Music has been in Ireland for thousands of years. The first inhabitants of the island used very primitive forms of musical instruments, mostly pipes and horns. Rather than being used to make melodies or as a form of art, instead they were most likely used as signallers, to warn others of danger or to summon people from an area for whatever reason. Over time as these people became more skilled, the instruments became more complex.
(pronounced bow-rawn): The bodhrán is a simple handheld drum, used as a percussion instrument. It usually measures around 35 – 45cm in diameter with goatskin stretched across to make up the drumming surface. The interior will sometimes have a wooden cross bar for the musician to hold onto. Their other hand will hold a tipper, a short wooden stick used to beat the bodhrán in a fluid, shaking sort of motion. The bodhrán is always played vertically, resting on the musician’s knee. They will place their ‘free’ hand on various parts of the interior of the drum to control the pitch and timbre.
The fiddle is now the primary instrument of most traditional Irish music. Despite the name, there is no difference between a fiddle and a violin (except the name of course); the difference comes with the type of music each instrument plays.
A tin whistle is another simple instrument that requires a surprising amount of skill to master. It’s very similar to a recorder, although more slender.
Again, this is much the same as the more well known Scottish bagpipes, although in fact there are several forms of the instrument. Uilleann pipes are much quieter than their Scottish cousins, with a range of two octaves. They usually have keys, drones and regulators along with a few extra pipes to play chords.
Although not strictly Irish in origin – it was developed in both England and Germany, not Ireland – the concertina makes a regular appearance in traditional Irish music these days.
Last but not least is Ireland’s national instrument, the harp. It appears on their coins, all government documentation, and just about any other official symbol in the country. There are many different types of harp that vary in size, shape, sound, and virtually everything else. However, they all have multiple strings with a neck and resonator. Depending on the size, a harp can be played while held in the hand, or standing on top of a table or the floor. It is always played vertically and has a beautiful, fairytale like sound.
Watch people from around the world playing Traditional Irish Music. Which instruments can you recognise now that you have learned more about them?
Ten Pieces: Anna Meredith
Watch Anna Meredith recording a piece of music in a recording studio:
Assembly theme: Comic relief
Here are a couple of songs from last Year’s Comic relief Big Night In:
(Remake) Symphony - Clean Bandit, Zara Larsson, Emeli Sande & more stars!
Matt Lucas - Baked Potato Song featuring BBC Concert Orchestra
What instruments can you spot?
This term’s School Value: Courage
At 16 years old, Alexey Romanov has become a celebrated pianist across Russia. Born with no fingers, his growing love for classical music motivated him to start learning piano. In two years of diligent practice, Romanov improved his skills and has caught the attention of his country and beyond.
This extraordinary young man found the courage to persevere and learn to play, and then to overcome his nerves to play to perform in front of an audience.
This term’s School Value: Love
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Love your neighbour