Swallowtail Jig

Description: Great entry level tune for the Irish/Celtic inclined.  Learn it slow first, then gradually speed it up until “danceable!”  I’m always amazed at how almost everyone regardless of age or musical knowledge responds to a jig… 2 year olds can’t stay in their seats, and 92 year olds start tapping their toes, without fail.  Pretty cool.

Troubleshooting: The trip-up for some on this song (and all jigs) is that it is in a 6/8 meter.  6/8 has six 8th notes per measure (of course), but so does 3/4 time doesn’t it?… what is the difference between the two?  The answer lies in one word: “accents.”  Where 3/4 has every OTHER note slightly accented (1 & 2 & 3 &), 6/8 has every THIRD note accented (1 2 3 4 5 6 ).  This has a tendency to mess with the less experienced player’s bow arms (and heads!  ha!) in that we only have TWO directions the bow goes (down & up, of course), so one of those accents in a 6/8 measure is going to be on a down bow and the other one on an up bow.  Try playing a scale, 6 times each note accenting the 1st and 4th of the six as practice first, then you should be ready for Swallowtail Jig, and any other jig too!

Jam-along: Improvising over this tune is less common than others… maybe that will be reason enough to DO just that for some of you!  The overall key is E minor for this song.    Minors can have a lot of variations, but I’d suggest you try either the E blues scale (EZ-Zone = 0, 1, 3 on the D & A strings), or an E minor scale… which is the same thing as the G major scale actually!  Just use the G major scale notes but start on an E and end on an E and try using E the most and you should start to sound pretty good right away!

Advanced: In performance, try speeding it up more and more on each pass, and watch what happens to the audience!  Bowing hint: use less and less bow to go faster… only around 1/2” or 1cm or less at a really fast tempo! You may loose some power this way, but more exacting articulations will make up the difference in performance.  Just make a bigger difference between the accented and non-accented notes by making the non-accented ones even quieter.  Remember, the word “accent” does not necessarily mean louder, but more accurately, simply means “standing out” from the norm… in this case, the other notes.

Note: “PLPP” = “Pot Luck Pickin’ Party” is a version that features a full band so you might get a feel for how tunes like this could sound and happen in the “real world.”  Play along with whatever part you are ready for and have fun!

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