Peter McMeel and Brendan Williams are bringing a bit of the Irish to Toowong Bowls Club

Peter McMeel and Brendan Williams bringing a bit of the Irish to Wooloongabba

NOTE this post has been updated for 2019 with a name, and another venue change.
McCarthys Celtic Music Session, check it out if you are looking for a new challenge and want to advance your skills in a new, highly addictive direction.
The Dandelion Social, 4/591 Wynnum Road, Morningside.
• Every Thursday night from 11 July 2019.
• From 6:30 pm
• Ukes tuned in D for Celtic. See notes on tuning below.

“Ukuleles are very versatile string instruments and can be tuned to many pitches. To play Irish you will tune up one whole step from C to D. Instead of the usual GCEA the strings are now tuned to ADF#B. Now your uke handles the Irish repertoire with much greater ease. As well, believe it or not, ukuleles will sound even more fantastic when they are tuned to D! Try it and let me know!

Irish Traditional Music, ITM, is based around the Keys of D, G, Em and Am. These keys can be easily played if your ukulele is tuned to D. The scale pattern of C becomes a D scale. The F scale becomes a G scale and so on. Most of you will know a C scale if you have tried to play melody on your C tuned ukulele. It will be the first scale you learnt. That C pattern now becomes a D scale on your D tuned instrument. You are now prepared to easily play many Irish tunes. There are hundreds of catchy easy songs and tunes in D. You play in D by playing the patterns you learned on your C tuned uke.

The chords are easy too. The C chord shape becomes a chord that sounds a D, F becomes G, and the G chord shape becomes an A chord. It’s that simple! The appropriate change in your head occurs very quickly if you keep one uke always tuned to D. When you pick that uke up you start to think D tuning! I kid you not!
Because ITM repertoire is so attractive to the ear you can quickly join in with lots of the music played in the ITM sessions around the world. Brendan Williams, mentor of 30 years, and I will be delighted to show you how to learn it. We taught ourselves to do it. Having played string instruments before, it came readily to us. We do understand it will be a bit harder for some other players, but we will guide you every step of the way if you wish. We know you already have plenty of great musical skills if you are a regular BUMSter.

This is why we have designed our sessions with a slow quiet ukulele based segment at 5:30 PM. Slow and quiet so you can hear yourself and us play easily. The material will be available as lyric sheets, chord progression charts and music notation on Dropbox. We can help you learn music notation too as we know that is the fastest way to learn music in any context. Music used to be learnt just by ear but now people learn best by ear and by reading at around the same time. When I now see the structure of the music I can learn it much faster! It’s amazing how little this is appreciated even today.

ITM sessions are without charts in front of players, although you can have some music charts at the slow sessions at first. All the music is very gradually learned by memory, usually songs first.

You can do this by focusing on the easiest and catchiest music you hear, the music that you love the most. This is probably how you first learned to play the ukulele anyway. Then if you have a chart at home you can study a complete tune in your own time. It speeds things up too if you record the first piece you want to learn on your phone at the session or at another time for study purposes. The easiest pieces to learn are songs. Songs are lots of fun but if a piece doesn’t turn you then don’t do it! Make it a rule to only do the fun bits.

You can use your C tuned ukulele but it will work much better if you keep one uke especially tuned to D, like I do. Of course you will also have much more fun if you get some specific lessons on techniques and repertoire.
It’s going to be fun. It’s going to work. It’s going to work for you.”

This will be something different for any of our players. Please contact Peter at or just turn up on Thursdays, grab a beer and some great food. Brendan and Peter will answer all the questions you have but please bear in mind it’s a live session, not a workshop.
Why not have a craic?

FACEBOOK PAGE: McCarthys Celtic Music Session


Check the News & Events Page for all the latest info on  jams and performances.

Points on Tuning
The ukulele will be tuned up one whole step from C to D. GCEA becomes ADF#B.
D tuning can be high or low on string 4, in the same way as C. High tuning produces a wonderfully sweet and addictive harp like sound. Low tuning will extend the melodic range of the instrument a very handy amount, because ukuleles otherwise have quite a limited range. Watch out! God forbid, you may eventually wish to have a ukulele specially preserved in each tuning!

10 replies
  1. Ken O'Flaherty
    Ken O'Flaherty says:

    Sounds fantastic. Any chance of getting the course notes or video for those of us on the Sunshine Coast who can’t make it.

    • Jo Kunde
      Jo Kunde says:

      Hi Ken Great you are keen, might be worth a road trip! I’d suggest you contact Peter please remember this is a a live session, not a workshop so there is no set plan. Cheers, Jo

    • Peter McMeel
      Peter McMeel says:

      Ken we can help but it’s no workshop. Pick a bit of the ITM repertoire that you think might be easy and we can direct your learning.

        • Peter McMeel
          Peter McMeel says:

          Hi Ken, sorry but somehow I’ve mucked up your email address. Please send me your details again. Great to see you at Spruke!

  2. Peter McMeel
    Peter McMeel says:

    Hi Uke players, even though it’s targeted towards experienced players, those with no experience can thrive in this system for learning music also!

  3. Peter McMeel
    Peter McMeel says:

    I just thought I’d insert a copy of this morning’s news we sent to the 30 or so people that have come already to this session already. It’s flying!
    “We reached a huuuuge milestone last night already with the first Irish Trad. mosh pit at Toowong. Not bad for a handful of ukes and a mandolin! So it’s shoulders to the wheel and we will have Brown Jug Polka in D and The Kerry Polka in D as our first dance set for next week.”
    Great news for ukulele melody players- both tunes can be played at Position Seven.
    Brown Jug Starting Note F# – Fret 9, 4th string, finger 3.
    Second note is A – Fret 7, 3rd string, first finger.
    A Kerry Polka also starts on F# but an octave higher, so it’s fingered at fret 7 on the first string, use second finger.

    Brendan says to remember to play the Brown Jug Polka as AB. This helps beginners sync up their hand claps in the B Part.

    Newbies just play the chords. Brown Jug D G A. Kerry is the same but also add Bm in B Part.

    Songsters – Brown Jug is also a politically incorrect tale chronic alcoholism (& domestic abuse?). Lyrics here..”

    As you can see, we are committed to the development of our players. Lots to learn in this weekly session!

  4. Peter McMeel
    Peter McMeel says:

    Hi BUMSTERS, me again! We are just having a ball learning Irish at the moment and some of the singers return from Ireland tomorrow night! To be sure!

  5. Peter McMeel
    Peter McMeel says:

    Thanks to all the Sunshine Coast mob who turned up at the Spruke workshops. Wow what a response!! Also it’s been lovely to see Tina & co(?) at the Toowong Twin Sessions.


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