Celtic Guitar

Within the last four years I have been studying Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar. It has been, and continues to be, such a pleasure learning and performing in this style of music.

The style involves performing traditional celtic melodies (tunes) as arrangements for solo acoustic guitar – these are tunes that are primarily written for solo fiddle (violin), pipes (bagpipes/uilleann pipes) or played as group arrangements in traditional celtic bands (whistles, pipes, fiddle, bodhran, bazouki…). The idea is to try and mimic (to a degree) the sounds of these traditional instruments using the solo guitar.

To achieve this we aim to use the full register of the guitar usually keeping the melody in the top register and playing a separate bassline in the bottom register. The idea is to accompany yourself whilst playing the melody on the guitar. In many cases we use altered guitar tunings to capture this, these can offer the use of drones throughout the arrangements, increased guitar resonance, and often easier access to the melody notes.

Below is an example of a Traditional Irish Jig called ‘Banish Misfortune’ which is arranged in DADGAD tuning for solo fingerstyle guitar (arr. R. Thompson).

Just some of the other popular altered tunings for this style are CGCGCD (Csus2), DADGBE (Drop D), CGDGCD (Orkney Tuning). And some of the great guitar players that incorporate this style in their playing and composition are John Renbourn, Tony McManus, Martin Simpson, Steve Baughman, Franco Morone, and more recently Jean Banwarth and Stephen Wake. 

Below is another example. A traditonal Irish Jig called ‘The Blarney Pilgrim’ which is arranged in DADGAD tuning (arr D. Ernst). Ths tune is traditionally played on the uilleann pipes (Irish pipes).

 

I look forward to sharing more of this music as time and practice allows!