Watch the The Old Bush online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman
So, this is a slowed down version of a well known reel. I put a different spin on it- it’s not just a question of playing it slower that it would be danced to. The idea is to have a moving bass line rather than just follow the melody with chords- a riff, if you like! I wanted to have a little pattern that could stand on its own- played explicitly or implied by the bass line; Bm- C- D- A.
So- let’s see what the tempo would be normally and have a look at the melody of the A part. Now, I want to have that repeating bass figure underneath that melody. Separate out the melody notes and the bass line and play very slowly filling in the arpeggios.
As always there are choices in where on the neck and on which strings we play the notes. I use my little finger as a pivot to get up the neck to play the end of the A section. Then you’re into the repeat of the A part.
In the B part the key changes to A minor and again I make a choice as to where to play these notes on the neck- exploiting the opportunities to play across the strings to which DADGAD tuning lends itself. Here I like a little bit of dissonance and we get it by sustaining the melody note and the open string- and again by hammering on to the third string to get a semitone sustaining against the melody. We are trying to avoid the “pretty” cliché that DADGAD can trap us in.
At the end of the B part I’m “swinging” the tune by playing the melody note AHEAD OF and the bass note ON the beat. Then after the repeat of the B we are back to the start of the tune.
A feature of this music is that we play the tunes several times introducing little variations here and there. There are also regional variations in Irish music- the same tune might be played differently in Kerry than it is in Donegal. Here though is one variation that goes a little beyond changing a grace note. In one section of the A part I go to a G chord- using the thumb triplet for the melody. I go from G to A to B minor...then the rest is as before.