Watch the Jig Time online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman

I want to introduce you to a concept that is fundamental to Scottish music, Irish music, to celtic music in general and that is: The Jig. The defining property is the time signature 6/8. I have a lot of experience teaching bluegrass players and in that music there seems to only be two time signatures- 4/4 and the Tennessee it’s great fun introducing people who play in straight fours to 6/8.

Jig rhythm is quite precise. You have 6 beats in the bar and you’d emphasis beat 1. I often ask students which other beat to emphasis and the innate answer is to split things evenly and say “1 and 4”. That splits the 6 into two groups of three; 1-2-3, 4-5-6. But if you’re strumming “4” is an upstroke which is an odd thing to be emphasising. So I naturally fall into the pattern of emphasising 1 and 3. So that to me is jig rhythm and it occurs throughout Scottish music both the fiddle and bagpipe tradition, throughout Irish music- there are reels and then there are jigs. If you look at the celtic music of Spain, the “muniera” is really just jig rhythm. In Brittany it’s less common but the Dérobée is jig rhythm. So this jig time is a fundamental concept if you want to get into the music of the Celtic countries.

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