A friend of mine and I are playing celtic music together. He's a guitarist and I'm a clarinetist.

With a bit of work we can play any song we like, but what we want to achieve now is to learn how to chain different songs and we don't know how to do.

Can we chain different kinds of songs? Reels, jigs, waltzes, ...? What are the keys that sounds well when chained one after another? How to make smooth transitions? What tempos to chain?

If I'm not clear for something, feel free to let me know :-)


Looking though my band's tunebook of about a hundred medleys or so:

  • Going from a jig to a reel while maintaining the same tempo is exciting
  • Going from a minor key to a major key is uplifting
  • Going from the root of the first tune up or down a second or fifth usually works.
  • Slip jigs (9/8) or 6/8 jigs are interchangeable for these purposes but going from 9/8 to 6/8 or vice versa doesn't give you much bang for the buck.
  • An air to a jig to a march to a reel is nice ramp up for performance.
  • If you're using a bodhran in a multiple tune medley, hold off using it until at least the third tune.
  • When deciding on a medley, play all the tunes and sing all the songs you want in the medley in all possible orders. You may not be able to think it through, but your ears (and feet) won't lie.
  • Singing a song the audience knows with a punchy chorus is exciting. Singing a ballad usually loses the audience's interest about halfway through. Unless it has a lot of sex, violence and/or cursing in it. The more authentic your accent, the less an American audience will be interested.

Hope this helps. Your mileage may vary.


Chain key signatures together like you would chord changes for a guitar -- chord progressions that sounds good together will parallel key signature progressions that sounds good together. As a Celtic fiddler, I also know that Celtic fiddle is rhythm driven more than anything else. Combining different contrasting and complimentary rhythms is what really makes a good set. We Irish are poets and musicians; each jig, slide reel and hornpipe has itt's rhythm and overall "feel" so choose your rhythms like a poet chooses their meter. Assign each piece/rhythm a letter and try different classic poetry meters: AABB, ABAB, AAB AAC, and so on to keep the music interesting.

To take it to the next level, try using key signature meters to compliment or contrast with your rhythm meters.


Actually, anything goes well after anything as long as you don't try to be too clever. Play a tune in C. End it, go straight into one in F#. You'll be surprised how well it sounds, as long as you DON'T try to contrive a modulation. Similarly for different tempos. Like Nike, Just Do It. Contrast is good. Contrivance can be irritating.

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