To find a unique voice on so ubiquitous an instrument as the acoustic guitar is quite an achievement: to do so within a centuries old idiom where the instrument has no real history is truly remarkable. In little over ten years as a professional musician Tony McManus has come to be recognized throughout the world as the leading guitarist in Celtic Music. From early childhood his twin obsessions of traditional music and acoustic guitar have worked together to produce a startlingly original approach to this ancient art. In Tony’s hands the complex ornamentation normally associated with fiddles and pipes are accurately transferred to guitar in a way that preserves the integrity and emotional impact of the music.
Tablature/Music is available as a PDF file for each lesson. Lessons are filmed with multiple cameras and consist of a performance, explanation, and conclude with a slow tempo split screen that follows the tab/music.Back to Singles Catalog Listing
Changing one string can totally change the nature of a tuning. Here we take Csus2 and raise the 4th string back to D. The tuning is CGDGCD which can be
confusing if thought of as a C tuning but if we regard the 5th string as the root the intervals are the same as DADGAD (missing the top string). So
this tuning can be thought of a Gsus4 (just as DADGAD is Dsus4) i.e. a familiar tuning shifted over by one string. The tune is a beautiful lullaby
from the Gaelic speaking Hebridean island of Barra.
A slow air in DAAEAE from piper Fred Morrison... with some interesting harmonic ideas!
One of the first tunes from Brittany I learned. It has the form of a gavotte: a two bar phrase repeated, followed by a four bar phrase repeated. The arrangement
captures the ranges of different instruments in this music by playing it in two octaves. This is a great introduction to a wonderful tradition.
This is a wonderful vehicle for teaching several ideas. The tune is a slip jig- a type of dance found in Ireland in 9/8 time. It is in DADGAD tuning and
while it's melodically very simple and beautiful, there's no dumbing down involved in the arrangement. We look at articulating the melody, adding a
simple bass line and then evolving that under the melody. Finally, we re-harmonize the melody changing the bass note from D to Bb, which has a dramatic
effect on the tune.
A well-known Irish jig- dance tune in 6/8. Again in DADGAD tuning, the melody involves a series of arpeggios, which the tuning makes very easy.
My arrangement of Satie's haunting impressionist piano piece. It's a beautifully effective composition and actually relatively easy to play on guitar.
The "tune" by JS Bach, on which his 32 Goldberg Variations are based. This is in Dropped D tuning and is an arrangement of a piece written for keyboard.
On a keyboard we have "left hand" and "right hand" notes - basically in this piece the left hand plays the bass while the right plays the melody. That
distinction breaks down in the guitar world as any fretted note involves both hands. The issue then, is to have two lines (melody and accompaniment)
moving differently, almost independently, yet combining to make one whole. Tricky but beautiful.
This arrangement really tries to push DADGAD to places where it's not normally heard. Charles Mingus- jazz in general in fact - is not a source often associated
with this tuning but if you want to explore the nuances of DADGAD in a challenging way then this is a great vehicle for the journey.
This is another 4-part bagpipe tune, a strathspey this time also in Csus2 tuning- composed by Fred Morrison. The classic pipe scale is limited to 9 notes-
an A scale with a flattened 7th. So harmonies in this music are, to an extent, implied. Here, under a simple melody, I've "inferred" a progression
of changes Em, Am, Amaj, Bm that moves the tune forward.
A classic from the pen of one of Scotland's greatest fiddler/composers- James Scott Skinner. This is in DADGAD tuning which, in this arrangement, allows
for playing across the strings to achieve fuller voicings with relative ease.
This is a classic air from the south of Ireland in DADGAD tuning. This is in the “Sean-nós” style. The term means “Old style” which usually means a slow, highly ornamented form of unaccompanied singing. On guitar we have access to accompaniment and harmony and hence a different way of exploring these wonderful tunes.
Even the title carries a certain gravitas! This is in a tuning I learned from Martin Simpson CGCGCD- that I've used for very different purposes. It's a
4 part 2/4 pipe march - lots to remember, lots of details but very rewarding.
Another "meat and potatoes" session tune from Ireland. This is in DADGAD tuning and involves some right hand techniques I use frequently. In the B part
of the tune we'll look at three finger triplets- fairly easy on the top string - tricky on the second. Good luck!
This is an arrangement of a popular, modern Irish jig written by Eimer Mayock from Co Mayo. Tuning is CGCGCD. We are using the capo at the second fret
to be in the key of D.
The first part of the melody hinges on a recurring C# which, against the D gives us a Dmaj7 chord... very easy to do in this tuning. The B part modulates
to the key of A and with the little finger holding a G on the 4th string we can have the melody against an A7 chord. The trickiest part of the arrangement
is playing the melody cleanly while keeping the bass line moving. Take it slowly and build up the speed.
Another great French Canadian tune- the title means "The Dream of the Beggar Tremblay." I learned this from the playing of the band La Bottine Souriante
and have arranged it in DADGAD tuning. Like many tunes from Quebec the measures here are irregular - or to use their very direct term "crooked."! So
be careful when you are counting this tune as the measures are not all of the same length.
