Irish music has many elements that fascinate people from around the world. Its tunes are lively and inspiring, its songs are full of emotion and fun. The study of Irish music is one that could take a lifetime and still not be complete.
Irish Dance Tunes
There are three basic types of Irish dance tunes, along with several other less-common varieties. Perhaps the most famous is the jig, such as the proverbial "Irish Washerwoman." This is a bouncy style in a 6/8 time signature. The reel is a fast-paced, four-beat tune with a driving beat. Hornpipes are slightly slower than reels and often have a swinging rhythm to them. Other types include polkas, mazurkas, and slip jigs.
While the dance tunes are perhaps more well-known, the songs of Ireland are also distinctive and beautiful. The old style of singing, sean-nos, is often performed without accompaniment and utilizes a good bit of rhythmic and melodic improvisation on the singer's part. These songs are often full of pathos. From later dates, there are many humorous, jovial, and revolutionary Irish songs
Instruments Used in Irish Music
The fiddle is one of the most commonly used instruments in Irish music. Other traditional ones include the bodhran (a goat-skin drum), the tin whistle, the wooden flute, and the concertina. Other instruments used in this style today are the guitar, the banjo, and the piano.
Irish Music History
Irish music has been a defined style from well before 1700. The famous blind harper Turlough O'Carolan was born in 1670. The music has evolved slowly and fitfully, influenced by various events such as the English possession, the Irish potato famine, and the Industrial Revolution.
Irish Music Today
Irish music today is often a blend of traditional styles, modern rock and pop, and some country and bluegrass. Several bands, such as U2, have cultivated this edgy Irish style, while others, such as the Chieftains, have remained more traditional.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Todd Ehlers