When I started learning to play the basses, I found it hard to find such information anywhere, so I hope these transcriptions will be useful to other B/C players who are taking on the challenge of learning the basses.
In these transcriptions, I am not attempting to teach how to backup traditional Irish music. That is an entirely different skill than the physical challenge of dealing with the basses themselves.
My assumption is that you already are playing the tune melodies on the treble side of your instrument and are looking to learn to include the bass and chord buttons in your playing. I also assume that to extend these skills to other tunes not in this collection, you either already know how to determine the appropriate backup chords from the melody or are willing to learn bass/chord arrangements by rote as a starting point.
My particular chord selections may be a reasonable starting point for learning the skill of backing Irish traditional music, but that is not the primary goal of these transcriptions. To learn how to backup tunes, I suggest checking out Dr. Chris Smith's fantastic book "Celtic Backup for All Instrumentalists", available on Amazon from Mel Bay.
While there are multiple possible approaches to playing the bass and chords, my preferred pattern for reels, hornpipes, and barndances is to play the bass buttons only on a chord change, and the chord buttons only on the offbeats.
For jigs, I play the bass buttons only on a chord change, and the chord buttons on the 3 and 6 (assuming counting jigs with 6 beats per measure).
For slides, I play the bass buttons only on a chord change, and the chord buttons on the 3, 6, 9, and 12 (assuming counting slides with 12 beats per measure).
Some players, such as John Whelan, I believe influenced by older style players they learned from originally, also play the bass buttons on the every downbeat as well, not just on chord changes as in my preferred patterns. Having the flexibility and skill to vary your bass and chord patterns is a useful skill to practice, nothing is set in stone, so play around with all the possibilities!
For waltzes, I'm using a conventional bass-chord-chord pattern.
In these transcriptions, I indicate pressing the bass button with an uppercase letter above the staff and the chord button with a lowercase letter above the staff.
To help you get started, I've also color-coded the bellows direction for a couple of the tunes:
In the first measure of this example, the first G bass and G chord on would be played on the push along with the push G on the treble side. The second G chord played would be on the draw G chord button along with the draw B on the C row of the treble side. On many instruments, those two G chords would be played on different buttons on the bass side.
Here's another color-coded example, this one the O'Carolan waltz "Fanny Power":
The bellows direction color coding is not present in the transcriptions below, only the bass or chord button name is shown above the notes. You will need to determine the bellows direction on your own when going through the tune transcriptions below based on the melody note bellows direction.
Going through these transcriptions will provide a starting point exercise for finding the combination of treble button and bass button for either the push or draw. In particular they should be helpful in those cases where there may be some ambiguity because of the "magic" notes such as B and E as well as the G and D bass/chords that are available in both directions on the most common 8-button bass layouts.
In general, the arrangements should work on most common 8-button B/C bass layouts that include both push and draw G and D, only push C and E, and only draw A bass and chords. A couple are arranged for extended 12-bass button layouts that also include a draw E and push B, very handy on E Dorian tunes.
If you find these transcriptions useful, please considertossing a few bucks into one of my virtual tip jars:
Tune Transcriptions in PDF Format
All the Tunes
Latest version 23 February 2021
Click any of the tunes below to download the PDF:
Hornpipe Backing Tracks
Using my ancient copy of "Band-in-a-Box 2008", I'm putting together simple pianobacking tracks for practicing many of the hornpipes in my transcriptions book:
Click to download the backing track in .mp3 format:
If you have any questions, please email me at: