Traditional Irish Music

Irish music sounds today as they would have seemed two hundred years ago. Celtic music is a diverse genre of folk music which has different regional variation. The Traditional Irish music was formally the most popular music in Ireland. The majority of traditional Irish music meant for dancing and a few great ballad traditions. Singing is a vast part of the classical Irish music. The sean-nos meaning old style is one of the best-known singing in Ireland. Sean nos refer to the method of a solo a capella ballad singing. Though the songs are usually not for dancing, they are an integral part of the Irish traditional music. It is when a person sings on his or her own without any music. Irish songs are usually known to tell different stories. There are songs about hardship, love, war, death among others. There are also the happy songs. Irish music can be in English or Irish. Some are even in Shelta or Cant. It is known as the language of the Irish traveler.


Some of the Irish music of the early times is for the harp. The music originates from the 16th century, but despite this, a lot of Irish music created in the last 300 years. Irish songs and music were usually not written down. Instead, they were taught to children to play the music by ear. Children typically learn the songs by heart and this method of learning is called the oral tradition. Edward Bunting was the first to write down harp music. It was during the Belfast Harpers Meeting in 1792. A couple of traditional Irish music originates from European music. For instance, the dance of the reel came from Scotland. Other European music also mixed with the classic Irish music style, for example, the waltzes and polkas.

Edward Bunting


There are small groups of the instrument is used in the conventional Irish music. Devices used in classical Irish music include bodhran, wooden flute, Uillean pipes, tin whistle, fiddle and most importantly the Irish harp. Also popular are the accordion or concertina, banjo, guitar, and bouzouki called a large mandolin. These instruments have become popular in Irish music over the past 100 years. The Irish harp is one of Ireland’s treasure. It is known as the O’Neill Harp or the Brian Boru harp. An expert believes that the harp is from the 15th century.


The styles of tunes usually found in Irish music include the double jig (6/8 time), a single jig (12/8time), reel (4/4 time), Hornpipe (4/4 time), polkas (2/4 time), slip jig (9/8 time) and occasionally waltzes or mazurkas (3/4 times). All of these two/ tune styles have their traditional dances.


Carolan was one of the best musicians of Ireland. He was born during the 17th century, and he is widely known as the last of the Irish bards. He spent most of his life traveling all around Ireland singing and also playing the harp. His songs are usually in Irish, but one of them is in English. Most of Carolan’s music was not written down while he was alive. They were collected during the 18th and 19th century, and they are still familiar to this day.