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Image of the double jig medley
A medley of double jigs: click to download the score

I’m a few weeks behind, not least because it’s that time of year when everyone has a show, or is preparing for one. I thought that while I had O’Neill’s 1001 open (see previous post), I’d fill another gap: jigs. Good job I did, because I ended playing for a lot of children’s classes recently, and boy, do you need jigs for that. Skips, galops, horses, they all need jigs (particularly the kind called the “double jig”). I hadn’t quite finished this set when I suddenly needed it for a skipathon, and – as has happened a few times already – I became one of the most grateful users of my own 52 cards project.

Make mine a double: the difference between a single and a double jig

If you need jigs at all in a class, double ones seem to be better than singles almost all of the time (double jigs are the one with the continuous 8th notes and slightly slower than single jigs, which—like Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall—alternate between long and short notes). I think it’s because they are (sorry about this) truly triple. By that I mean they’re not just 4/4 with a bit of a lilt, the melody actually moves in 3 (see an earlier post, And now for something completely sextuple for a fuller explanation). I can’t really identify what my criteria are for choosing these jigs rather than the many, many others in O’Neill’s 1001, except I like the ones that sound a bit like a The frost is all over that I heard on a friend’s album when I was a teenager – I think it was Planxty, but it might have been The Chieftains. I couldn’t resist including the jiggy version of Green Sleeves. The Vaughan Williams version is lovely, but it could do with a rest.

Harmonising these tunes for the piano is not as easy as it you’d think it ought to be, and I change my mind several times no sooner than I’ve put down a version. It helps to listen to some bands playing the tunes. Guitarists often use fewer chord changes than you’d be tempted to make on the piano, and bassists make particular shapes with their bass lines. Here’s a version of the first of the set The Joy of My Life. 

3 thought on “A year of playing cards #19: A medley of (double) jigs (6h)”
  1. I want to let you know that I am enjoying your playing cards posts. I am printing them all and trying them out. Also, I am making an Excel spreadsheet index for myself! Gotta keep organized! Glad you are falling behind, because I am having a hard time keeping up with you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the process. Always appreciate that I can get ideas that are literally half the world away!

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for the feedback – always good to know that someone’s finding it useful half the world away too! I’ve got a Google Docs spreadsheet that I use to make sure that I number them properly (though I keep making mistakes).

  2. I love that you too play Irish music for class! I probably play too much of it, but since I did a few years of Irish dance/whistle classes and then went too and played for a ton of contra dances, I have a lot of those at my mental fingertips.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist