Irish Instruments – Which Traditional Irish Instrument is the One for You?
Do you want to start playing a traditional Irish instrument, but don’t know what instrument to choose? In this handy guide, I’ll cover the pros and cons of the most popular traditional Irish instruments, based on a beginner’s perspective.
Pros: Guitars are easy to find and you can purchase a good quality guitar for a relatively cheap price. Guitar classes are available in most areas which will help players improve their skills.
The guitar plays a rhythm-based role within Irish music sessions, so this instrument is perfect for people who don’t want to be the centre of attention. As the guitar is so versatile and playing skills can be adapted to other genres of music, it opens up a lot of playing opportunities.
Cons: Sometimes when playing in trad sessions guitarists may find themselves confined to a backing role (though some players may see this as a pro!). While guitarists can play melodies, the guitar is not typically played this way at sessions.
Banjo and Mandolin
Pros: The banjo has become an increasingly popular Irish instrument. It’s widely available and is great for playing within sessions. It’s also perfect for those who prefer to play solo however.
The mandolin is similar to the banjo as they are both tuned and structured the same way. The same skills are used to play both the banjo and mandolin which means a player will find it easy to play both instruments.
Cons: As the banjo and mandolin are melody-based instruments, the player will have to play the main notes of a tune. The player will need to be able to keep up with the speed of other players within the session, so speed is essential, which some players may find intimidating. The mandolin is slightly smaller then the banjo, it produces a brighter sound however produces a quieter sound which some players may find unappealing.
Pros: One of the main advantages of the tin whistle is that it can be purchased very cheaply. The tin whistle is simple in form. It consists of 6 holes on a basic flute shape. Whistles are available in different keys however the most common are D key whistles.
Cons: The whistle produces its notes by players covering the holes accurately. This may sound very simple however in order to produce the perfect notes the player must be able to play with high speed and accuracy. A lot of practice will be needed to achieve playing perfection!
Pros: The fiddle is the same as the violin and is relatively easy to acquire. The main difference between a fiddle and violin is the playing styles are completely different. The fiddle is played at a very fast pace and is very expressive. The fiddle also allows players a lot of room for their own interpretation which musicians love.
Cons: The fiddle can be difficult to learn and takes a lot of time to master, however players can become sensational, it may just take some time to get there!
Pros: The bodhrán is a very impressive rhythm instrument. It is a very popular traditional Irish instrument and is a great way to impress and energise a crowd!
Cons: Bodhrán aren’t very easy to find, especially outside of Ireland. Although bodhráns are played within Irish music sessions they aren’t an essential part of every session.
Pros: The concertina isn’t as expensive to purchase in comparison to other traditional instruments, however you will be likely to pay a few hundred for a beginner model. The concertina is in most cases played with single clear notes rather than the chorus. This concertina is a very versatile melodic instrument.
Cons: As concertinas are very popular throughout Europe, it can be difficult to find an Anglo-Concertina in the keys of C/G – this is the most popular beginner concertina. As there’s so much info available about concertinas its best to do research before purchasing which can be time consuming.
Pros: As good quality uileann pipers are rare to find, a good player is highly valued. This instrument produces a distant sound. The pipes are deemed one of the most traditional Irish instruments and hold a high heritage value.
Cons: The pipes can be difficult to find and can be expensive. When starting to play the pipes, players will typically purchase a beginner set however this set will need to be upgraded to a half or full set at some stage and this can be costly.
It’s very important that you choose an instrument that you will enjoy playing, as if you don’t enjoy the instrument you will be less likely to practice and play.
If one of these brilliant Irish instruments has caught your fancy, the good is we stock a variety of each in our online store. Why not have a browse and see if anything catches your eye? Our expert team is always on hand to offer advice.
We hope this post helped in making your decision.