Watch the An Ciarraioch Mallaithe online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman

This is a song in the “Sean Nos” genre, which just means old style. In musical term it means there is no rhythm for you to get hold of.

Looking at the first phrase lets tease out the melody. When I listen to myself play this I hear it being sung, I hear a vocal line. So in the first line we harmonise the vocal line with chords that come from harmonising the scale in section 1 while sustaining the melody as long as possible.

Remember that this is a song with several verses so when I play the piece I’d go through the melody two or three times and vary the phrasing each time- so there’s some “wiggle room”. So be aware of the different positions in which the same phrase can be played.

We also use the idea of open strings allowing us to move up and down the neck with the left hand.

There’s almost a chorus- it’s a one line refrain. So, like the rest of the piece- get that melody under your fingers. Then we can add the accompaniment. In this first pass I resolve the melody and then as the open G rings on, resolve that to an F#

A lot of the ideas in the first part of the course come into play here. Notice how I’m arpeggiating the chords behind the melody. The melody will sustain at the end of each line but here we are also the accompanist so we arpeggiate the chord behind that melody.

Looking at the B section- let’s do what we did with the A and tease out the melody. Once we have that we know what we are putting the accompaniment to. In the first phrase we slide up and change the chord from a D to a Dmaj7. At the end of the second phrase I use a couple of harmonics to fill out the chord producing a Dsus2. Again the last chord before the refrain is a Bm. You can displace the timing by playing the bass note after you land on and sustain the melody note.

So, in summary- be aware of letting the melody sit on top of the chords as you arpeggiate them underneath. Also, use grace notes in different places to vary the piece on repetition.

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