Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lesson Three: Your First Tune

It's always hard to start a new instrument, even if you have been playing music for years, because everyone wants to start out playing like the best but to get there is a lot of hard work is ahead.  One of the reasons why there are so many guitars in closets is that the need to play an instrument is often overwhelmed by the amount of effort needed to learn it.

One of the ways to help a beginner to persist is to teach a simple tune right off the bat.  Very few are talented enough to be able to play an instrument well immediately, but it helps if you enjoy playing  and think you are doing very well.  Taking pleasure in producing a simple tune is often the key to having the will to persist.

Once you are in the process of learning, you learn that the process is never ending and that you want more and more.  It's this drive that helps you develop your style and to make sure that technique is efficient and consistent.  By learning a tune you start yourself on the way to learning technique and to learn to play music.  They are not always the same.

Our first tune is a reel called Mountain Road.  It is a very nice tune that can be played slowly or fast and still retain the qualities of the tune that make it pleasant and fun.  This is ideal for beginners because playing fast is not on the menu right now and you need a pleasant tune.

I don't expect you to play this tune well right away, so try and find other versions  and learn to hear the tune in your head.  I'm including the music for the simple version I am playing.  I urge you to learn to read music if you are interested in Irish music, TAB is limited and there are literally tens of thousands of tunes written in music notation.   You don't have to be an expert in reading music and most of the time the music serves as a repository of the basics of each tune.  Irish music, like all folk music, can't be exactly replicated with notation, but it does give you the basic notes and variations to start.

The notation above is an approximation (at best) of a simple version of Mountain Road.  It's there for you to learn the skeleton of the tune and later on you will be able to add the lift and drive to the music.  There is a video showing how Gerry O'Connor teaches the tune in Lesson Two.

Here is my contribution to learning the tune:

What about technique you ask?  A good question, but almost every beginner who doesn't have a teacher has to struggle to find the best technique for them. I don't want to emphasize this aspect in this lesson.  The reason is that if you check the right hands of different expert players, you'll find that they have hand position all over the place.  If you check out grip, it varies considerably too.  Left hand position is usually the same, but there is a question of whether or not a mandolin style or guitar style should be used.  I will show a basic technique that I urge you to learn, but you will find the way that suits you best sometime in the future.

Here is Gerry O'Connor on right hand position.  He was the one who taught me my first lesson and I have used a lot of his method in my own way.

So learn and enjoy this tune.  The hard stuff will come next including how to hold your pick, holding the banjo, and left hand techniques.  I have left the comments open for those of you who wish to comment (in a constructive way, I'll ban trolling, etc.) or show alternatives. 

Next Lesson:  Holding the pick.

Mike Keyes

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Mike - much appreciated. Look forward to your next posts!
    I would welcome your comments (eventually) on issues such as building up speed, performance anxiety etc. I think also that beginners need to realise how much practice is needed to build up muscle memory. I think it will take a newcomer hours and hours to be able to play the Mountain Road with any proficiency.