breathnach’s focus on the phrasing of the endings, similar to how we can distinguish reels from hornpipes regardless of whether one is played with a dotted rhythm. I also tend to hear slides as having longer phrases than single jigs (leaning toward a 12 count rather than a 6 count), but that’s a more subjective test.

In the end, Liz’s last sentence is what says it all for me: pay attention to how the tune is played, not to how it is notated on the page. In sum, a tune may be both a jig and a slide, but the two tune types can be distinguished by how they’re played (echoes of how some hornpipes are also played as reels). For Liz it’s mostly about tempo. For Breathnach, phrasing is also key.

I wonder if the difference has grown fuzzy because so many of us tend to play jigs faster than was intended and slides slower.

Posted .

P.S. Road to Lisdoonvarna strikes me as having the longer phrases typical of slides, and the endings Breathnach characterizes as typical of single jigs. So there you have it. 🙂

Posted .

I was doing a search on single jigs as you were writing that, Will. I read a lot of what you said here in other discussions. I also read a lot of stuff Dow said, but what seems to be the conclusion based on consensus is that the line between slide and single jig is too blurry for a definitive answer. I can think of a few slides that I prefer to play a bit slower on account of the extra notes they seem to have, but does that mean they’re single jigs? I know slides with a lot of different endings, but does that define what they are… the ending? The endings are a small part of the tune, why would they get more attention?

I have spent a good deal of time the last few days researching this question and I feel like I’ve made little or no headway. My personal conclusion is that slides, and the tunes people are calling single jigs, sound more like each other than double jigs. I would venture to guess that “single jig” could have been the original title for slides, until someone decided, "slide,” sounded better. Once that happened you might as well take away the "double" and just call them "jigs." At the end of the day I suppose I’ll play "slides" and "jigs" and won’t worry about "single jigs" — it isn’t worth bothering over.

For the record, the lads I play dances with here play slides at a fast clip as per dancer preference. The dancers also like the jigs fast, but we can definitely tell the difference between slides and jigs… fast or slow it doesn’t matter.

On paper slides and single jigs look pretty much the same. It’s just that they’re played differently as far as I understand it. I’m not clear as to where your IRTRAD mates come in. Remember, Jack, that I was talking about the difference between slides and single jigs, not making any judgement on this tune in particular. Like I said I’ve heard this one played both ways but prefer it as a slide. I can’t claim to know what speed and degree of swing the original composer intended, and nor am I that bothered to be honest 🙂

As for examples of single jigs, I can only think of a handful off the top of my head: Smash The Windows (probably the most common single in sessions), Ask My Father, The Hag At The Kiln, umm, The Miller’s Maggot, The Long Note (jig version), *some* settings of Merrily Kissed The Quaker’s Wife (see JC’s for the settings I’m talking about, although I’d tend to class that as a slide and play it as such), umm… there are a couple of other tunes that usually get played as flings too but I can’t think of any names. And of course heaps and heaps of English jigs that fit into the genre which I won’t list because they’d be of zero interest to you. I’d play the above tunes at jig speed, not fast like slides, unless I was feeling in the mood to play them as slides of course. I’d swing the 8th note groupings slightly like jigs also. The overall effect is more fling-like than slide-like. That’s my take on it anyway.

Off She Goes is another example of a single jig. In fact it’s a good example because it sounds a bit rushed if you play it as a slide. If I think of any more I’ll post them.

I’m actually familiar with lots of single jigs which is why it seems so silly to me to class them as the same thing as slides. On reflection, this may be because single jigs are more of a Scottish thing, (I’m thinking of really common Scottish session tunes like Cock O’ The North, for example).

A few of the song tunes that later became flings or reels would be sung in single jig rhythm. It’s easy to speed up and simplify a single jig to make it into a fling/reel, but much more difficult with a double jig.

In conclusion, I still think you’re wrong when you say slides and single jigs are the same thing, Jack. And if your IRTRAD mates are with you on this one then I heartily disagree with them too. Unless of course you can prove to me somehow that they *are* the same thing.

I’ll be waiting 😉

PS all this stuff I’ve said about single jigs is simply what I’ve picked up from discussing it in previous threads over recent years and also from when I’ve heard the tunes played on recordings or in sessions, so I’d be quite happy to accept that I’m wrong if you can come up with sufficient evidence to support your wild claims. By the way, saying that a whole load of people on another forum disagree with me and therefore, because I’m in the minority, I must be wrong, isn’t enough to convince me to back down I’m afraid. You surely didn’t think I’d ignore your challenge did you Monkeyboxman? 😀

Sully says……

From Tony Sullivan’s Banjo tutor: Quote - “ Single jigs are tunes in 6/8 or 12/8 time that have a predominantly crotchet and quaver arrangement of notes. Kerry slides are forms of single jigs”. – Unquote.
Can’t remember where it came from, but I had always thought that to be the case too.
At the end of the day, it’s how you play them that counts, not what you call them.

Posted by .

In My Humble Opinion,

Single Jigs are to br played more or less as the Duuble Jigs, and Slides are to be played ..hem…as Slides.

Jack, although the endings may be but a small piece of the tune, they can be definitive. For example, I’d be hard pressed to say that a tune was a reel if each part ended like: |g/f/e f2 d2 d2| That’s clearly not a reel ending—more likely a hornpipe, eh? Most tunes that I hear as slides do the same sort of thing, whereas single jigs tend to have less oom pah pah endings (as does Off She Goes—a classic single jig that in my mind does not work as a slide).

Ultimately, if we’re not playing for dancers, the difference in how you play jigs and slides probably doesn’t matter much. But when dancers ask for a slide, we should know what and how to play. So let’s hope some experienced dancers chime in here soon….

Posted .

The Liberty Bell

We played this tune, The Liberty Bell, first 2 parts, (Monty Python theme,) as a slide for a Halloween set dance once, and they danced just fine to it. We put it at the end of a medley and they really didn’t even notice until we ended it with a big raspberry at the end, instead of the last note. This anecdote underlines everything said above… for me anyway.

It seems to come down to interpretation. I’ve seen the tunes mentioned above listed in all three categories in different publications and by different players. I think you can build a case that certain slides are actually single jigs, but it’s almost always a matter of splitting hairs.

Take a tune like “Hare in the Corn” for example. I’ll bet you could build a case for this tune as a jig, slide, or single jig. I played it as a jig for many years before I decided it was a slide. After reading what’s been said above – it might actually be a single jig… but who cares, I’ll still play it as a slide for set dancers.

I can think of 3 or 4 more tunes just like “Hare in the Corn” and all it does is make me wonder if the composers of these tunes were intending them to be what they are classified as. I’m not an ITM historian, but I wonder if the tunes showed up in someone’s hands and then they tried to figure out what sort of dance they would work for. Since there existed a shady category where a possibly archaic term, “single jig,” was replaced by a new term, “slide,” and it provided a category that could fill in the gap. (My hypotheses)

As for the “IRTRAD mates” Dow refers to, my point was that a majority of people agreed with the position that slides and single jigs are synonymous. That probably holds true for this site as well after reading what I found when I did a search for the subject on this site.

But having said all this, I believe we could all agree that the “Road to Lisdoonvarna” is definitely a slide… right?

Kenny said: "At the end of the day, it’s how you play them that counts, not what you call them". I agree. One way of playing them is termed "single jig" and the other is "slide" 😉

Jack said: "I think you can build a case that certain slides are actually single jigs". I agree. I’m glad you’ve finally seen that I’m right ;-D

Dow writes: "One way of playing them is termed ‘single jig’ and the other is ‘slide’"

I’m glad you’ve finally seen that I’m right too, Dow. 😉

We’re all agreed then……………

That’s right, - and the way they play single jigs for dancing in Co. Kerry is called a "Slide".
I meant to say too, Mark, that when the Scottish single jig "Cock Of The North" is played in Kerry, it’s called a "slide" with the name of "Chase Me Charlie".

Posted by .


The most interesting and maybe insightful comment from IRTRAD conserning the slide/single jig issue is from Paul de Grae, who writes, "Slides are a type of single jig. Every slide is a single jig; not every single jig is a slide"

By the way…

On the slip and hop jig issue, after extesive research I have concluded: "Hop jigs" are to "slip jigs" what "slides" are to "jigs."

If every slide is a single jig (I can live with that), but not every single jig is a slide (and I agree hands down on this), then slide and single jig are not synonymous because Paul de Grae can show you a single jig that is not a slide.

Before we get too far along, is there any evidence that "slide" really is a younger term than "single jig"? How do we know which predates the other, or that they didn’t emerge at the same time (either in different places, or in the same places to mean different things)?

Posted .

Chronology of terms

We don’t know that, Will, I just said that as part of my "hypotheses," I didn’t say it wast a theory — I have no real evidence to give.

Yeah, I was just hoping your hippopotamus had legs to stand on. 🙂 I mean, it would tidy things up a bit to know which term came first, the single jig or the slide.

Posted .

Jack I still disagree with you. Kenny used the example of "Cock Of The North" and "Chase Me Charlie". This is 2 different playing styles for the same tune. Just like there are 2 different playing styles for this tune - The Road To Lisdoonvarna. Because single jigs and slides look the same on paper, obviously you can pretty much play any single jig as a slide, and any slide as a single jig. Just like some reels are sometimes played as hornpipes and vice versa. I know I keep repeating this, but I need to say it again - I’ve heard this tune played both ways and prefer it as a slide. Wouldn’t like to say whether it was intended to be one or the other. However, all of this does not detract from the simple fact that slides and single jigs are not synonymous. This is where I still think you’re wrong, Jack.

Actually, this is going round in circles, so I’ll say this instead: Jack, you’ve been playing the music a lot longer than I have and are much more experienced. I’ll go with what you say. Single jigs and slides are the same thing. There, happy now? 🙂

I have an open mind on the matter, but people seem to still be struggling to come up with anything conclusive. I guess we’d need to have Dow demonstrate in person how to play the tune on this page as a slide, and then as a single jig. I just wonder how many of us would be left scratching our heads afterwards.

Dow, when you said I was "wrong" about slides and single jigs being synonymous, I commenced to find out. Up until then I was going by what I saw and heard in the tunes themselves without very many other people’s opinions to consider. I have spent 2 days now pursuing this question both here and on IRTRAD. I still don’t have any conclusions except that I don’t really know if they’re synonymous or not. My guess is they are, but I can be convinced otherwise if presented with some good explanations and evidence to back it up.

I reckon I could play this tune both ways and make them sound very different. The difference would be even more obvious if I backed it as well, since it would probably be easier to perceive swing and grooved up rhythm with a bit of chordal accompaniment.

Oops, I meant: yes you’re right Jack. I’d play it and everyone would go "they’re exactly the same - what are you talking about Dow you complete nobhead - oh and go and do some practice, your playing is awful".

Jack, I’ve tried as best I can to describe in detail how I perceive the difference. I talked about tempo, degree of swing, and when you challenged me I came up with some examples of tunes which are generally regarded as single jigs, to be played differently from slides. If what I said wasn’t enough for you, then you can just be happy in the knowledge that you’re absolutely right: slides and single jigs are, as you so rightly point out, synonymous, and anyone who disagrees is in the wrong, and indeed a minority to be ridiculed and ostracized, especially if they play Britbox 🙂

Who’s this "Dow" anyway?

No need to demonizing me for challenging you, Dow, I admire your perseverance. I have been reading a lot of what you’ve said in previous discussions and I can see you’ve thought a lot about it. I’m the one who’s trying to gain an understanding here at this point – thanks for your help… but I’m still waiting.

"Dow" is you, lamebrain. That’s what you called yourself befor you got this job at the library for Northumbrian tunes. 😉

I know! It’s because I’m not famous and well-respected isn’t it? I could say anything and you’d think it was rubbaash. So in that case I’ve completely wasted my time getting involved in this discussion. Poor little ostracized me. One day I’ll be able to move in the right circles, if I just keep on persevering admirably 🙂

Well Jack, it’s obvious you’re confused. On the one hand you say:

"For the record, the lads I play dances with here play slides at a fast clip as per dancer preference. The dancers also like the jigs fast, but we can definitely tell the difference between slides and jigs… fast or slow it doesn’t matter".

And then in the next breath you tell us you *can’t* tell the difference between slides and jigs, and are "trying to gain an understanding".

So can you tell the difference or not?

