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Tony McManus

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.

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Tony McManus Single Song Downloads


Bidh Clann Ulaidh (The Clan of Ulster)
Level: 3
Tuning: CGDGCD

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. 

 


Breizh
Level: 2/3
Tuning: DAAEAE

A slow air in DAAEAE from piper Fred Morrison... with some interesting harmonic ideas!


 


Breton Wedding March
Level: 2/3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


 


Catherine Kelley's
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.

 


Charlie Hunter's Jig
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.

 


Gnossienne
Level: 3/4
Tuning: Standard

My arrangement of Satie's haunting impressionist piano piece. It's a beautifully effective composition and actually relatively easy to play on guitar.


 


Goldberg Variations Aria
Level: 4
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.


 


Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Level: 4
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


 


Hecla
Level: 3
Tuning: CGCGCD

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.


 


Hector The Hero
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


 


I'm Asleep Don't Awaken Me
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


Irene Meldrum's Welcome to Bon Accord
Level: 3
Tuning: CGCGCD

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. 


 


Jackie Coleman's Reel
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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!

 


Kalyana
Level: 2/3
Tuning: CGCGCD

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. 

 


Le R̩ve du Qu̩teux Tremblay
Level: 2/3
Tuning: DADGAD

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 harmonic ideas in this arrangement borrow heavily from my friend Andr̩ Marchand who is a master at reharmonizing a simple melody by changing the chords. Here we alter the feel of the tune second time round by radically changing the bass note. These changes generate some cool unexpected major 7th chords against the melody but note that the melody itself doesn't change. 

 


Le Tourment
Level: 3
Tuning: CGCGCD

This is a French- Canadian tune I often play in a medley with the jig "Kalyana." Written by the late Montreal musician John-Paul Loyer, this is a tricky arrangement in CGCGCD or C sus2 tuning. This involves lots of left hand rolls and grace notes and also a good measure of right hand triplets. These are played with ring/ middle/ index fingers and are a great tool to have available for playing dance music like this. Again- try the tune slowly at first and build up to performance speed.


N'Kosi Sikelele Africa
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


 


Paddy's Ramble Through The Park
Level: 3
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.


 


Roslyn Castle
Level: 2/3
Tuning: CGCGCD

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.

The form of the tune is AABB and another feature I've introduced is ending all but the last part on the 4 chord. This creates a suspension and an anticipation of the root chord which starts each part.

 


Sandizan
Level: 2/3
Tuning: DADGAD

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!


 


Shalom Aleichem
Level: 3/4
Tuning: Standard

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. 


 


Si Bheag Si Mhor
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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
Level: 3/4
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


 


The Butterfly
Level: 3
Tuning: Dropped D 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.


 


The Ewie wi' (The Crooked Horn)
Level: 3
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.


 


The Islay Ranters Reel
Level: 2/3
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.


 


The Lark's March
Level: 2
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.


 


The Ramnee Ceilidh
Level: 3
Tuning: CGCGCD

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.

 


The Seagull
Level: 2/3
Tuning: DAAEAE

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.


 


The Sleeping Tune
Level: 2
Tuning: CGCGCD

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.

 


Tullochgorum
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

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 the tune.


 


Will You Come Home With Me
Level: 3
Tuning: DADGAD

This is an Irish jig usually known in the Irish language as "Tiocfaidh Tu Abhaile Liom." The English title is a direct translation. I've arranged this in DADGAD. It's a lovely flowing tune and the tuning suits these kinds of flowing melodic lines. As often is the case with DADGAD the melodic "flow" is accentuated by playing across the strings - little thee note groups can be played on three adjacent strings to great effect both in terms of melody and rhythm. I also use a little bit of frailing - an old time banjo technique for the right hand adapted for guitar. Second time through the tune we bring in a moving bass line and keeping the melody, with all its ornamentation, flowing over that line involves a bit of work- but it's worth it.


Wonderful World
Level: 4
Tuning: DADGAD

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.


Ye Banks and Braes
Level: 3
Tuning: Dropped D Tuning

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.