I’ve had several requests for another Irish flatpicking lesson, and since last time we learned a reel (The Humours of Tulla), I thought this time around we’d learn a jig.
Jigs are in 6/8 time, which can take some getting used to if you haven’t flatpicked many jigs or used a lot of triplets in your playing.
There are a few general guidelines to flatpicking jigs. Jigs are often played with a “lilt” by slightly lengthening the first eighth note of a triplet (on the downstroke) and subsequently shortening the second eighth note (on the upstroke). Another item to consider is picking direction. Unlike reels, which are normally played using alternating picking, with jigs we’ll use a downstroke on the downbeats to give them emphasis, which in turn helps give the tune a rhythmic drive. For example, we’ll pick triplets Down-Up-Down Down-Up-Down (DUD DUD) instead of alternating (DUD UDU). This is a guideline, not a rule…you may like the sound of alternating picking better, and in some places, sticking with one picking pattern may be awkward.
The tune for this lesson is a well-known jig called Sean Bui (“Yellow John” in Irish). I learned this tune from bouzouki player Roger Landes many years ago, and it’s one of the first tunes I learned when I was playing uilleann pipes. You’ll see a few staccato triplets on the fourth string open D (see the Humours of Tulla lesson for more details), but there’s nothing really new here as far as ornamentation (look for a more in depth lesson on ornamentation in the future). This tune is a little unusual in that the B section is twice as long as the A section, but there is a nice little variation in the last few bars of the B section that give the tune a little twist.
Also check out… The Humours of Tulla – Irish Flatpicking Guitar