As discussed above, the qualitative differences between single jigs and slides are found in:

(1) Endings (groups of eighths and quarters vs. dotted quarters)
(2) Length of phrases (shorter vs. longer)
(3) tempo (slower vs. faster)
(4) amount of swing (more vs. less)

Nuances? Yes, but Irish trad music is rich in nuances—they’re what make the music what it is.

Posted .

Dow, it’s the difference between slides and single jigs, not slides and jigs. It’s single jigs that mystify me, Dow… I know about jigs. Pay attention now 😉

Will, could you please indicate which is which in your list of differences?

Alan Ng directed me to this page for reference:

These are the tunes listed there as "single jigs." I compared them to what was submitted on this site as follows:

Ask My Father - submitted as a slide, seems to end like a slide.

Pat Ward’s Jig - submitted as a slide, but is suggested that it might be a single jig in the comments. I can’t tell anything by the ending.

Smash the Windows - submitted as a jig, but identified as a single jig by the submitter in the comments. This tune seems to adhere to all of the criteria as a single jig.

Dinny Delaney’s (Hag at the Kiln) - submitted as a slide, ends with a group of 3 eighth notes… so I think it fits the criteria of a single jig.

Hag at the Churn - submitted as a jig, seems to have the characteristics of a single jig. Further confusion is added because the parts don’t repeat. (For a long time I thought that was what made tit a "single jig.")

The Miller’s Maggot - submitted as a jig (by Will) but there’s no indication that it’s a single jig even though it seems to have all the hallmarks.

Sweets of May - submitted as a jig, no indication of it being a single jig in the comments. It seems to have the characteristics of a single jig.

My conclusion based on this evidence: Single jigs are the tunes that are a little harder to play as a slide, but too boring to play as a jig.

Jack said: "Dow, it’s the difference between slides and single jigs, not slides and jigs. It’s single jigs that mystify me, Dow… I know about jigs".

Jack, single jigs *are* jigs. That’s why we call them single *jigs* as opposed to slides or anything else. If you know the difference between a jig and a slide by listening to the speed and amount of swing, then you know the difference between a single jig and a slide. The difference between single jigs and slides has less to do with the part endings and much more to do with the speed and amount of swing, just like the difference between any other type of compound duple jig and slide.

Try playing Merrily Kissed The Quaker’s Wife as a double jig. Works perfectly. Now play it as a slide and you’ll find as you speed up the rhythm straightens out. The whole concept of single jigs versus slides is exactly this, only with sparser tunes dominated by crotchet-quaver note groupings.

Because you’re an experienced player, I can only think you’re now winding us up by pretending to be confused as to the differences. By the way, you gave "what the tune was submitted as to" as evidence for the above tunes. Do you really think that carries any weight what with all the glaring inaccuracies in the tunes section in terms of key, genre, ummm..notes themselves, etc.?! I (for example) submitted The Long Note as a slide because that’s the way I play it, but I think it’s supposed to be played like a single jig. Does it really matter? Just play the tunes the way you want to play them, i.e. all single jigs as slides, but be aware that you may be going against certain conventions by doing so, e.g. a few eyebrows might be raised in some sessions if you played Smash The Windows as a slide.

Listen to Alan Ng - I think he explains the differences very clearly, in terms of "even triplet patterns" and "jig patterns". For me it’s this that defines the 2 as being very different rhythmically. See

Alan Ng says: "Musicians quite familiar with slides are generally unfamiliar with single jigs, and some otherwise respectable authorities on the slide have rashly and mistakenly pronounced that single jigs "are the same as slides." On the other hand, some musicians simply use the term "single jig" to mean "slide," and are unaware of the existence of the distinctive single jig rhythm in Irish music".

As for which came first: the single jig or the slide. It’s the single jig, obviously. Single jigs have been around in England and Scotland since the beginning of time (possibly even before jigs even appeared in Ireland as a tune form?). Just look in any old manuscript if you don’t believe that. Don’t know the history of slides, but I’d say they’d be a more recent development, having appeared because some musicians in SW Ireland started playing single jigs like Cock O’ The North and speeding them up and playing with the rhythm and pulse a bit, maybe changing the name of some tunes also. Then they composed a bunch of tunes in their new tune form, now clearly distinct from the large repertoire of double jigs in the Irish tradition. That’s my hypothesis with no evidence whatsoever to support it - meaningless isn’t it 😉

Single jig —> reel

Here’ s an example of an old single jig that morphed into a reel over the centuries, and as the tune spread to different locations:

The dance

I should also have mentioned this. Someone in Kerry somewhere at some stage has gone, "hey if you play these humpty dumpty jigs a bit faster and pump some adrenalin into them you can do this slidey dance step to it".

Jack, in my list above, the indicators follow the order of the leading sentence—single jigs first, then slides.

But I’m not claiming any expertise in any of this, certainly not when submitting tunes here. That said, a tune like Miller’s Maggot fits more into the single jig class for me because I like it slow and swingy, and each part ends more like a single jig than a slide. I didn’t say anything about it being a single jig because that’s evident from the way I notated it—a jig in 6/8, with a fair number of quarter notes. I notate slides in 12/8.

Of course, Irish trad tunes weren’t designed with sheet music conventions in mind, and the process of notation always feels a bit dishonest to me, so I usually take a shower after committing a tune to paper or screen. 🙂

Posted .

Anyone know when the slide dance became popular? Was it round about the same time as the polka? Zina? ‘c’?

Thanks Will. Dow, I’m not winding anyone up, I realy just want to understand. I think this discussion has been very enlightening and helpful. I’ll bet folks who come across this thread might gain something from it. As for me, I’m just trying to get a grip on how the subtle differences will apply to my own perception and playing of the tunes. My conclusion (above) still stands at this juncture.

I hope anyone who stumbles onto this discussion learns something from it, not least of which is that even among the authorities we reference in our posts there is no firm agreement on the distinctions (or lack thereof) between single jigs and slides.

Posted .

And everyone lived happily ever after 😉

The slide is a Kerry dance, and I believe only for set dancing. Single jigs, I *think* (and could be extremely wrong), are solo dances. I’ve no idea if that helps or not. Probably not. I’m actually not sure why a definitive answer is actually necessary. Sure it’s better to have something to argue about on long cold nights? *smirk*

Zina (posting on Pete’s account)


BTW, the "motif" of the single jig step, the little bouncy thing that comes up at the end of most of the steps (it’s a very traditional kind of step) is generally called as something like "leap two three, step out, step in" on the last measure. I don’t think that truly means anything, but stepdancers do listen for that sort of rhythm to identify the sort of step to do to the music being played (dancers aren’t exactly known for their musical acumen, to be honest — if there’s a beat, they’ll do their best to fit the step to it, sometimes with varying results).

Oh, and…

sorry, it’s been a long day of Chinese New Year celebrations, and my brain is in a deep food coma…

the single jig has been posited as descending from something called a "moneen" jig, and I THINK it might be based out of Kerry — I’m in California, not at home in Colorado, and if you really care that much about it, I’ll check in my reference books when I get home.

I’m just in from playing a four hour ceili. At one point, one of the more experienced dancers (she’s just earned her TCRG certification) was teaching everyone a dance and us musicians were listening to her calling out the steps so we could pick up what sort of tunes she’d want. The rhythm was clearly jiggy, and sounded single jig/slide-ish to my ear. But when she looked at us for tunes, and I said, "Single jigs?" she said, "No, it’s for double jigs, but single jigs will do." (Dancers talk like this all the time. *grin*)

So we played a bunch of double jigs, and things were going fine, but I couldn’t get the single jig/slide beat out of my mind, so I veered into Off She Goes, and then Miller’s Maggot, and that was just the ticket, precisely the lift and timing the dancer’s really needed for the steps they were doing.

Not sure what this contributes to the conversation, except to reiterate that (1) dancers and musicians often speak different languages using the same words, and (2) how you label the tunes matters far less than matching the tunes to the steps.

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I’ve been told that the single jigs are relevant to step dancing, so it would make perfect sense that you might discover a purpose that would make the term mean something. Perhaps having experience enough in playing for step dancers would lend it’s self to understanding what exactly separates a single jig from a slide.

