Instruments

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Traditional Irish Musical Instruments

Historically, the primary instrument of any culture would tend to be the voice, closely followed by the advent of percussive accompaniment. Irish musical heritage chose a slightly deviant evolutionary path, however, unaccompanied vocalisation remaining an extensive part of the modern tradition in the guise of ‘Sean-Nos’ (ie ‘Old-Style’) singing, and our indigenous drum being all but excluded from the annals of musical history until relatively recently.

Here are some of the other instruments with which you are likely to come into contact on an Irish musical odyssey.

The Banjo

The Banjo

Originally an African instrument brought to America during the slave trade. The banjo is the four-string variety (as opposed to five strings in the southern USA and ballads) and is tuned to G,D,A and E like the fiddle, except it is an octave lower. It was a controversial instrument in traditional circles for many years as it was considered to be an intruder to the tradition. 

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The Button Accordian 

The Button Accordian 

The Chinese Cheng, which was introduced to Europe in 1777, is generally credited with being the musical instrument that initiated the ideas that were used to develop the accordion. 

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The Irish Uilleann Pipe

The Irish Uilleann Pipe

The Irish Uilleann Pipe is probably the most elaborate bagpipe in the world. It was developed from roughly the 1700’s to the present time in Ireland, with contributions from the U.S. and European countries. 

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The Bodhran 

The Bodhran 

The Bodhran is a drum, consisting of a shallow circular frame with a goatskin tacked around the side. The skin is often buried in cow manure in order to cure it for this purpose. It is played in an upright position with a stick in a manner, which differentiates it from other ethnic drums. 

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The Harp

The Harp

The traditional symbol of Ireland and an instrument that is gaining in popularity with the huge trend that is the Celtic revival globally. It is smaller than the concert harp and has one set of strings in comparison to the Welsh harp, which has three. Today’s harpists are modern and well-trained in the intricacies of counter-point and harmonies. 

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