Later additions to the repertoire include the waltz 3 4 with a heavy accent on the down beat and, in Donegal , mazurkas in the same time signature, though with an accent on the 2nd beat. Donegal is also notable for its "highland," a sort of Irish version of the Scottish strathspey , but with a feel closer to a reel with the occasional scots snap. Polkas are a type of 2 4 tune mostly found in the Sliabh Luachra area, at the border of Cork and Kerry , in the south of Ireland. Another distinctive Munster rhythm is the Slide in 12 8 time. The concept of "style" is of large importance to Irish traditional musicians.
At the start of the last century , distinct variation in regional styles of performance existed. With the release of American recordings of Irish traditional musicians e. Michael Coleman and increased communications and travel opportunities, regional styles have become more standardised. Regional playing styles remain nonetheless, as evidenced by the very different playing styles of musicians from Donegal e.
Tommy Peoples , Clare e. Jacky Daly.
Donegal fiddle playing is characterised by fast, energetic bowing, with the bow generating the majority of the ornamentation; Clare fiddle playing is characterised by slower bowing, with the fingering generating most of the ornamentation. While bowed triplets three individual notes with the bow reversed between each are more common in Donegal, fingered triplets and fingered rolls five individual notes fingered with a single bow stroke are very common in Clare. Stage performers from the s and s groups such as The Bothy Band, or soloists such as Kevin Burke have used the repertoire of traditional music to create their own groups of tunes, without regard to the conventional 'sets' or the constraint of playing for dancers.
Burke's playing is an example of an individual, unique, distinctive style, a hybrid of his classical training, the traditional Sligo fiddle style and various other influences. The most common instruments used in Irish traditional dance music, whose history goes back several hundred years, are the fiddle, tin whistle, flute and Uilleann pipes.
Instruments such as button accordion and concertina made their appearances in Irish traditional music late in the 19th century. The 4-string tenor banjo , first used by Irish musicians in the US in the s, is now fully accepted. The guitar was used as far back as the s first appearing on some of the recordings of Michael Coleman and his contemporaries.
The bouzouki only entered the traditional Irish music world in the late s. Traditional harp-playing died out in the late 18th century, and was revived by the McPeake Family of Belfast, Derek Bell , Mary O'Hara and others in the midth century.
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Although often encountered, it plays a fringe role in Irish Traditional dance music. The piano is commonly used for accompaniment. On many of these recordings the piano accompaniment was woeful because the backers were unfamiliar with Irish music. However, Morrison avoided using the studio piano players and hand-picked his own.
The vamping style used by these piano backers has largely remained. One of the most important instruments in the traditional repertoire, the fiddle or violin — there is no physical difference is played differently in widely varying regional styles. These fiddlers did much to popularise Irish music in the States in the s and s.
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Joe Hayes. The flute has been an integral part of Irish traditional music since roughly the middle of the 19th century, when art musicians largely abandoned the wooden simple-system flute having a conical bore, and fewer keys for the metal Boehm system flutes of present-day classical music. Although the choice of the Albert-system, wooden flute over the metal was initially driven by the fact that, being "outdated" castoffs, the old flutes were available cheaply second-hand, the wooden instrument has a distinct sound and continues to be commonly preferred by traditional musicians to this day.
A number of excellent players— Joanie Madden being perhaps the best known—use the Western concert flute , but many others find that the simple system flute best suits traditional fluting. Original flutes from the pre-Boehm era continue in use, but since the s a number of craftsmen have revived the art of wooden flute making.
Some flutes are even made of PVC ; these are especially popular with new learners and as travelling instruments, being both less expensive than wooden instruments and far more resistant to changes in humidity. The tin whistle or metal whistle, which with its nearly identical fingering might be called a cousin of the simple-system flute, is also popular. It was mass-produced in 19th century Manchester England, as an inexpensive instrument.
Clarke whistles almost identical to the first ones made by that company are still available, although the original version, pitched in C, has mostly been replaced for traditional music by that pitched in D, the "basic key" of traditional music. The other common design consists of a barrel made of seamless tubing fitted into a plastic or wooden mouthpiece.
Skilled craftsmen make fine custom whistles from a range of materials including not only aluminium, brass, and steel tubing but synthetic materials and tropical hardwoods; despite this, more than a few longtime professionals stick with ordinary factory made whistles. Irish schoolchildren are generally taught the rudiments of playing on the tin whistle, just as school children in many other countries are taught the soprano recorder.
The low whistle , a derivative of the common tin whistle, is also popular, although some musicians find it less agile for session playing than the flute or the ordinary D whistle. Uilleann pipes pronounced ill-in or ill-yun depending upon local dialect are a complex instrument.
Tradition holds that seven years learning, seven years practising and seven years playing is required before a piper could be said to have mastered his instrument. Many Pavee Traveller families, such as the Fureys and Dorans and Keenans, are famous for the pipers among them. Famous was also the McPeake Family, who toured Europe. Uilleann pipes are among the most complex forms of bagpipes ; they possess a chanter with a double reed and a two-octave range, three single-reed drones, and, in the complete version known as a full set, a trio of regulators all with double reeds and keys worked by the piper's forearm, capable of providing harmonic support for the melody.
Virtually all uilleann pipers begin playing with a half set, lacking the regulators and consisting of only bellows, bag, chanter, and drones. Some choose never to play the full set, and many make little use of the regulators. The bag is filled with air by a bellows held between the piper's elbow and side, rather than by the performer's lungs as in the highland pipes and almost all other forms of bagpipe, aside from the Scottish smallpipes , Pastoral pipes which also plays with regulators , the Northumbrian pipes of northern England, and the Border pipes found in both parts of the Anglo-Scottish Border country.
The harp is among the chief symbols of Ireland. The Celtic harp, seen on Irish coinage and used in Guinness advertising, was played as long ago as the 10th century. In ancient times, the harpers were greatly respected and, along with poets and scribes, assigned a high place amongst the most significant retainers of the old Gaelic order of lords and chieftains. The native Irish harping tradition was an aristocratic art music with its own canon and rules for arrangement and compositional structure, only tangentially associated with the folkloric music of the common people, the ancestor of present-day Irish traditional music.
Some of the late exponents of the harping tradition, such as O'Carolan, were influenced by the Italian Baroque art music of such composers as Vivaldi, which could be heard in the theatres and concert halls of Dublin. The harping tradition did not long outlast the native Gaelic aristocracy which supported it. By the early 19th century, the Irish harp and its music were for all intents and purposes dead.
Tunes from the harping tradition survived only as unharmonised melodies which had been picked up by the folkloric tradition, or were preserved as notated in collections such as Edward Bunting 's, he attended the Belfast Harp Festival in in which the tunes were most often modified to make them fit for the drawing room pianofortes of the Anglicised middle and upper classes.
The first generations of 20th century revivalists, mostly playing the gut-strung frequently replaced with nylon after the Second World War neo-Celtic harp with the pads of their fingers rather than the old brass-strung harp plucked with long fingernails, tended to take the dance tunes and song airs of Irish traditional music, along with such old harp tunes as they could find, and applied to them techniques derived from the orchestral pedal harp and an approach to rhythm, arrangement, and tempo that often had more in common with mainstream classical music than with either the old harping tradition or the living tradition of Irish music.
A separate Belfast tradition of harp-accompanied folk-singing was preserved by the McPeake Family. Over the past thirty years a revival of the early Irish harp has been growing, with replicas of the medieval instruments being played, using strings of brass, silver, and even gold. This revival grew through the work of a number of musicians including Arnold Dolmetsch in s England, Alan Stivell in s Brittany, and most importantly Ann Heymann in the US from the s to the present. The best of these have a solid background in genuine Irish traditional music, often having strong competency on another instrument more common in the living tradition, such as the fiddle or concertina, and work very hard at adapting the harp to traditional music, as well as reconstructing what they can of the old harpers' music on the basis of the few manuscript sources which exist.
However, the harp continues to occupy a place on the fringe of Irish traditional music.
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The accordion plays a major part in modern Irish music. The accordion spread to Ireland late in the 19th century. In its ten-key form melodeon , it is claimed that it was popular across the island. While uncommon, the melodeon is still played in some parts of Ireland, in particular in Connemara by Johnny Connolly. Modern Irish accordion players generally prefer the 2 row button accordion. Unlike similar accordions used in other European and American music traditions, the rows are tuned a semi-tone apart. This allows the instrument to be played chromatically in melody.
Dublin native James Keane brought the instrument to New York where he maintained an influential recording and performing career from the s to the present.
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Their greater range, ease of changing key, more fluent action, along with their strong musette tuning blended seamlessly with the other instruments and were highly valued during this period. The latest revival of traditional music from the late s also revived the interest in this versatile instrument. Like the button key accordion, a new playing style has emerged with a dry tuning , lighter style of playing and a more rhythmically varied bass. Concertinas are manufactured in several types, the most common in Irish traditional music being the Anglo system with a few musicians now playing the English system.
Each differs from the other in construction and playing technique. The most distinctive characteristic of the Anglo system is that each button sounds a different note, depending on whether the bellows are compressed or expanded. Anglo concertinas typically have either two or three rows of buttons that sound notes, plus an "air button" located near the right thumb that allows the player to fill or empty the bellows without sounding a note. Two-row Anglo concertinas usually have 20 buttons that sound notes. Each row of 10 buttons comprises notes within a common key.