By Steve Baughman These 17 solo arrangements are from the British Isles and beyond, in Orkney and other tunings, with standard notation, tablature, and performance notes. Contents: Introduction Songs in Orkney Tuning Breton TuneDanny BoyFairy's HornpipeFarewell to OrkneyLe Grande ChainLord InchiquinManx Lullaby/Misty Mountain/Tobin's JigNeil Gow's Lament for the Death of his Second Wife Songs in Double Dropped-D Tuning Blind MaryThe Blossom/Planxty Bruce RobinsonCoilsfield HouseLeitrim QueenPlanxty George BrabazonSwedish Piece Songs in Other Tunings Dans KefJock StuartLady Athenry Recommended Listening About the Author Introduction https://vimeo.com/701741246 Welcome to the Celtic Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar, a total immersion experience. I’ve dedicated a huge chunk of my life to this music, and if I can help you experience great joy in playing Celtic tunes on your guitar, learning the ornaments, and arranging the music, I will consider my mission accomplished. Before you dive into learning the pieces, I want to make a couple of important points. First of all, always think melody. A lot of these pieces are fiddle tunes, some are harp tunes, and others pipe tunes, but in each of them, the melody is essential. In preparation to learn these tunes, spend some time watching the accompanying videos and making sure that you can clearly register the melodies I am playing. If you don’t have a clear concept of the melody, it will wind up getting buried within arpeggios, and you won’t be able to give life to these tunes. So as you play through this book, I strongly encourage you to work on the melodies before you bring in the supporting bass notes and arpeggios. Secondly, always take it slowly when learning the pieces, and keep your enthusiasm in check. You love playing the guitar and get so excited when a beautiful new sound flows from your instrument. Sometimes that means you wind up trying to play beyond your abilities. Remember, you can’t run until you’ve learned to walk. You will not be able to play the formidable tune “The Blossom” well until you’re capable of playing the more accessible “Manx Lullaby,” so don’t bypass important developmental stages in your guitar playing. Internalize the easier stuff until you’re ready for the harder stuff. Most of the pieces in this collection are studded with ornaments, which can be tricky for the uninitiated. Not to worry. One of the best bits of musical advice I ever got came from an Irish flight attendant I met in the Philippines. He was a fine pennywhistle player and told me that if I wanted to learn the instrument not to pay attention to ornaments until I could play melodies. Nearly 40 years later I still think about that when I am learning a new tune. So feel free to ignore the ornaments for as long as you like. Focus on the melody, and once it is in your blood you will feel a desire to take it to the next level of beauty with ornaments. In the videos, before I play the tunes, I’ll give you a quick demo of the ornaments that will be used. And here I’d like to give you a quick overview of the basic ornaments, as played in Orkney tuning (C G D G C D): The first one I’ll show you, depicted in Example 1a, is a pretty common one. Note that I tend to wear fingerpicks, but you could easily play it straight fingerstyle. As shown in the notation, I often play the ornament—the triplet—as m i m (Ex. 1a), but I sometimes do m i p (Example1b), and many folks do a m i. Be sure to experiment with each of these patterns, and also try the ornaments on an interior string, which is more difficult, as shown in Example 1c. Another thing you’ll hear a lot of is what I called the “Scottish snap”—a sharp pull-off, usually to an open string. For instance, in Example 2a, instead of playing just an open D, add a quick pull-off from the fifth-fret G. You could also do a Scottish snap on two fretted notes, but it’s more difficult. And sometimes, I do this ornament on an inner string, paired with an open string (Example 2b), or with both a hammer-on and a pull-off (Example 2c). Occasionally you’ll hear me play fully picked ornaments, as in "Tobin’s Jig." Instead of doing just the basic melody, as shown in Example 3a, I’ll add some quick extra notes, like those in Example 3b. Be aware of all of these ornaments as you go through the pieces, but remember, ornaments are like spices: You don’t want to overdo them such that they are noticed. If someone says, “I liked hearing you play—your ornaments are fantastic,” that’s like a chef being told, “Your food’s great—I really liked the garlic.” These ornaments are supposed to be subtle effects that enhance the melody. If they get in the way of you playing smoothly, don’t do them at all. Just remember that the melody must flow clearly as you work through this collection of great Celtic fare that I gathered over the course of many years. Songs in Orkney Tuning Breton TuneDanny BoyFairy's HornpipeFarewell to OrkneyLe Grande ChainLord InchiquinManx Lullaby/Misty Mountain/Tobin's JigNeil Gow's Lament for the Death of his Second Wife https://vimeo.com/701740164 Breton Tune All of the songs in this section are in Orkney tuning (low to high: C G D G C D), a close cousin of DADGAD, which I find lends itself well to Celtic repertoire. To get into Orkney from standard tuning, lower strings 1 and 5 a whole step and string 6 two steps; raise string 2 by a half step. Once you’re in Orkney, try playing this absolutely gorgeous tune from Brittany, the far northwestern province of France, where they have just the most hauntingly ancient, beautiful Celtic music. This is a piece I learned from a concertina player named Jo Cresswell, an Australian woman, about 20 years ago. I hope she played it right, because it’s the only place I’ve ever heard the piece, and I’m basing my arrangement on the melody she taught me. A couple of things you should be aware of: In my performance I occasionally add a “thwack” with my picking hand’s middle finger, but that’s totally optional; feel free to use conventional fingerpicking throughout. Also, look out for those sharp Scottish pull-offs, which add liveliness throughout the arrangement. Don’t let them derail you—if needed, practice them slowly on their own until you can play them perfectly in context. https://vimeo.com/701739213 Danny Boy Here’s “Danny Boy,” a great old song, also known as “Londonderry Air”—not “London Derriere.” It’s a tune that I’m told Irish folks are kind of sick of, so if you’re ever in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, you may not want to play it until you’re back in the privacy of your hotel room. I find this arrangement, which incorporates some jazz ingredients, to be really fun to play. The piece starts with something I like to do in Orkney—a non-linear sequence in which each melody note is played on a different string than the previous one, lending a beautiful, harp-like effect. When I play the piece, I try to let all of the melody notes, whether open or fretted, live as long as they possibly can. Be sure to use precise fretting-finger placement, so as not to prematurely end the life of a melody note ringing out on an adjacent string. Perhaps the trickiest part of the arrangement happens in bar 25, where I play a C major arpeggio high up on the neck, with a handful of natural harmonics. But don’t let that trip you up; if it’s too difficult, just use open strings instead of the harmonics. Play what’s within your abilities and have fun with this beautiful tune. https://vimeo.com/701738370 Fairy’s Hornpipe I first heard “Fairy’s Hornpipe” played in a very different way by the late, great English guitarist Davey Graham, who was a fantastic musician. Learning this tune was an important benchmark for me—it’s pretty common, having made the rounds in Irish music. It works beautifully in the key of G major, in Orkney tuning, where the open strings make things pretty easy on the fretting fingers. I like to play this piece with kind of a swing feel, with the eighth notes not rendered equally as notated, but rather at a ratio of about 2:1. Once you’ve got the piece under your fingers and in your ears, playing along with the video will help you get this feel down. My arrangement has a fairly active bass line—check out all those moving quarter notes in bars 5–6 and elsewhere. The bass part lends texture and complexity to the piece, so make sure it’s clearly heard, but without overpowering the melody on the higher strings. https://vimeo.com/701737700 Farewell to Orkney I wrote the first part of “Farewell to Orkney,” a sad tune that conjures up images of the northern Scottish islands, about 20 years ago, and just sort of got stuck. It took the better part of decade for the second part to emerge, and the complete tune has since become a staple of my repertoire. Though “Farewell to Orkney” might look complicated on paper, it’s actually fairly straightforward to play—as long as you remember to stay slow. Much of the piece sits in the open position and makes liberal use of open strings, which not only eases the burden on the fretting fingers but creates that lovely ringing effect throughout. However, I do travel pretty far up the neck in spots, to create a sense of drama, and that’s where you might find your left hand in spiderlike shapes that it’s never been in before. When you get to the phrase that begins at the end of bar 20, for instance, take things slowly to find the fingerings that work best for you. Another thing to keep in mind throughout the piece: You want all of the notes on adjacent strings to have long and memorable lives, and that requires a good bit of discipline and focus. But you will be rewarded richly for it. https://vimeo.com/701736571 Le Grande Chain "Le Grande Chain” is a French-Canadian tune that I learned from the fiddling of the great Québécois fiddler André Brunet. Because it’s a fast fiddle tune, this arrangement is pretty challenging. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the left hand, especially with the moving bass lines underneath the melody, so take things slowly and use the fingerings that work best for you. Learn the piece phrase by phrase and section by section, isolating any problematic passages until you can play them perfectly. Throughout the arrangement, the extensive use of hammer-ons and pull-offs might ease the burden on the right hand, but there’s something going on that’s very important to the character of the piece. On beats 2 and 4, I’m often doing that “thwack” with my middle finger, which lends a certain rhythmic verve to the proceedings. You could certainly play the arrangement straight fingerstyle, but I’d recommend adding this percussive effect to your arsenal of techniques. It might take a long time to learn the piece, but the payoff will be huge. https://vimeo.com/701735017 Lord Inchiquin ere’s a great tune by Turlough O’Carolan (1670–1738), Hthe blind Celtic harper with an incredible gift for melody. Apparently O’Carolan wrote “Lord Inchiquin” for an English military lord in Ireland. I don’t know why he did that, but it probably had to do with him getting paid for it. In any event, it’s a really great harp tune and it works beautifully in Orkney tuning in the key of C. There’s a lot of arpeggiated stuff going on here, so remember to think melody, and make sure that you’re playing it clearly over the moving bass line and countermelodies. Also, be cognizant of playing all the hammer-ons and pull-offs with precision and in time—go for a smooth and flowing effect throughout, as it’s essential to the piece. In the accompanying video, you’ll hear me doing the middle-finger thwack, but in this case it’s just a momentary accent and totally optional. You could also avoid the left-hand ornaments, like those in bars 3, 5, and elsewhere, though they do add a bit of character to the piece. Whether or not you incorporate these techniques, the most important thing is to go for a beautiful, harp-like sound. And as long as the melody is taking center stage, it’s going to be beautiful to hear you play this. https://vimeo.com/701731480 Manx Lullaby/Misty Mountain/Tobin’s Jig This is a suite of three gorgeous tunes. First up is “Manx Lullaby,” a melody originating in the Isle of Man that has made the rounds in folk circles. I know a fine guitarist named Alec Stone Sweet, who recorded a lovely arrangement of the piece, but I’m not aware of any versions similar to mine. “Manx Lullaby” is a slow tune, and as always, it’s really important that you focus on the melody, so I would recommend playing it on its own, as I do in the accompanying video, before tackling the full arrangement. Remember to avoid shortening the life of any ringing string until absolutely necessary. After “Manx Lullaby” comes a pair of jigs, the first of which is “Misty Mountain,” a tune I learned from the great Clare fiddler Martin Hayes. Then at the end is “Tobin’s Jig,” a fairly common and typical jig. A couple of things to be aware of: First of all, there’s a lot of ornamentation going on here, and you might be tempted to go after every little detail. But don’t let that happen at the expense of playing the melody fluidly. You have my permission to let the ornaments go if they’re too difficult. Note, too, that I sometimes play these jigs with a straight rhythm, as written, and other times with more of a lopsided, swing feel. There’s no real rhyme or reason as to why I go back and forth, and, admittedly, an Irish fiddler would probably not take this approach. Also, I never play this—or any of these arrangements—exactly the same way twice. These are little ways of making the music my own, and I would encourage you to do the same. https://vimeo.com/701730511 Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife Niel Gow (1727–1807), the most famous Scottish fiddle player of the 18th century, once wrote a piece he titled “Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife.” After her passing, Gow apparently stopped playing the fiddle for some time. In any case, it’s a hauntingly gorgeous fiddle tune, and it works just beautifully in Orkney tuning. It is generally a good idea, at least when arranging slower tunes, to see if some of the melody notes are available up the neck on the lower strings. These thicker wires have a richness to them that can really enhance the sound. “Niel Gow’s Lament” is a lovely example of this. The piece is near and dear to my heart. And although I rarely depart from the notes as you see them on this page, I phrase my rendition differently each time depending on my mood. The spaces between the phrases are important. Sometimes they