The Scottish Mandolin
Pick Direction 9
Jigs and Pick Direction
Jigs require a slight change in thinking, but first let's look at the rhythm of jigs. Start tapping your foot at a steady pace. Now think of two taps as making up a bar, so your tapping out one - two - one - two, and so on. After a wee while, every time you tap your foot say "one-two-three". Now each bar is represented every time you say one-two-three, one-two-three: six notes to a bar.
As far as pick direction goes, the beat or "pulse" in jigs falls on the first note and fourth note. So instead of a down-up-down-up pattern as in reels and strathspeys, the jig uses a down-up-down, down-up-down pattern. Repeat the foot-tapping exercise above and instead of saying one-two-three every time you tap your foot, say down-up-down. After a while practice on your mandolin. You might think this is a departure from the rule, but in actual fact it's not. Because the nature of jigs is that there's actually two beats in the bar, you're still using a downstroke on the beat, and this accentuates the pulse running through the tune.
It takes a little time to get used to the down-up-down, down-up-down rhythm, but once you've got it, it becomes second nature.
Having said all that, it must be said that there are two different schools of thought about pick direction in jigs. Many accomplished mandolin players simply use a down-up-down, up-down-up system, in other words simply alternating downs and ups. It's not for me to say they're wrong, only that I use d-u-d, d-u-d, and I find that it suits the rhythm of jigs. I'm afraid it's up to you in the end.
Let's do two exercises for pick direction in jigs: