Irish Traditional Music


Irish Traditional Music Picture

Throughout history, music has been associated with Ireland. Its musical history dates back over 2,000 years. Indeed St Columcille (521-597 AD) one of the twelve apostles of Ireland described the clerics of Ireland as having the ability to "sing like birds". Irish saints are well known by hymnologists for writing some of the earliest known hymns.

Unlike most other European countries who have lost their native folk music, the traditional music of Ireland has become increasing popular.

English: Music

Gaelic: Ceol

Irish Music

Irish Traditional Music - History
The revival of traditional Irish music was helped by the establishment in 1951 of the Irish Traditional Music Association (Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann). The aim of the Comhaltas association is to preserve and promote Irish traditional music. They have a huge network of branches offering traditional music classes to people all over the world including, Ireland, England, America, Australia, South America and Japan! They hold regular traditional Irish music competitions  known as “Fleadh Cheoil” (feast of music) and an annual  "Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann" in which musicians qualify to compete with the aim of becoming the All Ireland Champion.

Traditional Irish music is extremely popular all over the world. The Irish are known worldwide for their love of music.  The Tin Whistle, Flue, Fiddle, Accordion and the Bodhrán are familiar instruments played in Ceilis's and Irish Pubs all over the world. Irish children are still taught to play traditional instruments, their parents keen to carry on ancient Celtic traditions and favour traditional instruments to the more modern ones.

Irish Traditional Music - Harp
The harp is the national symbol of Ireland, the Celtic harp appears on Irish Currency and features in many Irish Mythology stories. The most famous harp was called Uaithne and belonged to the Dagda who was an important God in Irish Mythology. The Dagda was a protector of the people and legend tells us that his magical harp played itself! One of the most famous Irish harp players was Turlough O'Carolan who was blind. Born in Ireland in the 18th century, he was famous for playing the Harp but was also a composer and a singer. He is commonly known as Irelands national composer.

The harp is a multi-stringed instrument, the strings are made from a variety of materials including wire, silk, nylon or gut. The plane of the harp's strings are positioned perpendicularly to its soundboard. Musically the harp is in the category of Chordophones (as are all stringed instruments) but it has its own sub category, Harps.  All harps are made up of a neck, resonator and strings. Frame harps also have a pillar, Harps without a pillar are known as open harps. The harp can be played while held in the lap if it is small enough but more often the Harp stands on the floor and the harpist sits next to it on a small chair or stool to play the instrument.

Sheet Music Downloads plus Audio Files at Virtual Sheet Music

Irish Traditional Music - Green Harp
The green harp flag shown in the image below dates back to Confederate Ireland in 1642 and was initially a plain gold harp on a green background. The version shown below was used in Ireland during the 1800's, the original harp was changed to include a mythical woman's head and torso complete with wings which formed the head of the harp! She was known as the 'Maid of Erin'.

Traditional Irish Music - Harp

Traditional Irish Music - Image of the Irish Green Flag


Irish Traditional Music - Accordion
The Accordion was invented by Friedrich Buschmann in 1822 in Berlin, Germany and was called the Handäoline. Cyrill Demian (1772–1847) of Vienna created another version of the accordion with buttons in 1829. His patent of the name 'Accordion' was officially granted in May 1829 and many credit Cyril Demian with the invention of the accordion while others give credit to Friedrich Buschmann's invention. Today there are many variations of the accordion, some with buttons and others with keyboards, essentially they are all constructed in a similar manner, two boxes separated by a bellows.

It is a very popular instrument in modern Irish folk and traditional music and is available in different forms. The two row button accordion as shown in the picture below is popular with traditional Irish accordion players. There are several types of accordions available, for example the Melodeon and Concertina versions are also popular in Irish traditional music as well as the piano accordion which is often played by marching bands popular all across Ireland. Traditionally the accordion was popular with the lower classes as opposed to the harp which was played more by the upper classes. The accordion comprises three components, these are:

  • The Bellows. These are squeezed which in turn pushes air through to the reeds

  • The Keys or Buttons. These are pressed producing the notes

  • The Reeds. The reeds vibrate inside the body of the accordion and make the sound


Irish Traditional Music - Accordion

Traditional Irish Music - Image of a Traditional Irish Accordion


Irish Traditional Music - Bodhrán
The Bodhrán is a traditional Irish musical instrument and consists of a frame drum covered in either synthetic material or goatskin. The inside of the drum is open and the player holds the drum by grasping the cross bars on the inside of the drum as shown as shown in the picture above. The drum is hit with a small wooden bone which is also known as a tipper, beater or cipín. Occasionally the Bodhrán is played by hand.


Irish Traditional Music - Picture of an Irish Bodhrán

Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Bodhrán viewed from the back


Irish Traditional Music - Bodhran Picture

Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Bodhrán viewed from the front


Traditional Irish Music - Tin Whistle
The tin whistle or metal whistle as shown in the image below is very popular in Irish traditional music and the whistles are made from a variety of materials including brass, steel and aluminium. Most Irish school children are taught to play the tin whistle, for most it is their first experience of playing a musical instrument.

Irish Traditional Music - Picture of a Tin Whistle

Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Tin Whistle


Traditional Irish Music - Fiddle
The fiddle is a vital component of Irish traditional music and it is played in a variety of styles depending on the region of Ireland where the fiddle is played. The regions of Ireland with particular fiddling traditions are Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Sliabh Luachra which is a small area between the counties of Kerry and Cork.

Irish Traditional Music - Irish Fiddle

Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Fiddle (Gaelic: Fidil)

Traditional Irish Music History - Irish Diaspora
What is diaspora? Diaspora is defined as 'the movement or settlement of people away from their ancestral homeland'. The Irish Diaspora are descendants of the native Irish immigrants forced to move away from their native country for a variety of reasons including conflict and more recently in the 19th century due to the great Famine, known in Gaelic as 'An Gorta Mor'. The Irish diaspora spread all over the world and it is estimated that globally there are more than 80 million Irish Diaspora! Some are second or third generation Irish whilst others are fifth and sixth generation Irish! The Irish Diaspora have kept their culture, heritage and traditions alive through traditional music. St Patrick's day is a celebration of Irish culture and traditional Irish music forms a huge part of this now globally celebrated event.

Traditional Irish and Celtic Music
Singing, performing and dancing is a huge part of Irish culture, it is the land of music and dance! Ireland has produced some amazing singers and musicians; U2, and Enya are both perfect examples! Riverdance and Lord of The Dance are examples of the way that traditional Irish music and dance has been brought into the 21st century. Both are world famous shows enjoyed by the Irish diaspora and those who wish they were!

Traditional Irish Music - Facts

  • Henry VIII of England was believed to be a great lover of Irish harp music and when he took control of Ireland he had a harp embossed on the currency

  • Shakespeare refers to eleven Irish tunes including the famous 'Callino Casturame'

  • Queen Elizabeth was particularly fond of Harp music and kept the Irish harpist Donogh in her court

  • The Clairseach is a large Irish harp and was known as "the festive or heroic harp of the chiefs and ladies, as also of the bards"

  • Ireland is the only country to have a musical instrument as their national emblem

  • Harp music was often played to accompany 'bards' reciting poetry

  • The Celtic Triangular Harp was known as the instrument of the Bards!

  • The Harp was associated with the more affluent Irish whereas the accordion was played more by the lower classes

  • During the 9th century it is reported that twelve different musical instruments were used by the people of Ireland

  • The music school in the Swiss city of  San Gallen was established by the Irish monk Gallus (ca 550–620 or 640) later known as St Gall

  • The tin whistle is often referred to as a beginners flute

Irish Traditional Music

Irish Traditional Music

  • What is Traditional Irish Music?

  • Instruments Played in traditional Irish Music

  • Traditional Irish Music - History

  • Tin Whistle, Accordion & Fiddle

  • Facts about Irish Traditional Music

Irish Traditional Music


Irish Traditional Music - Pictures and Videos
Discover the vast selection of pictures relating to Irish Traditional Music and illustrating how beautiful the instruments are. Irish Traditional Music is famous worldwide and the publicity received from the hit stage productions have brought this traditional past time completely up to date for the 21st century! Learn about the history of Irish Traditional Music and learn about the different types of instruments. Find out about the instruments used to produce the music for this wonderful past time. The pictures show the different costumes and musical instruments that are associated with this amazing country. A great resource for all ages. Useful as an Irish history resource for kids and children of all ages as well as those wanting to learn more about the amazing music that originated in the emerald Isle. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic within the Irish Traditional Music section. The videos enable fast access to the images and pictures together with information and many musical facts as well as the all important lyrics. All of the articles and pages can be accessed via the about Ireland Index - a great free resource for everyone!


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