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Beginning Irish Mandolin: Out on the Ocean

August 2009 2 Comments

by Michael Gregory


In this issue, we present another tune from the recently published book by Mel Bay on Irish Mandolin, authored by Joe Carr and myself.  The tune is a rather simple jig – Out on the Ocean.  It is a very common session tune with a wonderful melody.


The editor of this webzine has asked the writers to focus, in this issue, on a technique or idea that they found particularly important to their development.  It took only a moment for me to realize that the one technique I regard as most important in the development of an authentically Irish sound was the jig picking pattern that we recommend in our book.  I learned my first jig in 1976, using the down-up, down-up, down-up, picking pattern because I had used that method in the all the tunes I knew.  Something was missing but I didn’t know what it was – my jigs didn’t sound particularly authentic.  I believe it was Mick Moloney who recommended that mandolin players use the down-up-down, down-up-down picking pattern.  The reason, he said, was to allow gravity to help us get the emphasis placed on the first and fourth notes of the six (in most measures). One way to hear this is to utter the word “sassafras” several times.  You can hear the accent (or stress) on the first syllable of each word. The best way to hear it is to listen carefully to lots of jigs played by Irish musicians.  Those who haven’t used this picking pattern before are going to find it difficult, slow, and are apt to become discouraged.  Trust me – the effort you put into this will eventually be rewarded. 


As a bonus, we also include an ornamented version of Out on the Ocean. This particular version was arranged by Jill McAuley, whom I met at the Mandolin Café.  This is an internet site devoted to all things having to do with mandolins.  You can find there informative discussions, news and  classified ads.  Best of all, you can meet other mandolin enthusiasts.  Jill is a Dubliner who relocated to County Galway, where she took weekly lessons for more than 6 months with the wonderful Irish tenor banjo player Angelina Carberry.  Jill now lives in Oakland, California and is much more dedicated to the mandolin than the banjo.  I contacted Jill after listening to the sound files that she has placed on her myspace page:




I urge you to listen to more of her playing at that site.  I find it very appealing and I hope that Jill will share more of her tunes in the future.  THANK YOU, JILL!!


In this tune, Jill is using two kinds of ornaments.  First, there are the double notes, as in measures 1 and 5.  These should cause no difficulty.  Secondly, there are the quick 16th notes in middle of measures 3 and 7 of the A-part.  These will be more challenging to master.  Listen carefully to the slow version of Jill’s mp3.  Be sure you can play the ornaments accurately before building speed.  Be patient. 


Jill slow | Jill tempo | Ocean slow | Ocean tempo

Printable Sheet Music: Out on the Ocean

= down stroke
= up stroke






Comments, requests and suggestions are most welcome.  You can contact me at michael.gregory@und.edu

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  • Neil said:

    I am a heavy metal guitarist (for the most part, although I have the soul of a blues man, if that makes any sense to anyone but myself). In my earlier part of youth (I am 36 – been playing since about 13), it was all about the speed and rage. My tastes have expanded, of course, as I have aged. I still love my speed-picking metal. I love playing my blues, and every now and then I turn off the distortion to play my own version of some sort of neo-classical fusion thingy. Anyhow, this is my background.

    Now, here in the present, I have recently acquired a mandolin. I have always been a big ren-fair geek, so it dawned on me that if I spent some time, with my speed picking background, I could most likely pick this thing up and embrace it as I do the guitar and maybe join in some of those killer medieval jam sessions that I have been so often floored by, and perhaps even sit in on a blue grass session, down the road. First step was the tuning. Completely backwards from guitar :) Next step.. what do I do now??? So I landed here at this site. Very glad I did. I have found it most informative right from the start. Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing. I can tell you now, I have bookmarked the site and will be a frequent visitor, along with my daughter (who plays violin and is taking to the mandolin like a fish in a stream)

    I seem to have rambled and probably never said what I meant to say in the 1st place.. so again.. Thank You for being here to help me broaden my scope.

  • AZmando said:

    I learned this rollicking tune a couple of years ago and I really like it. Happy to see it featured here – gotta try out these versions.

    The DUD picking is the only way to go with jigs. For some reason it came to me pretty quick. It’s like triplets in Blues music, so I guess that’s why it seemed so natural to me. Like anything else, start out slow and VERY carefully, then build on it. Accuracy is way more important than speed!