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Guitar chords - Irish music

Updated on September 15, 2014

Irish and Celtic Music

There are some great Irish and Celtic songs, and three of my personal favourites are:

Arthur McBride

Star of the County Down

Raglan Road

The best versions of the second and third songs are on Van Morrison's album Celtic Heartbeat. Here's a video of Paul Brady singing Arthur McBride. It doesn't get a lot better than this for a solo performance, though the sound quality has suffered a lot from file compression. Still, the quality of the song still comes across, and you could down load a proper audio track.

DADGAD chord shapes

Arthur McBride

Guitar tunings

Guitar tunings can add a lot to Irish songs, and I think Paul Brady is using an open G tuning here, although DADGAD is very common too. Both tunings sound great for solo acoustic guitar. I have hubs on both tunings, and also the chord shapes to get you started in different tunings.

The Chieftains

The Chieftains are one of the greatest Irish bands, and well known for collaborations with many other musicians - James Galway and Van Morrison are two prominent examples. On the Old Plank Road albums they play with American country players, showing how closely related the two musical styles are. My favourite Van Morrison track is Raglan Road, a song with bizarre lyrics and a fantastic tune, based on a traditional melody, The Dawning of the Day.


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    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 8 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Hello Aya - interesting question.The chords have a lot to do with it.Generally there are no fancy chords with 7ths or 9ths,just plain major and minor chords, no key changes.Mostly songs are just 1,4,5 chords - G,C,D etc.I'm guessing mainly pentatonic scales. Chords with no third (neither major nor minor) and drones also play a part.Another thing is, just verses without any bridge, or verse/chorus structure.And many of them are wistfully looking back to the Old Country, missing it terribly but not enough to actually move back there!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jon, I enjoyed this rendition of Arthur McBride.

      Since a lot of filk music is patterned after Celtic, I was wondering what musical patterns give it that recognizable celtic sound. Is it just the chord pattern, or is there more to it than that?