Learning an Irish air: Shebeg Shemore

In this shop talk I’m including one of my favourite tunes. it's also one that I am often requested to play. In learning any new tune from sheet music there’s a simple sequence to go through that will help you be able to play the tune. What’s the key signature ? Without going into a long explanation here, the major
sharp keys are C,G, D, A with each key having one more raised note than the previously. So C has no raised notes ( only the white keys on the piano), G has one raised note F# and D has two raised notes ( F# and C#), A has three raised notes ( F#, C# and G#) .

For now we’ll stop at three sharps Shebeg Shemore ( see Music scores for the written Music ) has two raised notes so it’s in the key of D Major. So the notes of the tune will fall in the D scale, D,E F#, G, A ,B C#, D to cover the octave. The notes and pattern for the major scale was covered in one of my previous shop talks.

Next is the time signature. In this case 6/4. That means 6 beats per bar and each beat is a quarter note.
This piece could also be written in 3/4 in which the bar lines would fall after every three beats. Before beginning to play don’t forget to do a warm up to loosen up ( covered in previous shop talks. I often play
the scale for a new tune I want to learn. Play the scale slowly and try differing fingering positions as you play into the higher notes. The notes on the page are just the skeleton for the tune. adding grace notes, double stops, rolls, etc. will embellish the melody and add more interest. Be discreet with these embellishments and listen to recordings to see how other players add these embellishments. Shebeg Shemore translates into “little hill and big hill” and was written by the blind Irish harpist Turloch O’Carolan. There are references to a battle between the fairy kings having taken place in the vicinity so that may
influence your interpretation of the tune.

keep your bow rosined and the fiddle in tune.

copyright@ Roy Johnstone

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