Danny Boy / Kesh Jig – Electric Fiddle Solo – liner notes

A fiddlehed named Suzanne attended a Diego’s Umbrella show in Fairfax, Ca. and took video of my “solo solo”. This is the part of the show where I create a live looping drone and then play melodies over that.

For this version of the solo solo, I start with a G drone. I create this on the spot using a loop pedal called the Ditto made by TC Electronics:


Basically, the pedal is a little recording device. Once I’ve played the notes I want to repeat, I tap the button with my foot, the red light goes off, and then it’s time to party! That’s to say, once the loop is set, I can solo over it with other ideas without the loop being affected.

The notes in the drone are G and D in different octaves. I play both long notes and super-short tremolo notes to create a nice texture for the loop.

For those of you keeping score at home (i.e., interested in music theory) G and D are the root and fifth of a G major scale as well as the root and fifth of a Dorian scale. Another way to look at this: since there is no third step of the scale, this drone can be used for G major or minor melodies.

But you don’t need to know any theory to enjoy practicing with drones. Throughout the FiddleHed site there are drones for students to practice with. All of these are made of a root and the fifth above it, just like this G drone. For those of you who have taken lessons on the site, have you tried practicing with these drones? Let me know if drones are useful or fun in a comment below.

Once I’ve set up the drone, I improvise a little bit with the key notes of Danny boy. I linger a bit on F#, which is a bit dissonant but has a nice emotional quality (it’s a major 7th in relation to the G root). This part of the solo sounds a bit like Indian raga music. Ragas begin with a melody instrument (flute, sitar, etc) outline the notes of a scale with a drone.

For some time, I’ve been interested in using this approach for folk music. I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to this live in concerts with Diego’s Umbrella.

Next, I play the tune Danny Boy in G major. This solo is designed to be a nice break from our usual set, which is upbeat gypsy-rock, made for dancing and carousing. I play the tune once through with lots of fiddle embellishments:

  • Slides
  • Rolls
  • Melodic variation

I also add reverb to the fiddle sound with another pedal called the Hall Of Fame.

After I play through the B part of Danny Boy, I start a jig rhythm, playing a simple octave double stop: G0D0. I start stamping my foot. Jake the drummer joins in by playing the kick drum. This is fun because it gives the crowd an opportunity to take part with clapping and stomping.

After this rhythm is established I jump into Kesh Jig. It’s played in a fairly straightforward manner. I add melodic variation here and there. But the goal here is really to start raising the energy level of the crowd again instead of displaying my technical ability.

After playing Kesh Jig twice, I play a more aggressive double stop on G0D0. This signals to the band that it’s time to come in. Once they start, I start improvising, but this time in G minor. Remember, with a root and fifth drone, you can play a major or minor scale. This shift to G minor makes a smooth transition to the next song called “Kings Of Vibration”, which is in C minor (close enough!)

Here is a music video that song, made by the multi-talented Vaughn Lindstrom (who also is the lead singer and writes a majority of the songs).

Well, that’s about it. Thanks again to Suzanne for filming.

Let me know in a comment if these liner notes were interesting or helpful.

And if you are a FiddleHed subscriber, you can go further with the following lessons and drones below:

Cheers ? ?

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13 responses to “Danny Boy / Kesh Jig – Electric Fiddle Solo – liner notes

  1. Oh yes!! Very cool and interesting, Thank you for sharing your solo and the approach to it. Drones have become my most favorite thing, helps me so much to tune and find inspiration for improvising among the practice. That’s how I’ve found the coolest things 🙂 And great to discover that it can be used on gigs as well!
    Also the music video looks super!! Great job!

  2. I like playing drones as prep to play with steadiness. And listening is good grounding, between the earthquake this morning, and a hurricane on its way to friends and family. ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ ..calm in the eye of the storm…

  3. Hello Jason,

    I also warm-up using Drone Central, and since that time I have to say, my intonation has improved so so much (and I thought I had a pretty good ear to begin with…but it is way better now!). Thanks so much for all you do and for all of your encouragement……LInda

  4. Loved this…what a moving version of Danny Boy…on drones, Sensei Jason has never steered me wrong with his “wax on, wax off” advice. When he urges to play scales back by drones (and real pieces also) it has an amazing effect on improving your intonation i.e. hitting the notes right and in tune. I warm up daily on Drone Central and it then carries into everything else I play in practice. On to learning the Kesh Jig and how to foot stomp and fiddle at the same time…