Well, Jack, ceili dancers are the only ones who’ve ever asked us to play a slide. I’ve never heard a step dancer use that term for any step dance. Step dancers talk (to me, anyway) only of single, double, and treble jigs. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what they mean by the first two, but we always oblige based on our own understanding of the difference between a single and double jig. But when they say treble, they want a double jig played very, very slowly and somewhat dotted, while they do a zillion steps for every beat. Which is great fun. 🙂

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A single jig is a kind of dance — it’s the one with the aforementioned little "motif" of "leap two three, step out, step in". A double jig is the usually the same thing as a treble jig to a dancer (though I’m beginning to think they do things very differently up in Montana *smirk*), and it also is a kind of dance, danced in your hard or heavy shoes.

In one’s hardshoes, you can double/treble/tip/shuffle/rally/flap/whatever with the tips under the toes. I’ve heard all those things refer to the little "tap tap" you do with your toe tap. None of them are the improper way to refer to the same thing.

My dancers wouldn’t even know what a slide *was*, or would think that you were refering to the movement within a step of sliding your trailing foot behind you to your other foot on the toe tap. We don’t compete in slides, at least under An Coimisiun.

I did mention all this before, didn’t I? could have sworn I did…


Zina, I think it was Seige of Ennis that we ended up playing some slides for that fit really well to the (ceili) dancer’s steps. Does that make sense?

Bear in mind, this is a TCRG step dancer teaching 7 to 70 yearolds how to dance at a very informal, just-for-fun ceili.

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Will, I play slides for set dancers, but I’m never sure about what step dancers are asking for on the rare occasion when we play for them. The slides we play for set dancers are really fast and sound more like slow dotted hornpipes. It seems to me that single jigs are slower than slides, but they bounce like slides.

At tonight’s session I played Off She Goes and The Miller’s Maggot at jig speed to see what would happen, but all it did was inspire a rake of slides. When I told them I was trying to play a single jig I looked around and all their eyes were crossed — they had no idea and could care less about what I was saying. I tried to explain but one of them started up a tune and they all joined in before I could finish. I think I’m the only one that thinks it’s worth looking into… oh well.

Bloody Philistines!

Will, all single jig steps can be danced to light jig music, and all light jig steps can be danced to single jig music, but that doesn’t mean that they *should* be! LOL — Ceili dancing, though, can be danced to whatever works. Single jig music for light jig ceili dances are fun because they’re smoother and are played a bit faster, so you get to fly through the set.

Jack, remind me next time I come out to bring you a cd of some feis music. Maybe that’d help.

Thanks for this guys, have been confused on difference between slides and single jigs, this is helping lots.

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It *does*? The mind boggles.

I know — next time I’m in SF (and it sounds like that might be late March, so Bob and Jack, get yerselves ready for the onslaught) I’ll teach you how to do a single jig step, Jack, and you probably already know how the set dancers do a slide — that’ll probably do it. (Are you going to be at Marla Fibish’s session on the 27th, Jack? Sounds like Beth and I might show up then.)

While I think this is a very interesting thread, I also think that it’s interesting that no where in the debate of whether it’s a slide or single jig was a definition of what a slide and a single jig are. I think that’s important before final verdict can be handed down. I will do so. I consider myself a pretty good authority on Irish music, but not a definitive one. So feel free to contradict me, just be nice about it.

First of all, they are both jigs in the generic sense. Content members of the jig family, if you will (or even if you won’t, this is my post afterall.) But there is more to what makes a tune a paticular tune then just the time signature. I jig is two groups of triplets, making up a measure. In the case of the double jig (which are the pure jigs) the 1st note of the measure is heavily accented, and the 2nd note is lightlier accented. Repeat go brach. If you take out the 2nd and the 5th note, you have yourself a single jig. If you don’t accent every other 1st note of the measure, starting with the 2nd measure, you have yourself a slide.

If we are going by ‘Lisdoonverna’ as the music is displayed here at this site, we will notice that the music is written in what I consider errounously scribed "12/8." (There can be no such thing as 12/8, that would suggest there are 12 notes in the measure, but there are still only 3 notes per beat, and 2 beats per meausure, the latter clause is what defines it as dance music.) But the purpose of writing it as 12/8 is to give the feel of the two measures "sliding" together, and when played properly, that’s what a slide feels like. Notice the sheet music doesn’t have ANY accents. I feel that’s a big mistake because the different accenting is what makes it a different king of jig. But I guess that point gets across by labeling it as 12/8. Whatev. The point is that because it’s in 12/8, it is therefore a slide.

Notice also that it’s written with a quarter note, eighth note, quarter note, eighth note. That’s the same as me saying the 2nd and 5th note being ommited, which is the definition of a single jig.

The final verdict:

The Road to Lisdoonverna, as transcribed here, is BOTH a slide and a single jig.

You’re welcome.

Hmm Tadhg mac Saoirse that all sounds very clever and authoritative but a lot of what you’ve said about the jig triplet being an accented 1st note and lighter 2nd note: that’s the same thing as what I’ve been on about - Alan Ng’s so-called "jig pattern" (an uneven triplet weighted towards the 1st of the 3 notes).

The quarter-note, eighth-note thing you describe is obvious. We’ve been through all of that… you just need to have read the thread. We’ve also been through whether we think this tune is a slide or single jig. (It’s a slide).

As for your analysis of 6/8 vs 12/8, well, basically that all boils down to convention and *nothing more*. Both single jigs and slides have been written in both time sigs.

Finally, the bit about your 2 measures "sliding" together: "slide" refers to the nature of the set dance as far as I understand it, not anything to do with measures of sheetmusic.

Mr Dow, sir, you are making the mistake of talking about Irish music while thinking like a Saxon. A tune exists independant of they way we mere mortals wish to express it. You could play it as a double reel if you wanted to, but the cute little girl with obnoxiously big curly hair asked for a slide. When you get to Tir na n’Og, you will hear the Road to Lisdoonvarna played by the Good People, and you will not have an existential crisis over what kind of tune it is, you will just dance. That, and the road to Lisdoonvarna is narrow, pot filled, and occupied by the ugliest sheep in the world struggling despartely to lick the few crumbs of moss growing from engine fluid.

Yeah cuz I can’t dance for sh*te!

If a cute little girl with big curly hair asks for something, it probably won’t be a slide, unless she’s a set dancer with unfortunate hair. If she’s a stepdancer, she’ll have asked for a single jig!

Wow, I just popped in to add this tune to my tunebook, and found one of the most interesting discussions I have read on The Session in a long time! I have been wondering about that whole single jig versus slide thing for quite some time, and am starting to understand the subtle differences between them.
I think that, as said above, a lot has to do with how you play them. For example, some people play polkas slow, like they were marches, because they learned them slowly early in their musical development, and don’t realize that they are really intended to be played for dancers who like to move real fast.

Road to Lisdoonvarna discussion/Chieftans

Someone mentioned the Chieftans playing it as a jig and then going into a reel. I was told not to play most things as the Chieftans interpret them because they don’t play "real Irish", whatever that means.
So, are the Chieftans "real Irish" or not?
If they’re not "real Irish" then playing it as a jig doesn’t count, does it?

Only as Irish as Guiness.

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For what it’s worth — if you look at the CCE fleadh competition rules, jigs and slides are two distinct things. "Classes of Music: Air (slow or lively), Jig (double, single, slip), Slide, Reel, Polka,
Hornpipe, March, Set Dance." That also fits with Alan Ng’s claim that the slide triplet is not the same rhythm as a jig triplet.

So my inclination is that, contrary to Tadhg mac Saoirse above, slides are not a kind of jig. But I admit I don’t understand the nuances clearly enough to be certain of that.

~ alias ‘single jig’…

Session Tunes

Can anyone suggest a couple of tunes that go well with Road to Lisdoonvarna for playing at a session?

Slide to follow Road to Lisdoonvarna

Brewster, I’ve got just the one for you! It’s the Toormore slide -

and we’ve been playing and enjoying this great pair in our session for quite a while now.

As for a third, you’ve got me thinking - mmmm, time to find a nice 3rd to finish the set!

Road to Lisdoonvarna then Toormore then…..

Brewsterflute - How’s this one -

It’s O’Keefe’s (slide) as submitted by Jeremy himself a while back.
Thanks BF, you’ve just helped to add a "nice 3rd" to the two we like to play - I’ll give the ‘new’ set an airing at our next session on Wednesday!

