The Britches Full of Stitches

Posted on April 7, 2007, under creative commons, general, music.

The first traditional tune I ever learned was a great polka called “The Britches Full of Stitches”. I learned it when I was 7, on the Fiddle, from a great man called Des Carty, there’s now a school of music named in his honour in Tallaght. It’s a very simple tune, I learned it after Twinkle Twinkle, and it took about 2 weeks of practise.

Because it’s a starter tune, there are very few recordings of it, so I’ve decided to make at least one. I’ve chosen a really simple tune because I want to record something which gets across how important accompaniment is in traditional music. I play the melody pretty straight, with cuts, the occasional roll and slurs being the only forms of ornamentation (I’m no Seamus Egan), and I’ve left a piece without any accompaniment at all, so that you can tell just how primitive my melody playing is under it all.

But the accompaniment itself is where the magic is, and trust me, playing like that is hard. Despite playing the tune 7 times over, the accompaniment is never the same, and for the most part it’s syncopated and the right hand is doing a lot of work. The aim is to lead the beat, to make it easier to dance to, or rather to want to dance to. When I play polkas like this, a lot of people remark that it’s similar to the playing of Steve Cooney or Jim Murray, but personally I don’t it much resembles it (apart from being 2/4 and fast). In parts, it can sound like Donogh Hennessy’s style, but I guess really it’s my own.

What I find most fun about being able to play accompaniment is that you can light up even the simplest or dullest of tunes (or players, being honest!) if you do it really well, you can layer enough interest and dynamism into the harmonics to achieve an awful lot! It’s brilliant fun.

direct mp3 link.

Anyway, both the guitar accompaniment and melody were recorded in the DADGAD tuning, with the capo at the 7th fret to put it in A (the tune is in A major). The Bouzouki is tuned ADAD, with a capo at the 7th fret again. The backing was recorded very first (accompaning nothing) and then the melody played over. I cheated and used a metronome to count out the gap though. Like everything on my blog, it’s CC licenced (Attribution 2.0)

Let me know what you think. It sure is lively!

25 Replies to "The Britches Full of Stitches"


Eoghan  on April 8, 2007

Sounds great, really nice tune. Well done!


Colin  on April 9, 2007

Very impressive.

I look forward to more recordings.


kate  on April 11, 2007

my daughter 10 plays this on tin whistle, i will encourage her to play along to this from now on, will teach her the seisiun style maybe!absolutely beautiful


Michael  on April 12, 2007

Spotted the bazouki in the back of the pic on your home page. What make, used to have a Manson, he’s an English maker, makes other things like mando chellos etc. Slaving as a gardener in Sligo, good enough for me. Cheers Michael


Phill  on April 12, 2007

Can someone invite me to joost please :-) my addy is Thanks in advance


merique  on April 13, 2007

Would it be a problem if you would send me an invitation for Joost? I hope not. I will be pleased. Thaks from the hill. My email is:


staks  on April 13, 2007

can you invite me to joose pls


staks  on April 13, 2007

pls can you invite me to joose my e-mail is:


J√≥hann Egilsson  on April 14, 2007

hello sorry if im bothering you with this but can you invite me to joost i really like to try it out. or if you no where i can get invite that would also be good enought.
thanks from iceland


smallfattyXD  on April 16, 2007

hello can you invinte me to joost? my e-mail address is:


simone  on April 17, 2007

hi, please invite me to joost. it will be greatly appreciated. many many thanks.
my email is:


sandra  on April 23, 2007

so sorry, yet another pain looking for an invite! forgive!


alittlebitofrandom  on April 25, 2007

That is so true how accompaniment can add so much to the song. It is also true in changing the key of a song how the mood can change drastically. What other kind of music do you play? What instruments do you play? I am a music education major right now and love learning about all the styles of music. Right now I want to work on concentrating on the influences of irish history on music. I was also wondering if you could invite me to joost. I would greatly appreciate it. Let me know about your music experience too! My email is:


michael kirk-smith  on April 30, 2007

Hi Colm,

Two things:

1. I’d be grateful for a Joost invite.

2. I’m trying to learn accompaniment on guitar and bazouki myself – I agree with you that the backing makes tunes leap into life (I play melody on whistle and and bazouki and just to have someone backing on guitar dramatically changes things). I’d love to have your competence – sounds great! Accompaniment is still a mystery to me – go you know of a good tutor bood/CD for accompaniment?

However, here’s something, I was at a session a while ago in the Sky in Ground in Wexford and a guitarist yhere (John) was accompanying in open D. I’m a slide player and knew the chords and was able to follow him (more or less) – it was great to play along at last.




Alastair  on May 2, 2007

Delighted to have stumbled on this (via the Joost site), and love it. It’s going straight into my iTunes!
Thanks for putting it up.


Alan  on May 2, 2007

Hi Colm. Firstly, I was looking on here for an invite as I saw there was now an high speed link for Europe. Then when I got on here I noticed your link for ‘Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting’ and thought – there’s not one of the buggers trustworthy enough to vote for;-)


Aussie Pete  on May 3, 2007

A great tune, it struck a chord ( ..oops..:) ) with me because the Irish heratige is so strong here downunder- and because I run a music school as well.
If Michael likes open D, he will, if he has not run across it, enjoy open C- perhaps not so well known: It’s
C G C G C E ( going from the bottom E string).
Those tulips are incredible.


Terry Mac  on May 4, 2007

I like the tune. The title reminded me of a ditty once done by someone pretty famous and its last verse was something like “now if you want to take some pictures of the fascinating witches who put the scintilating stitches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus – You’re too late!!”


jayvee  on May 5, 2007

your blog is very good.keep it up.
I will be extremely obliged to you if you could sent me an invitation to joost. thanking you in advance



jose  on May 5, 2007

Dear friend

hope you are fine.
I would be grateful towards you ,if could give an invitation to this site. my e-mail id is ;
wishing you all the best



damla  on May 7, 2007

could u invite me joost membership. I would like to join this group but I need an invitation, thanks a lot…

ps. u know tulips come from ottomans


tiesto  on May 7, 2007

can you invite me to joost please send me at


best regards


Ann  on May 9, 2007

I came here to seek an invite to Joost having read about it in Newsweek this evening. I live in Seattle, Washington. And I see your photo of beautiful tulips like the ones I went to view in the Skagit Valley 60 minutes north of here last month; I listen to your great fiddle/guitar tune (I’ve picked at the guitar since high school 37!! years ago) and its nice to see common themes in the internet community. Thanks for sharing yourself.



Oisin  on May 11, 2007

Brillant piece, so simple yet sounds like a pro. Congrats !!


Michael Edu jr  on May 15, 2007

Hi i was just reading your blog and i find it interesting even though i dont no anything about polka but i also want to be apart of joost so can you please please send me and invite
my email address is

Leave a Comment