When you see great folk backing guitarists like John Doyle, Tim Edey, Ed Boyd, Dennis Cahill and so on it can be difficult to fathom how they come up with their on-the-spot accompaniments to Celtic tunes. In Backing Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music I aim to demystify the process and give you the tools you need to craft your own unique style of Scottish, Welsh and Irish rhythm guitar!
This e-book contains a complete curriculum for the backing guitarist from beginner to advanced.
…and everything else you need to know to become an original and creative backing guitarist. The e-book is very much focused on learning to listen for harmonies and uses a simplified approach to melodic interpretation to provide a framework which you will quickly learn to apply to different types of traditional tune.
The e-book also comes with a folder of audio, containing tunes played slowly, demonstrations of techniques mentioned in the text and a whole folder of exercises specifically designed to enhance your listening ability.
It comes as a .pdf file, with all audio as .mp3. This means that you can load both the text, diagrams and audio onto your smartphone, PC, tablet, burn audio onto a CD, etc etc.
This is the only comprehensive guide to Celtic guitar accompaniment so WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
I began writing the original version during the year I spent riding my bike around France and Spain (2016-17). As I was living off busking, playing Irish traditional music on the fiddle and living in a tent, I spent a lot of time thinking about the tunes I had grown up with and what made them sound Celtic. I also had a lot of spare time after dark in the countryside with almost nothing to do, which left a lot of space for consideration of the topic. Towards the end of the trip I had the very good fortune to spend a few weeks in Toulouse. I was put up by Madame Faure, who very kindly let me stay in her house in return for painting the bathroom. When I left she gave me a tablet to type on, a gift for which I am deeply thankful, as without it I would never have started writing.
Over the next few months I made use of all the spare time afforded by a life of cycling from place to place busking in the daytime and bored after dark. I began by writing down every topic which I felt to have been important in the development of my style of jazzy Celtic guitar backing. Next I began to write notes on how I would explain each topic to a complete beginner. Six months later (following the inevitable post-travel period of unemployment) I had a more or less complete draft treaty on everything I knew about backing folk music. The book was far from complete however- it was only with the help of my friend Theo that I was finally able, in 2017, to create the many chord and scale diagrams necessary to really give a good overview of the topic.
Anyone who has known me for more than a few years will understand that I have not always been the most focused of individuals and so to take the more-or-less completed manuscript from word document to completed, formatted, coloured-in e-book naturally took me a lot longer than expected. In fairness to write a 140 page e-book, make graphics, create audio, devise listening exercises, format suitably for pdf export and so on and so forth is a monumental amount of work alongside setting up a functional teaching business and working part time too, so I hope my readers will forgive the many missed deadlines and over-optimistic Facebook posts promising impending publication!
Despite the length of time it took me to finish it, I am extremely proud of my e-book. It represents a more or less complete rundown of everything I consider to be important knowledge for the beginner guitarist who wishes to craft a vibrant, interesting, harmonically complex style of acoustic backing guitar rather than relying on written down chord charts or following other guitarists. I hope that it will help to diminish the prevalence of 1-4-5 guitarists and enrich the listening experience of session-goers the world over. I am aware that some sections are not as accessible as they could be and plan to revise and update the text over the coming years to make it an easier read. I also plan to create more a beginner-focused modular version covering some of the vital early sections in more detail, but these are all projects for the future. Where the e-book is particularly unique (in my humble opinion 😉 ) is in its application of modal theory to ear training. I have never seen another guide to ear training which uses key-centric exercises like mine. I sincerely hope that they will help the reader to develop a better, and more functionally useful, ear than the average ear training exercise. This is a topic which I feel to be sorely under-addressed in all types of music tuition and always try to incorporate as much as possible when I am teaching (NB I offer folk and jazz guitar lessons via Zoom!).
I would absolutely love to hear from anyone who already has a copy, particularly negative feedback. I hope that the revised and dramatically improved, corrected and reordered second edition will fix most of the issues raised by readers of the first edition. Though the book is far from perfect I still feel it to be a more in-depth examination of the topic than any other guide currently available and hope you will enjoy learning from it as much as I enjoyed learning from writing it!