The piano keyboard was the very first musical instrument I ever
tried to learn. I remember trying to play The Irish National Anthem as the first tune. Well I managed to get most of it off
before getting stuck on one note which kept catching me out. I can't remember which note it was but for the life of me I couldn't
figure it out and thought the note didn't exist. At this point I was on the verge of giving up ever being able to play music.
I asked a friend who had played the piano accordion for a bit of help and low and behold he got that elusive note the first
time he tried.
Now I was flying,
and new how to play a song on the keyboard, ''Yippee''. I kept trying to learn more songs most of which were old Irish ballads
as that was and still is my favorite kind of music. I was brought up on ballads. When most of the teenagers and those in their
20's were going to disco's I was going to see ballad groups play. This was the early 80's and Ireland was in a recession with
nearly half the under 25's out of work with nothing to do all day.
I kept at the piano keyboard to keep myself sane and got myself a little book in Waltons music
shop in Dublin. There were loads of ballads with the sheet music to play along with but the sheet music book didn't tell me
how to play along with the songs. So off I went to the local library and got a book to explain how to read music notes. I
read all about these sharps # and flats b and quavers and were each note was on the music stave. The music book I had bought
helped a lot but most of the songs were set in the key of B and Bb. As anybody who plays Irish folk songs knows most Irish
songs are not played in those keys but I didn't know that at the time. What I didn't know didn't hurt me and without realising
it I was learning how to play ballads in difficult to play keys, using lots of them black keys.
I lasted about 5 years on the keyboard and learned a rake of songs, but only using the right
hand. I believe to properly learn how to play piano with 2 hands one needs to take lessons. But what I had learned so far
stood to me with my next instrument.
the piano keyboard which I also drifted into playing guitar by fluke. A friend worked for a musical instrument maker and asked
me if I wanted to buy a second hand guitar which had been ''Shop Soiled'' . I went for it, it cost me £50 and all that was
wrong with it was a bump and small scratch on the bottom, I had got myself a bargain. So off I went to the music shop to get
a book or two with the lyrics and chords.
played guitar and he gave me a few lessons to get me on my way. As far as I can remember the first song I learned was Now
I'm Easy'' by Eric Bogle which I knew from The Fureys tapes. I was like a child with a new tow being able to play my first
song on guitar, the same feeling I had many years earlier with the piano keyboard. I thought ''This Is The Instrument For
Me'' , well, I was fond of singing and there's no greater instrument that the guitar for backing a singer up than a guitar,
plus it was easy to carry around as opposed to the keyboard.
learning the ballads and before long I had good Repertoire of songs including a few Dubliners, Wolfe Tones and Christy Moore.
I was on the pigs back and now called myself ''A Guitar Player'' It was around this time [ 1990 ] I abandoned the piano keyboard
for the most part.
Playing the guitar brought it's own
challenges. The couple of chord books I had, had the chords in keys I couldn't play in, such as G and E. My natural voice
at the time was happy to sing most song in the key of D Major. If the book said the key of G for a certain song I just couldn't
reach it and I didn't know at the time about transposing from one key to another. I also didn't know at the time that music
books were made by publishing companies and the keys used were not necessary the one used by Luke Kelly for example.
The book would say for example Monto by The Dubliners, but when playing along
with the chords given in the sheet music the chords didn't suit when I was actually playing along to the Dubliners record.
That used to really confuse the hell out of me. I used to say to myself, why the heck don't these books say that the given
key is ''Not'' the way a given singer sings the song, and why the heck don't they give alternative chords at the bottom of
the page which will actually fit my voice. By the way, on the site there's an easy key changer, check out ''Other Songs''
and you'll find the link.
was now playing guitar most days, which gave me a great buzz, I decided to share what I had learned with my friend. I persuaded
him to buy a guitar learned him how to play a few songs to get him on his way. He already knew how to play the Piano Accordion
as he had taken lessons at a young age, and knew the words of over 100 songs, it wasn't long before we were playing sessions
in local pubs. Both of us on guitar as my friend thought playing accordion was not cool anymore.
The reason I place the notes in an easy to read format on these pages is the same reason why
30 years ago a friend gave me a few lessons and the same reason I gave another friend a dig out and that's to spread knowledge
and help each out out when we can.