The African anthem. I recorded this some time ago on a baritone guitar but it sits nicely in DADGAD on regular guitar too. I was interested in seeing what
chord voicings could be had by fretting a bass note and playing some harmonics on the top (inspired by brilliant bassist Victor Wooten). It turns out
that the whole of the A section of this melody can be played in this way - a great means to explore the range of the guitar.
I first heard this tune played by the brilliant Dublin fiddler Paddy Glackin. It's in dropped D tuning and the way the chords and melody move is unusual
in Irish music - but very attractive I think. I was going to call this a slow air but usually that term is reserved for melodies derived from songs.
Unusually this has no words that I'm aware of.
This is an old traditional Scots fiddle tune in the unusual key of C minor. When I hear the key of C- major or minor- I often look at Csus2 tuning- CGCGCD
and it suits this tune nicely. In places I've looked for chord voicings that have a little bit of dissonance to make the arrangement a little more
interesting. The basic fiddle tune is very stark however on guitar we have access to chordal ideas that can really set up the melody.
This is a great composition by the Breton guitarist Soig Siberil. Like most of his work it is in DADGAD tuning and is a very clever use of open strings/
hammer on and pull off. Basically the right hand is plucking open strings while the left hammers the notes in between. At speed this produces an amazing
avalanche of notes that is a lot easier to play than might first appear.
The trick in learning this piece is to get two different rhythmic patterns under the fingers. The first is the more basic- open strings and tapped notes-
and should be started slowly and built up in tempo till the rhythm makes sense. The second is a little trickier and involves hammering on from a fretted
note and then finishes with a pull off. Once you have these two patterns the bulk of the remaining work is memory and geometry. The same two patterns
are applied in different places on the neck to generate the piece. It's great fun to play... .and if played correctly, it's not at all obvious even
to fellow guitarists what's going on!
A traditional Jewish hymn, centuries old, arranged from the playing of mandolinists David Grissman and Andy Statman. This is in Standard tuning and explores
how we can use melody, harmony and a simple bass line to create a beautiful arrangement.
Possibly THE most arranged tune for guitar in Irish music! Supposedly the first composition of Turlough O'Carolan - the last of the Irish bards. This is
in 3/4 time and in DADGAD tuning. Everyone interested in the guitar in Celtic music should look at this wonderful tune.
Si Dolce E'l Tormento (So Sweet the Torment) was written in 1624 by Claudio Monteverdi. Tony has arranged this haunting madrigal melody in the DADGAD tuning.
This is a well-known tune written by Dublin musician Tommy Potts. It's in a rhythm found in Irish music called the "slip jig" which is in 9/8 time. The
scope of the rhythm with nine beats to choose from gives us a lot of room to breathe and get creative with syncopation etc.
A well-loved "Strathspey" - a uniquely Scottish dance form. There is a 4-part version of this for the bagpipes but this is the two-part fiddle version.
Lots of left hand hammer-ons to keep the rhythm moving here.
A great dance tune from Highland fiddler Charlie MacKerron arranged in Dropped D tuning- DADGBE. Charlie's tunes often feature inventive harmonic ideas,
unusual key shifts etc. This tune is in the minor mode but slips into the major for one bar and then on the repeat of the part when you might expect
the same... it doesn't happen. A great vehicle for triplets and other ornaments.
This is a very simple, approachable Irish jig I learned from the fiddling of Martin Hayes. Martin's music is an almost "stripped bare" take on the genre.
He often takes melodically simple fragments and allows them to "speak". We can try to do the same on guitar.
Another modern pipe tune again Csus2 tuning - this one a catchy, two part reel composed by Gordon Duncan. The key to this tune is the syncopated rhythm
in the B part.
This is a classic Scottish bagpipe jig in a great tuning devised by Dick Gaughan for this purpose. DAAEAE- the unison 4th and 5th strings are our drones
and, but for the low G on the third string, the scale of the bagpipe chanter, and hence the melody, sits on the top two strings.
This is a bagpipe tune in CGCGCD tuning- also known as C sus2 as the tuning consists of roots and fifths with the stray second on top. The absence of the third in the open strings makes it very easy to flip from major to minor.
To me, this tune seems to be not obviously for the pipes and is played on many instruments- so rather than treat it as a pipe tune and worry about mimicking
the drones etc. in this instance we de-couple the tune from its source and focus on melody and harmony.
The tune flows over a simple descending chord pattern which is repeated with one change in the b part of the tune. We use the Csus2 tuning to get some
good voicings for our arrangement and also exploit the whole tone step between the top two strings to play the "hook line" of the melody across three
strings creating a harp-like effect.
This tune was made famous by the great Scots composer James Scott Skinner who composed a series of six variations of increasing complexity on this great
tune. The tune itself is a wonderful strathspey and this arrangement uses hammer-ons and pull-offs to generate the rhythm and momentum needed to articulate
This began as an absent minded exercise in playing a simple scale in moving triads (three note chords) in DADGAD tuning. The way the harmonies moved suggested this well-known melody and so the process started.
A beautiful air to which Robert Burns put his words of love gone wrong. Again in Dropped D, we look at how to articulate a melody with a little nod to
its vocal nature, add a bass line and a bridge and some moving harmonies to make a full "vocal-less" arrangement of this song.