The Story of St. Anne’s Reel

This song lesson will be released to TAC members on Tuesday, March 1st – St. Anne’s Reel is a tune that I have been smitten with for quite some time. I had first learned it on the dobro, and then as years went on I brought it to the guitar. After learning about how popular the song was I figured it should definitely be on my list to learn. After confirming it’s popularity I went one step further; I had to find the history of the tune… well that was a much more twisted road than I could imagine. ⬇ Download the tablature for my special arrangement of St. Anne’s Reel.

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St. Anne’s Reel has a lineage that is as twisted and tangled as Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights. The tune has roots that are mainly French-Canadian, but it’s melody is found in tunes from many other cultures. Often times this tune is cited as having Irish or Celtic origins as well… so what’s the definitive answer… well I have not found one as of yet, but I do know one thing: when the tune is played on guitar it is very commonly flatpicked.

Learn Section 1 of St. Anne’s Reel

Section 1
Section 1
Slow
Slow
Medium
Medium
Fast
Fast

 

This month I wanted something challenging, but extremely rewarding to play which is where this arrangement of St. Anne’s Reel came from. I opted to arrange it in a fingerstyle setting since I thought the tune would lend itself very well to this style. Also, since the tune is usually played with a bit of skip in it’s step, I wanted to slow it down and integrate an open tuning to really squeeze every ounce of beauty that I could out of the melody. Essentially I was on a mission to take a quick, flat picked tune in standard tuning and transform it into a slower, fingerpicked tune in open D tuning.

This is a new version of the song for me and there are some really effective techniques employed here. First the use of open tuning allows you to grab pieces of chords and still get a huge full sound. Second, The manner in which you will play this tune is an arpeggiated almost irregular finger picking style (the standard thumb movement will not apply here). Third, the rhythmic variation in this tune is vast, going from longer sustained notes to tight groups of sixteenth notes. And, last but certainly not least, the use of harmonics is heavy in this tune. Harmonics will be used to highlight melodic portions and again offer a bit of a different take on this tune.

Selected Recordings/Versions:
Dan Crary – Jammed If I Do – Recorded 1994
Cody Kilby – Just Me – Recorded 1997
Kenny Smith – Studebaker – Recorded 1997
Jerry Douglas – Changing Channels – Recorded 1987

Overall, I think you will totally dig this song. With it’s goofy history, it’s finger style treatment, and the amazing feeling you get upon completion, it really is a one, two… and three punch. This is a great one to have in your arsenal of tunes and certainly one that you can say you know and be confident that no one has ever heard this arrangement before.

Cheers,
Tony

Comments

  1. Profile photo of François
    François

    Putting my two cents in as far as the origin of the tune is concerned: during the 17th century, many french families (including mine) from the Celtic province of Bretagne (Brittany, France) emigrated to Acadia in Canada. They probably brought their pipes and fiddles with them, giving traditional Canadian music (and American with the Cajuns) a very Celtic sound which could explain how this tune could be both Canadian and Celtic.

    1. Profile photo of Tony P
      Tony P Post author

      Francois,

      Awesome info to add to this tune, I have been loving researching these tunes and your added info definitely helps in finding out why it’s origins are supposedly Canadian but sounds Celtic. Great stuff thank you!!!

      Cheers,
      Tony

  2. Profile photo of T
    T

    Love this background on the tune, and reference recordings. This is a great addition to the song lesson. Thanks Tony.

    1. Profile photo of Tony P
      Tony P Post author

      Mark,

      I am glad you like these new additions!!! It is always a blast researching the tunes 🙂

      Cheers,
      Tony

  3. Profile photo of David Cagle
    David Cagle

    This in one of my favorite tunes Tony and your fingerstyle arrangement is awesome. I look forward to working on it. Great St Paddy’s day tune as well.

    1. Profile photo of Tony P
      Tony P Post author

      David,

      Glad you dig this one!!! I thought it fitting to release this one in March 🙂

      Cheers,
      Tony

  4. Profile photo of Greg W
    Greg W

    This is great! Man Im glad you did this fingerstyle! Cant wait to dive into this. Thanks!

    1. Profile photo of Tony P
      Tony P Post author

      Greg,

      I am glad to hear you are pumped for this one!!!

      Cheers,
      Tony

    1. Profile photo of Tony P
      Tony P Post author

      Derek,

      I don’t have a video of that one quite yet. Here is a sample though: https://youtu.be/lwllcWC_FL4 This is Russ Barenberg with Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain… Russ’ solo starts around 1:13 🙂

      Cheers,
      Tony

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