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Standard Notation and Picking Patterns - Reels and Jigs


I live in the UK and like thousands of other guitarists of my generation, I didn't have a Doc Watson or a Rev Gary Davis living down th lane, so my introduction to printed music came via Mr. Grossman's tab system.  Whilst I'm sure this was valuable in opening up the mysteries of working out how to 'sound like my fingerstyle heroes', it taught me nothing about music or improvisation.  Fast forward 30 years and I've realised that fingerstyle doesn’t really cut it in 'social music', so I've been working on using a plectrum - and in particular learning some fiddle tunes.

I'm determined to get the pick direction thing 'right' from the beginning - but I find myself coming up against my ignorance of conventional music notation.  I'd really appreciate advice on a couple of things:

First, in Steve Kauffman's material, reels are presented in 4/4 - so I'm doing the down stroke on the quarter note and so on.  No problem.  Then I came across Bob Grant's 'Fiddle Tunes for Flatpickers' and Scott Fore's 'Flatpickers Solos' (which I shouldn't really be looking at because it's far too advanced!) and the tunes are presented in 8th notes.  To add to my confusion, Mark Geslison says in his appendix that most of the tunes in his '50 Tunes' book are really in 2/4 but in the book they're presented as 4/4.


Second, what is the standard pattern for playing jigs in 6/8?  Again, Mark G comments in his appendix that jigs are an exception to the dudududu rule - so I was expecting to see dud dud (which is how I would accompany a jig if I was strumming).  Instead the tunes seem to show the standard dud udu pattern


I'd really appreciate some advice.  Thank-you Mike

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Ciao Mike

even if it all looks confusing, just follow the rule down up down up etc. whenever you see 4/4, 2/4 or cut time (2/2), tap your foot as you play if you are not sure where the down beat is. The only difference is in the way the music is written. In 4/4 and 2/2 "long" notes are presented in 1/4 notes, in 2/4 "long" notes are presented in 8th notes ...

As for 6/8 the pattern is dud dud, you are right. There might be exceptions to that rule, but that's the right thing to do to begin with.

Ciao for now

Roberto Dalla Vecchia

******Flatpicking Guitar with Italian Gusto*******
http://www.robertodallavecchia.com <-- Listen & Buy my music and tabs
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Hi Roberto

Thank-you for taking the time to respond to my query.  Your advice is appreciated.  It took me a lot of time to get the 6/8 strum pattern right - so as you say, it makes sense to start off by using the same rule for picking single strings.

I see you have your own publications - I intend to look at them when get a bit more confident with this style.

Enjoy the summer - and I'm sure your national team will be worthy runners-up in Euro 2012!


Hi Mike

I have posted bits of my other reply to you re the Scottish Guitar Tutor Book as part of this general discussion. 

Re the right hand technique I do tend to play most jigs DUD UDU DUD. I don't stick to it always and it is more important to feel the 123456, 123456 rhythm rather than solely concentrating on the pick direction. Some jigs would vary the picking pattern more than other. But a tune such as Jig of Slurs or The Lads of Duns would tend to be as above. I certainly don't stick to the DUD DUD convention but it is a good convention and exercise to use. For the first five notes of The Duck I play them DUDUD.

The DUD DUD convention however is good for rhythm playing for jigs- the start of Rory Gallagher's Jig  is a good case in point.

For reels I would tend to stick with a straight DUD UDU DUD UDU approach. Watching videos of players or listening to CDs of jigs or reels is a great way to get the feel and rhythm.  It is very important to be able to accompany  traditional music well and getting that right is a big first step to flatpicking technique. Tony Rice once said that the most important thing to learn for aspiring flatpickers was "pin point accuracy in your rhythm playing !"' The right hand is very important here - there are many different styles from Irish through to Shetland (boom chick/ jazz) and Bluegrass - my melody ( and rhythm playing came on leaps and bounds after getting to grips with what the double bass player was doing ( simple notes) in old Jimmy Shand recordings !  







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