The Road to Lisdoonvarna

In my part of the world (Southern California), this tune is probably considered the most hackneyed tune of the ITM repertoire, yet I have never come across a recorded version or heard it in concert. It is not the most quintessentially Irish tune I can think of (like, say, The Irish Washerwoman), so what accounts for its popularity? And how is it that everyone seems t know it?

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Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

I think it’s just one of those tunes that sticks in your head when you hear it. I’ve taught it to kids and it’s one of their favourites, probably because it’s so easy to pick up. Wonder if there is a song to that tune? That often is the case when you just seem to know a tune the first time you hear it.

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Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Yeah, there’s only 53 recordings listed in the database here that have it, and they’re all from unknowns like the Chieftains, Bothy Band, Stockton’s Wing, Solas, and Finbarr Dwyer… 😛

I think it’s much maligned because it’s a fairly simple tune, and one that beginners often learn, so it’s often played rather poorly.

But keep in mind that the hackneyed tunes are usually "worn out" because they’re great tunes. You should try re-visiting the tune and see if you can make it special again… For my part, I often find that some of the earliest tunes I learned are really great tunes if I go back and rework them a bit…

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

and to tie it into another discussion, the Chieftans start it as a reel then switch to the slide (Chieftains 3)

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Ask not what the tune can do for you, but what you can do for the tune!


There are no hackneyed tunes, only hackneyed settings. 😉

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Well said

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

RtL was one of the first tunes I ever learned, and unlike the other 20 or so tunes I learned in my first few months, it actually sounded halfway decent before I was able to do much of anything with my fiddle. (On fiddle, this tune sounds better than most when played through with single bows.) So it’s a pretty good tune as far as instant gratification is concerned.

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Thanks Whid, that’s sorta JFK on the first one though, and I swear I read that second one on here before!

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…’cuz as we all know, JFK loved to crank out the Road to Lisdoonvarna…

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I’ll remember that road for many years. Driving from Shannon to Lisdoonvarna was my first experience with left-hand traffic.

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Road to Lisdoonvarna was one of the first tunes which I learned after the local session was started in 1995. Although I don’t play melody (or lead) at the local session, I like to try to play the tunes on my piano when I am at home. Road to Lisdoonvarna is one of the easy tunes to play on a piano.

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

Damn, I thought this thread was about those heady days of yesteryear when we set off hitching to the festival, tent on back, tobacco tins well concealed. Anyone got any good memories of it? I was there several times but my only recollections are from photos taken by plain clothed Gardai!

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

This tune sure stirred up a hornet’s nest about the difference between a slide and a single jig some years ago - see if interested.

Re: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

I have nothing against the tune, just wondered about it. Bear in mind that I’m talking about the single-jig (or slide, if you prefer). There is another tune of the same name that is not a jig. I bring that up because I’m almost positive the Bothy Band never did the version I’m speaking of, and I’ve never heard the Chieftains do it, although with as many recordings as they have, it’s certainly possible.

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So Close:
The ‘collusion’ below shows how like eachother the reel and slide versions of the Road to Lisdoonvarna are once you play them in the same key:

X: 1
T: The Road To Lisdoonvarna
M: 12/8
L: 1/8
R: reel
E2B B2A B2c d2A|F2A ABA D2E FED|E2B B2A B2c d3|cdc B2A B2E E3:||
e2f gfe d2B Bcd|c2A ABc d2B B3|e2f gfe d2B Bcd|cdc B2A B2E E3:||
M: 4/4
efge dBBd|cAAc dBB2|efge dBBd|cdBA GEE:||

Note how the D/reel version can be transposed to Edor because the major 3rd in it takes to the ‘minor’ change well while the E/slide version Can NOT be transposed to D because 1)its minor 3rd falls on a down beat and does not suffer this ‘major’change & 2)the original D’s below E can’t be played at all as C’s on the usual tin whistle range.

RE: The Road to Lisdoonvarna

You folks sound like a bunch of Baptists at a Bible meeting. Just play the tune and have fun however you know how to do it. I simply wish I could play it. Whether a slide or a jig, it’s my favorite even if oinked out by a pig.

Re: The Road To Lisdoonvarna

Sean, that is a beautiful video. Please keep it up!