want to expand, sometimes to contract. There is no formula to follow on this, so let your musical emotions decide for you. Perhaps think of what Gow may have been feeling when he sat and played this tune as an old man. Songs in Double Dropped-D Tuning Blind MaryThe Blossom/Planxty Bruce RobinsonCoilsfield HouseLeitrim QueenPlanxty George BrabazonSwedish Piece https://vimeo.com/701729782 Blind Mary The arrangements in this section are in double dropped D, another tuning I really like for Celtic music, especially pieces in the key of D major. To get into this tuning from standard, all you have to do is lower your first and sixth strings by a whole step, both to D from E. “Blind Mary” is one of my favorite Turlough O’Carolan tunes. This is one of his slow pieces—a haunting one at that—and one of his most beautiful melodies. One of the things you’ll notice in this arrangement is that I’m sometimes making note choices in the middle of the guitar’s neck. For instance, in bar 12, while I could play the D on beat 4.5 as an open string, or on string 2, fret 3, I do it on string 3, fret 7. Hold that seventh-fret D for as long as you can and enjoy the lovely warm sound that this position offers, as well as the timbral contrast with the brighter-sounding open first string. When you play the arrangement, strive for a gentle, harp-like feel; I find it helpful to imagine how O’Carolan must have sounded on his wire-strung harp. At the same time, it’s so important to let the notes have a tone that cries out, so that you can really capture the emotion of the piece. https://vimeo.com/701728185 The Blossom/Planxty Bruce Robinson Fair warning: This is probably the hardest material in this book and, come to think of it, one of the most demanding pair of tunes I’ve ever worked on it my guitar career. It originally took me years to learn, and after recording it for my 2015 album, Alone and Together, I stopped practicing it and couldn’t play it. I had to relearn the arrangement for the accompanying video. It’s actually a medley of two pieces. First is “The Blossom,” a gorgeous, G-major fiddle tune written by Hanneke Cassel, a young fiddler from the West Coast, who now lives in Boston. As far as I know, “The Blossom” hasn’t been done on the guitar, and I’m happy to have changed that with this arrangement. Next is a tune in the key of D called “Planxty Bruce Robinson,” which I wrote in honor of a humble and generous member of the California Scottish fiddle community. These tunes are both reels, which are dances. That means you want to make feet move when you play them. Keep that in mind after you have gotten a handle on the notes. Be sure to play these pieces in a light and bouncy way. https://vimeo.com/701727249 Coilsfield House Nathaniel Gow (1763–1831), the fourth son of Niel Gow, was a very well-known Scottish fiddler, composer, and arranger who wrote some great tunes that really haven’t made the rounds in the guitar scene. That’s unfortunate, as his music makes for lovely guitar arrangements, and a good case in point is “Coilsfield House,” named after a castle in Scotland. I play the piece very freely, almost out of time, so note that the rhythms on the printed page serve only as a general guide. Feel free to interpret the rhythms however you’d like, so long as you play the piece in a contemplative manner. And really try to make the melody sing, with the notes ringing together for as long as possible, and the bass notes present but not overpowering. This arrangement uses more of the fretboard’s real estate than the other pieces in this book, traveling as high as the 16th fret on the first string. It would definitely be helpful to play the piece on a guitar with a cutaway, but with careful and attentive hand placement, you should be able to do it on a non-cutaway, 14-fret instrument. If it’s at first difficult to play that high on the neck, keep at it, as it’s worth it for the quiet intensity it adds to the arrangement. https://vimeo.com/701725956 Leitrim Queen I learned the Irish piece “Leitrim Queen” from a fine San Francisco Bay Area musician, Valerie Rose, and assumed it was a rather subdued piece, since that’s how she sang it. After I arranged it for guitar, I started investigating how other musicians interpret the tune, and, much to my surprise, found it was most commonly done as a wild pub song. But when you slow it down, it is just gorgeous and haunting—and it works really well on the guitar. As with “Coilsfield House,” I play “Leitrim Queen” without strict rhythms, so again, don’t be overly concerned with the notation. Instead, play the arrangement with whatever durations feel most natural, speeding up and slowing down for expressive effect. For instance, you might gradually get faster as you play the arpeggios in bars 12–13, then get slower as you settle in on the D chord in bar 14. I am also having fun with some hints of jazz, like the Am7, Dmaj7, and D7♭9 chords. Voicings like these can sound unidiomatic in arrangements of traditional tunes, but I find they work beautifully in this context—especially those with the root note of D. Be sure to notice the emotional tug that these chords add, but as always, remember that the most important thing is to bring out the melody and play it with feeling. Also note that whenever I play this piece I have the very sad lyrics going through my head: She pined, she died, my joy, my prideMy County Leitrim queen https://vimeo.com/701724900 Planxty George Brabazon "Planxty George Brabazon,” another great tune by the 17th-century Irish harp player Turlough O’Carolan, is usually taken at a moderate tempo. But I like to speed it up a little bit, for a great workout on the guitar. This is one of the more challenging arrangements in this collection, with a bunch of tricky arpeggios, so I’d recommend including it in your daily practice routine and planning on spending a lot of time with it. I spent many hours sitting under a tree in Roberts Creek, on Canada’s Sunshine Coast, grimacing about how difficult the left-hand part was turning out to be. But my sweat paid off. Throughout, I use picking-hand thwacks—remember, downward flicks of the middle finger—to add punch and textural contrast. But this technique can be fairly tricky in an up-tempo piece, so feel free to play the arrangement straight fingerstyle—it will still sound good. This isn’t a fiddle tune, so you don’t need to worry about replicating the bow feel. A lot is required of the fretting fingers here, but perhaps the most challenging passages are those with numerous slurs—hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides—mostly on the low strings, as in bars 3–5. For each of the double-stops, fret the lower note with your second finger and the higher note with your third. Make sure that the notes all sound smooth and at equal volume, taking care not to nudge the strings sharp when slurring. Getting that down can help you not only learn “Planxty George Brabazon” but will help you become a better guitarist in general. https://vimeo.com/701723276 Swedish Piece I learned what I call “Swedish Piece” or “Swedish Waltz” off a cassette that I got decades ago in college. I really don’t know what the origin of the piece is, and I haven’t been able to find out. If it’s not Swedish, it’s close enough and it makes a lovely guitar arrangement. The piece is in D major from the beginning through bar 42, where it modulates to G major. Both of these keys work splendidly in double dropped-D tuning. Key to playing the arrangement smoothly will be finding efficient fingerings and sticking F♯, on string 1, like bars 18, 22, etc., keep your first finger anchored on the second-fret A on string 3, and your second fourth-fret F♯ on string 1 with your fourth finger. At the beginning of bar 58, really the only option is to stop the fifth-fret G on string 5 with your first finger and the ninth-fret B on string 1 with your fourth finger. That’s a pretty good left-hand stretch, and while you could avoid it by playing only the open G string as the bottom note, I’d recommend playing it as written if it’s not painful, as the low G note adds a feeling of gravity. Songs in Other Tunings Dans KefJock StuartLady Athenry https://vimeo.com/701721704 Dans Kef If there were only one piece in this book that I could have you learn, this would be it. I was surfing YouTube late one night when I became smitten with a band playing “Dans Kef,” a tune either named after a town/region in Brittany or KEF, the British loudspeaker manufacturer. It remains a mystery to me. In any case, I stayed up until the wee hours working out an arrangement of the piece on the guitar. The tune is in fact a good case study in how to build your own Celtic arrangement. I chose to play “Dans Kef” in a sort of modified Orkney tuning I call Celto-Hawaiian, because it can sound like it’s from the islands. I don’t know if anyone else uses this tuning, which is spelled C F C G C D. To get into it from Orkney, just lower your fifth and fourth strings by a whole step, from G and D to F and C, respectively. The open strings form a beautiful C chord with both the suspended fourth (F) and second (D), so take a moment to enjoy that sound. This can be a tricky one to play, especially because of the Celtic ornaments in the melody. Learn the melody on its own, without the ornaments—it would be a mistake not to. After you get the melody in your head and fingers, you will see how simple and repetitive it is, and how a fingerpicked guitar can bring it to glorious life with arpeggios and moving bass lines. If you scan through the notation or check out the accompanying video, you’ll notice that I don’t play the arrangement exactly the same way twice—that’s why there are no repeats in this arrangement. I’d encourage you to explore doing the same and create your own little improvisations on this beautiful tune. https://vimeo.com/701720522 Jock Stuart In 1985, the English Celtic punk band the Pogues released a charming version of the old Scottish song “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,” a.k.a. “Jock Stuart.” Though I’ve arranged the tune for solo guitar only, it’s got lovely words. I’d recommend you Google the lyrics and have them in your head as you play this arrangement. I’m in open G, but with the sixth string tuned down to C, which is best done with at least a medium-gauge string. To get there from standard tuning, lower strings 1 and 5 by a whole step and string 6 by two whole steps. That low C note is really important, so I hope it sounds good and not too muddy on your guitar. You’ll need the open sixth string for those rich bass notes on the IV (C) chords in measures 4, 12, and elsewhere. My arrangement is pretty straightforward, but it’s got lots of lively slides that could trip you up if you’re not paying enough attention, so be thoughtful about fingerings—and plan ahead. For instance, if you play the slides in bar 1 with your second finger, you’ll be well positioned for the D chord in bar 2, where you can fret the low D bass note with your thumb. Then, keeping your second finger on the second-fret A at the top of bar 3, slide up to B and it will be convenient to grab the fifth-fret G with your fourth finger. https://vimeo.com/701718568 Lady Athenry Here’s another great tune by Turlough O’Carolan, the 17th-century Irish harper who wrote some great pieces that work really beautifully on guitar. I picked up “Lady Athenry” from traditional harpists, and it seemed like a good fit for the “Celto-Hawaiian” tuning (C G D G B D) I also use on “Jock Stuart.” Although this is a dyed-in-the-wool old Irish melody, you’ll notice a bit of a slack-key influence; at times my arrangement sounds more Hawaiian than Celtic. A lot of fretting-hand movement is involved in this tune, so take things slowly, making sure that everything rings clearly and in time—and most important, that the melody really sings. As usual, if you find it too challenging to play the ornaments, like the 16th-note triplets in bar 8, feel free to leave them out. While I play much of the piece in low positions, I sometimes venture up the neck, like for those double-stops in bar 48. I really like how the guitar sounds warmer and darker in those quarters, and it’s always good to add a little tonal contrast to the arrangement. Meanwhile back down the neck, in bar 10, there’s a somewhat awkward stretch—you’ll need to grab the sixth-fret F♯ with your fourth finger and the first-fret A with your index finger. But the reach is worth it, as it sounds lovely to have the D chord’s third, that F♯ in the bass there. If at first you can’t quite handle the stretch, just do a little pinky yoga every day, and you should be able to manage it. Recommended Listening If you want to get more deeply into Celtic fingerstyle guitar, I am sure you will benefit from listening to the following recordings and familiarizing yourself with these artists, one of which is yours truly. The Renbourn, Graham, and Bensusan discs are classics that influenced me quite a bit when I was getting started playing the music of the British Isles on guitar. Steve Baughman Farewell to Orkney (self-released)Pierre Bensusan Près de Paris (Dadgad Music)Robin Bullock Rosewood Castle (Dancing Wolf Records)Steve Cooney Ceol Ársa Cláirsí (Claddagh Records)Anton Emery Noone Lasses (self-released)Davey Graham The Complete Guitarist (Kicking Mule)Keith Hinchliffe Carolan’s Dream (self-released)Tony McManus Pourquoi Quebec? (Greentrax)El McMeen Celtic Treasures (Piney Ridge Music)John Renbourn The Hermit (Transatlantic Records) About the Author Steve Baughman Steve Baughman has been performing guitar and banjo around the world for nearly four decades. An innovative instrumentalist known for exploring alternate tunings, Baughman has developed a clawhammer guitar technique that has captured the attention of many finger-style guitarists around the world. He has taught at over 70 music camps across the United States and Canada and has toured for 10 years as a duo with the Celtic guitarist Robin Bullock. Baughman has written seven instructional books and appears on multiple recordings, three of which—Farewell to Orkney, Celtic Guitar Summit (with Bullock), and Clawhammer Guitar: The Collection (various artists)—have been featured in Acoustic Guitar magazine as essential albums. His solo Celtic guitar work appears on The Blarney Pilgrim and Ramble to Cashel. Baughman makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area where, when he is not performing or teaching, he is a part-time philosophy graduate student and attorney. For more on the work of Steve Baughman, visit celticguitar.com.