Irish Jigs, banjo, DUD

Hi there,

I don’t think irish music has been discussed so much here. However I do think this is an interesting subject as some of the rhythms imply some specific things for the right hand, especially how banjo players do it.

I can think of two things:
-the frequent use of triplets (which are actually not triplets but 32th notes)
-and the jig pattern

In both cases, they use a Down Up Down pattern.
“Triplets” in a reel (4/4) would be : D U DuD D U D U D U DuD D U etc… With the 1 and 3.
In a jig (6/8), the basic pattern to make it sound right is: DuD DuD DuD DuD… Here also, always with a downstroke on the 1
(and the jig triplet would be : DuD DuD Dudu DuD

So they commonly have to deal with two downstroke in a row.

Here is a video with a good close up on the picking hand (I fear my explanations are not the best):

At the very beginning, a reel with “triplets”
At 2.15, the jig pattern

Hi there - I am no expert in irish music but I have learned a few jigs lately and I agree with what you’re saying. I’ve actually tried to crosspick the eighth notes in irish tunes but when trying to add triplet embellishments, I definitely think DUD D is the way to go in terms of feel and sound.

This guy is using the DUD D technique:

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Well, I have not really played much irish trad on string instruments, but I did play in a lot of sessions on the flute. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody who didn’t use DuD for Jig / “triplets”.

Could anybody have the same groove using D u D u? I suppose so, with some work.
But DuD is no problem for jigs, because they are not too fast (max 140bpm, 3notes per beat).
When it comes to “triplets” in reels, however, it becomes harder (max 130bpm, 4 notes per beat, which actually double during the “triplet”).


Stumbled across this old post. There are great players that play jigs with a predominately alternate picking approach, DUDUDU.

Pauline Conneely is one:

Theresa O’Grady as well:

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I believe Kieran Hanrahan, the banjo player from Stockton’s Wing, uses DUD UDU for jigs and that he was quite insistent on that being the correct way to pick them. Certainly you get a more fluid feel with that way of picking but more drive and a stronger jig beat with DUD DUD.

I myself generally use DUD DUD for jigs but in faster triplet passages, as you might find in a hornpipe, revert to DUD UDU.