Originally brought to Ireland over 2,000 years ago by the Celts, today traditional Irish instruments define the rhythm of Irelands culture and it is from traditional Irish music that most Irish dancing was created. Irish music is synonymous with our rich unique sound, capturing the attention and hearts of listeners. When visiting Ireland, groups will discover Irish music at every corner of the country; from Irish pubs, street buskers, concert halls, festivals – they will never be more than a stone’s throw away from a session here. Blend in like a local by learning about the instruments that are typically played and loved by them at any trad session (traditional Irish music session).
Tin Whistle (feadóg stáin)
This simple, six-holed woodwind instrument is also known as the Penny Whistle and is a relatively cheap traditional instrument to buy making it a popular household instrument in Ireland that takes a lot of practice to master.
No trad session or céilí (an Irish dance) is complete without the presence of the mighty Bodhrán (pronounced bow-ron)! While this Irish instrument has been around for centuries, it only really became popular in Ireland since the 1960s. This Irish framed drum ranges from 25 to 65cm in diameter and is usually made from goats-skins, tacked to one side of a circlet of wood (Ash). A tipper or cipín is a wooden stick used to beat this drum to deliver its powerful distinctive rhythm. Learning to play the Bodhrán has proven very popular with incentive groups visiting Ireland. While used in Irish trad sessions, it is also the booming heart at Irish sporting events used to energise the crowd.
Uilleann (pronounced ill-un) is the Irish word for elbow and this instrument is recognised as the national instrument of Ireland. UNESCO has shone a spotlight on these Irish pipes by recognising them as an important symbol of Ireland’s heritage in 2017. Today, a full set of pipes comprises of bag, bellows, chanter, drones and regulators. When played, it delivers a unique sound that is considerably quieter than the Scottish bagpipe, making it distinctly Irish. Liam O’Flynn, formerly of the Irish band Planxty, was one of Ireland’s most revered performers with this instrument.
While identical to the violin, the Irish fiddle is played differently, while both are bow stringed instruments, the fiddle is used to play upbeat, traditional music with a focus on dancing, evoking excitement in the listener. Many Irish fiddle tunes have been taught by ear and passed down from one generation to another ensuring that many are distinctive to particular counties and illustrate the vast range of fiddle styles in Ireland today.
The harp is the most famous Irish symbol; it is on our currency, the presidential seal and we are the only country in the world to have an instrument as its emblem. This ancient instrument has been part of Irish culture for 1,000’s of years, and was a prominent feature on the entertainment circuit in high society and often harpists played for chieftains and nobles. Celtic harps differ in that they are small, and played on the knee.
Music runs in the blood of the Irish giving a sense of rootedness and a connection to the islands past while embracing its future. Ireland has a rhythm all of its own that is authentic and captures raw energy that delivers a lively atmosphere, friendly banter and an unforgettable mix of buoyant Irish culture that incentive groups will be lucky to be a part of during their visit to Ireland. Groups must experience first-hand the excitement of learning a traditional Irish instrument and bring these new skills along to a local seisiúin (session of trad music) where natives will welcome everyone to join them in entertaining the crowds. Truly a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed!