Irish folk music, much like the Irish song tradition, has been
passed on by listening and copying. There are many Irish musicians who do not
read music. They learn the tunes by listening to them being played.
Listen here to Under Twelve All Ireland Champions at duet 2012 Rosa Carroll and Lily O'Connor perform at a pub session and get a feel for how immersed these young players are with the music already, at their tender age.
Rosa and Lily play the County Clare style of music. Many of
the subtleties in the way the music is played, such as local styles, are
actually difficult or even impossible to record in a written format. You
cannot learn this music from a book, really, it would end up being a stilted,
clinical version of the tunes, nothing like the real thing.
Irish Folk Music session in the streets of Derry during Derry Feadh 2013
How does a spontaneous session like that come together?
Everybody had brought their instruments along in the car, then a couple of kids
found this quiet spot on the steps of the local Courthouse, and they got going.
The session went on for a good three quarters of an hour.
Practice time for the kids, and enjoyment for passersby. That's how they
learn to play!
“There is only one way of becoming a traditional player
or singer, and that is by listening to genuine material performed in a
Breandan Breathnach in Folk Music and Dances of Ireland.
So, if you are planning on playing Irish music in
your local Irish pub, plan in a visit to Ireland to learn how the music
is really played here, on location.
The best known Irish music event is the Willi Clancy
summer school in Miltown Malbay in County Clare. It happens for one week
every July. There are classes, recitals and pub sessions, and the village is
packed with lovers of Irish music for the entire week.
Another event not to be missed is the Fleadh Cheoil Na
hEireann ('The All Ireland Music Festival') which happens once a year, in a
different town every year. It is a celebration of Irish music, dance and
tradition with All-Ireland competitions for many different
As well as these, there are many other smaller festivals
of traditional music all across the country. July to September is festival
season, and you will be spoilt for choice.
Outside of festival participation and competitions, Irish kids learn to play Irish folk music by simply playing at every opportunity, with their friends and schoolmates, with family.
However, don’t limit your choice to the best known Irish traditional music bands, such as The Chieftains, De Dannan, Planxty, or The Bothy Band. Instead, go for a broad library of both better and lesser known Irish folk music to improve your understanding of local styles, which vary a lot along the West Coast in particular.
Hey there, hope you liked this article about learning to play Irish folk music!
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