John Brosnan's Polka
For Mountain Dulcimer Players in D-A-d Tuning
Taught by Neal Hellman

Video 1

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VideoAbout the Lessons

1. Demonstration First Neal plays through the tune, and promises to take us "bar hopping," as he breaks down the tune for us - bar by bar (measure by measure).
2. Strumming the Melody Neal plays this tune using hammer-ons and pull-offs, but it is also possible to play it by simply strumming. He points out that, in this arrangement, we're using the top string as the drone, as opposed to using the bottom string as the drone the way we normally do.
3. A Part, 1st Bar Neal calls his sytem of breaking down the tune into teachable moments "bar hopping." He uses the bass string and the middle string for the melody, and already with the first two notes begins demonstrating the "hammer-on" technique.
4. A Part, 2nd Bar In the second bar, we utilize both the pull-off and a technique Neal likes to call the "flying hammer."
5. A Part Together Here Neal plays the first two bars, and explains that the third bar simply repeats the first bar. He finishes by introducing the 4th bar, and then playing all the way through again. He says that, when strumming, the closer you get to the bridge - the more "bite" you will hear. The farther from the bridge you strum, the more mellow it will sound.
6. B Part Elements In the B Part, there are only 2 bars that are different from the A Part.
7. B Part Together In the B Part, bars 1 & 3 are the same. Bars 2 & 4 are played exactly the same way as they were played in the A Part.
8. Whole Tune Slow You don't really have to do all the hammers and pulls. Feel free to use the strum, if this is slowing you down. One fun thing about this tune is that you never go beyond the 3rd fret.
9. Polka Chords In this video, Neal shows us the back-up chords. Note: Neal prefers to call the chord frets from the melody string first. Then he sings the melody and plays the back-up accompaniment for us.
10. Review Finally, Neal plays through the entire tune again, picking up his tempo this time.


  • John Brosnan's


  • A Part

  • B Part

Mobile Devices

  • A Part

  • B Part

Music GlobeExtras

  • This is a traditional Irish polka, also known as John Leary's Polka and Nell Fees. John Brosnan recorded this tune, and his notes on the record sleeve give credit to John O’Leary and Padraig O’Keeffe's arrangements.

  • John Brosnan is an accordion player from County Kerry in Ireland. In addition to playing accordians (boxes), Brosnan tunes, repairs, and sells new ones. If you're going to Ireland, you can check out his accordians for sale here.

  • Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs are two common articulations which are “two-for-one” ways to play more than one note by changing what the fingering hand has done AFTER the plucking hand has plucked the note.  For a lesson by Steve Eulberg on these techniques, click here.

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