Beginning Irish Mandolin: Out on the Ocean
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.
Printable Sheet Music: Out on the Ocean
= down stroke
= up stroke
Comments, requests and suggestions are most welcome. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org