O’Neill’s for mandolin from Mel Bay

For more than one hundred years now, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland has served as a definitive source for lovers of traditional Irish folk music, at least the instrumental dance tunes that have survived to this day. Ever since its first publication in 1903, this straightforward volume of transcriptions has inspired and educated countless players of tunes.

The pieces were collected into book form by Francis O’Neill, an Irish piper and flautist born in County Cork in the mid-19th century, who came to America and worked his way up to Chicago’s Chief of Police. His first book contained 1850 tunes, and a subsequent version whittled it down to 1,000. O’Neill’s, as it has come to be known, has remained in print all these years, published now in a facsimile edition taken from 1903 original by Mel Bay.

The company just released a pared-down imprint, with 100 of the best-loved tunes from O’Neill’s presented in both standard notation and tablature for mandolin. Titled simply 100 Tunes from O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, it is available in both a paper and ebook version. The tunes are presented much as they are in the original, with the basic melody shown, allowing players to devise their own ornamentation. Some also contain alternate melodies and variations.

Guitar chords are indicated throughout, and an appendix is provided showing common guitar chords in standard and D tuning, plus a mandolin fretboard chart.

You can see a list of the tune included online, where orders can be placed for either edition. Sample pages can also be viewed on the site.

Not many of these tunes are played in bluegrass jams, but they can provide a great workout for mandolinists focusing on any traditional style. Plus they’re fun to play!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.