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Piano Lesson 29: Cockles and Mussels! Songs for St. Paddy’s Day

By Gaili Schoen February 14, 2024 Hobbies

Welcome to Lesson 29!

Today we turn back to p.69-70, to play Molly Malone (also known as Cockles and Mussels). We initially skipped it because it has some tricky rhythms, and I wanted you to advance a bit further before taking them on! Mid-February is a great time to start practicing Irish songs for St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) so let’s dig in!

[NOTE: If you are just joining us for the first time, you can find my previous Sixty and Me Free Piano Lessons on my Author page. You can join our lessons any time and move at your own pace!]

29.1 Counting and Singing Molly Malone (Cockles and Mussels)

In Lesson 16 I introduced you to dotted notes, and we started playing Dotted Quarter Notes, which are held for a beat and a half (counting “1 & 2,” “2 & 3,” or “3 & 4” in 4/4 time.) In Trumpet Tune, Largo and Sonata (p.54-58) we played Dotted Quarter Notes followed by Eighth Notes. In Molly Malone we are playing that rhythm again, plus we are playing Eighth Notes followed by Dotted Quarter Notes!

Instead of a long-short feel, these rhythms are short-long. To help you learn the difference between these two rhythm patterns, I am playing and singing the lyrics in my demonstration video below. Often the brain grasps rhythms better when we put words to the notes, so sing along with me!

29.2 Playing Molly Malone

Here’s a closeup of me playing Molly Malone. Once you know the notes and rhythms, try playing the right-hand melody along with me!

Now would also be a great time to review a couple other Irish songs, The Irish Washerwoman and The Three Sailor Boys (p.24) which I demonstrated in Lesson 5. Next lesson we’ll have more Irish fun with The Moreen on p.78, a beautiful Irish ballad. Have a great couple of weeks, and I will see you in Lesson 30!

Passion Practice

  1. Play Exercise #1 in A-flat and E-flat, with hands together. Play the 5 notes of each position before playing the exercise to be sure you have the correct notes. Play each exercise once forte (loudly), and once piano (softly) with your eyes open, then closed, if possible.
  2. p.69-70 – Listen to my video 29.1 and sing Molly Malone along with me. Once you are able to sing the words with the same rhythm I am using, you can start to count and then play Molly Malone. If you get confused about the rhythms, keep reviewing my videos 29.1 and 29.2 to help your ear guide your rhythms.
  3. Chord Calisthenics #5, Appendix viii – Play each set of minor and diminished triads, in A-flat and E-flat, alternating hands. Also review these chords in the previous keys.
  4. If you have time, review a couple Irish favs for St. Paddy’s: The Irish Washerwoman is a fun song that also exercises your fingers. You can print it from this page if you haven’t already. Also review The Three Sailor Boys, p.24.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are your favorite Irish songs? I love playing and singing The Wild Rover and Si Bheag Si Mohr, a beautiful piece by the 18th Century harpist Tulough O’Carolyn. Do you go to an Irish pub for St. Paddy’s Day? Do you make corned beef and cabbage? Irish Soda Bread? Irish Stew? Or do you prefer to avoid the holiday all together? I love that Irish music is so melodic and fun to play. And Corned Beef and Cabbage is one of my favorite dishes!

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The Author

Gaili Schoen is a passionate piano teacher and learning science researcher. She has written a piano instruction series called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul. Learn more at Follow her blog for free monthly sheet music and practice tips:

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