Emerald walks you through the melody and bowing of the first (A) part of “The Kerry Polka” in this video.
Check out these songs featured in the Beginning Celtic Fiddle course.
Learn to play the fiddle from scratch using traditional Scottish and Irish melodies. With essential techniques for both hands.
Get started on the fiddle with these essential lessons.
Emerald introduces you to the fiddle/violin. She talks a little about the history of the fiddle and shows you the different parts of the instrument.
Emerald shows you the tuning of the fiddle (GDAE) and how to get your fiddle in tune.
Emerald shows you how to restring your fiddle, which you’ll only need to do when it’s time to change strings. But you can also use this video to learn how to change a string if you break one.
In this lesson, Emerald gives you advice on holding the fiddle and positioning your body in a relaxed way to avoid injury and tension. She talks about starting with good posture, so you have a good foundation to add your fiddle to; using a shoulder rest; positioning your fiddle on your shoulder and collarbone and your chin in the chin rest; resting the neck of the fiddle between the base of your thumb and the first knuckle of your index finger, etc.
Emerald shows you how to hold and move the bow in this video. She starts by showing you a “paintbrush” exercise to demonstrate how to move your bow arm without the bow. She talks about the parts and mechanism of the bow, how much to tighten it , etc; and explains where to place your fingers on the bow, starting with your thumb. Then Emerald shows you where to place the bow on the strings, how to move your bow arm so the bow stays parallel to the bridge, how much pressure to use, etc.
You’ll learn your first Celtic tune (“The Kerry Polka”) and your first scales in this lesson. “The Kerry Polka” is in the key of D major, a common fiddle-tune key, so Emerald starts by showing you a D major scale (the notes you’ll use to play in the key of D) on the D and A strings and how you can use the same fingering on the bottom two strings (G and D) to play a G major scale and the same fingering on the top two strings (A and E) to play an A major scale.
The second Celtic tune you’ll learn is a popular Scottish song, “Mairi’s Wedding.” Emerald starts by showing you how to sing the melody, so you get it in your head, and then she walks you through the melody of “Mairi’s Wedding” on the fiddle.
In this lesson, you’ll learn your first Celtic jig: “Off She Goes.” Jigs are one of the most common Celtic dance styles and are in 6/8 time. Emerald starts by explaining jigs and suggests you think “jiggety-jiggety” to understand the 6/8 rhythm. “Off She Goes” is in the key of D, but it has a few more notes than the previous tunes you’ve learned. It also uses some arpeggiated phrases in the second part.
“The Skye Boat Song” is a classic Scottish song and fiddle tune. It’s most often played in the key of G, so that’s where you’ll learn it. You’ll learn the melody, of course, as well as how to drone on open strings to accompany the melody.
“Danny Boy” is a classic Irish song, and is often played as an instrumental. It includes some more involved melodic lines than you’ve learned so far—including string crossings, arpeggiation, and some simple ornamentation.
Although the Scottish jig “The Stool of Repentance” is named for a stool used for public humiliation in Scottish Reformation churches, it’s a bright happy tune in the key of A, and is popular in Scotland and Cape Breton.
“The Ballydesmond Polka #2” is the second in a commonly played set of three polkas called The Ballydesmond Polka Set. It’s the easiest one of the set and is in the key of A minor. The second part goes up to the high B note on the E string, which you’ll play with your pinky, so Emerald gives you advice on supporting your pinky while playing the high B note. She also shows you how to pair “The Ballydesmond Polka #2” with “The Kerry Polka” (which you’ve already learned) in a “set.”
In this section you'll learn to play tunes in sets. First you'll learn the individual tunes, and then, once you've learned all the tunes in a set, Emerald will show you how to combine the tunes in a set.
“Campbell’s Farewell to Redcastle” is a traditional Scottish pipe tune in the key of A that uses the Mixolydian scale (with G♮s instead instead of G#s). Emerald shows you the melody and bowing as well as a couple of simple pipe ornaments.
“Cutting Ferns” is a special kind of tune called a strathspey, which is only played in Scottish music. It’s distinguished by a “Scottish snap” rhythm consisting of a dotted-eighth/16th rhythm, although it can also be played with more of a triplet feel.
In this lesson, you’ll learn your first reel, a Scottish tune in the key of A called “Mrs. MacLeod,” which is also played in Irish music in the key of G. You’ll also learn your first “set” of tunes: “Campbell’s Farewell to Redcastle”/”Cutting Ferns”/“Mrs. MacLeod” by combining “Mrs. MacLeod” with the last two tunes you learned.
“The Kesh Jig” is a beautiful Irish tune and one of the most popular jigs; it’s played in sessions everywhere.It’s in the key of G, in 6/8 time (like all jigs), and has two parts.
“Out on the Ocean” is another jig in the key of G and it’s one of Emerald’s favorites. In addition to showing you the melody to “Out on the Ocean,” Emerald shows you how to play double stops (two notes at once) in this lesson.
“The Atholl Highlanders” is a Scottish pipe march, but is also often played as a jig, which is how you’ll learn it in this lesson. It’s in the key of A and has four parts, but there’s a lot of repetition, so it’s not too daunting.
The Scottish pipe tune “Scarce o’ Tatties” is a fun jig in the key of A. After you learn it, you’ll put it together in a set with “The Atholl Highlanders” and “The Stool of Repentance.”
“The Humours of Tulla” is a popular Irish reel in the key of D that is often played in seisiúns. It’s more of an intermediate level tune, but Emerald shows you how to modify it a bit so you can play it in seisiúns.
“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is another classic reel in the key of D. It’s in the key of D, but it starts and ends on an A note, the open A string. There’s a big jump in the first part of “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” from the open D string to the G on the E string, so Emerald shows you how to “rock” your bow to make this jump cleanly.
“The Butterfly” is a three-part slip jig in the key of E minor and one of the most popular traditional Irish tunes. Slip jigs are in 9/8, as opposed to normal jigs, which are in 6/8. It’s best to think of 9/8 as three groups of three eighth notes, so the pulse is more like 3/4, except that each quarter note is divided into three.
“The Boys of Ballisodare” is another traditional slip jig, this time in the key of G. It works well in a set with “The Butterfly.”
“The Parting Glass” is one of the most popular traditional Irish songs, and is often sung and/or played at the end of seisiúns. It’s in the key of Em, and is played as an air, with no steady pulse.