The Rakes of Mallow

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Copyright Josie Elias 2018

The Rakes of Mallow is an Irish drinking song. A rake, short for rakehell, is the old fashioned equivalent of hell raiser. Mallow is a town in County Cork. Rakes are notorious for drinking, swearing, breaking windows, cursing, womanising, spending too much money and never thinking! I’ve arranged this carefree, jolly tune as a ukulele solo but have included the chords as it also works well as a duo with a strummed accompaniment. This is a lively dance tune with a strong, foot tapping pulse. While the music looks fairly straightforward it requires some nifty finger work to get it up to tempo.

This arrangement and tutorial was originally published in Issue 8 of UKE Magazine in 2016.

You can listen to the piece here on YouTube:



Before playing the melody I recommend playing through the chords. This will give you a better sense of the harmonic progression. You might even like to strum along with the video to get the feel. The piece is in the key of D major, meaning it has an F# and a C# in the key signature. D major is a good key for the ukulele but the D chord can be a little challenging as it requires 3 stopped notes on the 2nd fret of strings 4, 3 and 2 while the 1st string is played open (2220, or A D F# A). You may opt to play the D chord as a bar chord. In this case apply a barre on the 2nd fret with the 1st finger and use the 4th finger to stop the 5th fret for the high D (2225, or A D F# D). Doubling the tonic note creates an even stronger chord.

The chords follow a simple I – IV – V progression – D major, G major and A major. Chord charts are written above the notation. Click the blue link below to access a PDF of the score. You will be able to download this. I suggest you read the rest of this blog before you start playing the melody.

Please note: if you downloaded this before March 5th 2018 there was a mistake in the fingering in bar 14 which should be i p, not i m. The revised pdf has the correct fingering.

The rakes of Mallow Revised


The time signature is 2/4, or 2 crotchet (quarter) beats per bar. This means there are 2 strong beats in each bar. I recommend clapping or tapping the rhythm of each bar before you start learning the notes. This will really help the learning process. Once the rhythm is in your head you can focus on the notes. Here’s a breakdown of the rhythm:

You also view a Prezi slideshow presentation of the video by following this link:

Bars 1, 3 & 5:

These 3 bars are divided into 4 even quavers (eighth note beats). This is another useful point: look through the score to see if there are any repeated patterns, either melodic or rhythmic.  

For bars 1,3 & 5 count and clap : 1  +  2  +

Bars 2 & 4:

The 1st beat is divided into 2 quavers (eighth note beats) and the 2nd beat is divided into 4 semiquavers (sixteenth note beats).

For bars 2 & 4 count and clap : 2  a + a  (a is soft as in cat)

Bars 6 and 17 (last bar):

The 1st beat is divided into 2 quavers (eighth note beats) and the 2nd beat is a crotchet (quarter note).

For bars 6 & 17 count and clap : 1  +  2

Bars 7 & 15:

These 2 are divided into 2 groups of 4 semiquavers (sixteenth note beats), a total of 8 semiquavers (sixteenth note beats).

For bars 7 & 15 count and clap : 1  a + a  2  a + a

Bars 8, 10, 12 & 16:

The 1st beat is divided into 2 quavers (eighth note beats) and the 2nd beat is 1 quaver and 2 semiquavers (sixteenth note beats).

For bars 8, 10, 12 & 16 count and clap :  2  + a

Bars 9, 11 & 14:

A quaver (eighth note) is followed with 2 semiquavers (sixteenth note beats) and then 2 quavers (eighth note beats).

For bars 9, 11 & 14 count and clap :  + a  2  +

Overview of the Music

The piece is in 2 sections (A & B). Each section is repeated. Note how part B has 2 different endings. This is indicated in the music with a line over the relevant bars marked 1 and 2. The 1st time play ending one and the 2nd time skip this bar and play ending 2.

Part A is driven by its persistent dance pulse. The melody see-saws between major 3rds (bars 1 & 5), and then minor 3rds (bar 3), which are interrupted by little scale-like flurries of semiquavers. It really has a raucous, foot stamping, good time feel. In bars 6 and 8 I’ve added chords for a bit of harmonic interest. Play them in a light, rapid down (b.6), or down / up (B.8) movement. I find a quick, flick strum with the index finger works well.

I’ve suggested a right hand fingering but feel free to change it. Left hand fingerings are indicated in the notation where needed.

Part B has a lighter feel. The driving rhythm gives way to a more lyrical melody. The melody, starting on a high D tonic note, hangs briefly on the quaver before skipping down the scale to the F# and then sweeping back up to the A. The 2 semiquaver chords are optional (as in bar 8). The melodic idea is repeated but this time we arrive in bar 12 on the dominant A (V) chord. Bars 13 & 14 are the same as bars 9 & 10. Note the return to the tonic (I). In bars 7 & 15 I suggest using the G chord or sub-dominant (IV) in the accompaniment on the 1st beat and A on the 2nd beat. Once you are comfortable with the melody try adding some of the harmony notes from the chords to produce a fuller sound.


Slurs are indicated by a curved line between 2 notes. Don’t confuse slurs and ties. Ties are indicated by a curved line between 2 notes of the same pitch. There are 2 types of slurs used in this piece – the hammer-on and the pull-off. The hammer-on is when the lower note is played 1st and the 2nd note is sounded by hammering the left hand finger onto the note. Accuracy is the key. Make sure your finger lands just behind the fret, not on it.

A pull-off is when the higher note is played 1st and the 2nd note is sounded by pulling the left hand finger off the string. When you play a pull-off make sure both fingers are in position before you pull-off. For example: in bar 2 there is a pull-off at the start of the semiquavers. Finger 3 needs to be down on the the 3rd fret and finger 2 needs to be down on the 2nd fret at the same time. When you pull-off finger 3 pull the string in a slightly downward motion. (If you find fingers 3 and 2 tricky swap them for fingers 2 and 1 and then slide finger 1 back to fret 1 for the c# in the next bar.)

Here’s a duet version with soprano and Ohana Onino:



7 responses to “The Rakes of Mallow

  1. Hi Sam, Would you believe, I’ve got 1-12 of Uke Mag and 8 is missing. However have downloaded the PDF as it’s a tune I came across some years ago when dancing in a Ladies Morris team, it was used quite regularly. Thank you for the background info on the tune ,Putting the chords with the music is brilliant. Have just accompanied the vidio with Guitar and it works fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Making Research Beautiful | I Love Classical Ukulele·

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