I'm collecting information on the instruments and playing styles
of traditional Scottish and Irish music. (Some of these pages can also be
found in other subject groupings.) This is not intended to be a complete listing of
all instruments in current use. For that, try
I'm just including interesting (to me), unusual or hard-to-find information that I run across.
Buíochas do Caoimhín Mac Aoidh as ucht an ailt speisúil
a thug sé domh. Thanks to Caoimhín Mac Aoidh for the very
interesting article he contributed.
You may have heard people use the term "Irish flute". Does
such an instrument actually exist? And if so, what is it? The answer to
this question takes us on a fascinating journey
through little-known areas of music history and acoustics. (Also check
out the history of flute vibrato on the vibrato
Well, actually there's a whole page available
on this topic alone. Most of what isn't included here is involved with
justifying the place of the lute as a folk instrument in Scotland, in addition
to its accepted role as a court instrument.
You can find more information on similar subjects at my Celtic
links page. My music links page contains
links to pages about instruments that are not particularly associated with
I have been asked from time to time why I don't have information about bagpipes
or other instruments. The reason is that I may not have anything to add to what is
found at Ceolas. However, I'll
start a small list of links to interesting sites here:
History of the Bodhrandespite claims of an ancient pedigree, the bodhran was only introduced into Irish music in the middle of the last century.
The whistle (feadóg) is one of the oldest instruments used in Irish music.
However, until fairly recently it was considered to be a toy
rather than a real instrument. It was something that children played until
they were ready to start the pipes or the flute. It is quite common in older
references to see statements along the lines of "the writer, like most small
boys, made many such instruments with his pocketknife in years gone by".
I would speculate that it was the Chieftains who are responsible for the
whistle becoming considered a serious instrument. The Chiff and Fipple
website is a collection of all sorts of whistle information.
A collection of whistle sound samples is available at
Sounds of the Irish Tinwhistle.
Whistles are sometimes called "tinwhistles" because during the 19th century
they were commonly made out of tin. Before that, wood or bone was used.
The first person to manufacture whistle out of tin was a Mr. Robert Clarke in 1843.
His company is still in business today.
Another name is the "pennywhistle". This is not because this was the original
price charged by Mr. Clarke (they were cheap, but not that cheap!). It is because
people used to play on the street and passers-by would throw pennies into
your hat which you placed at your feet.
According to the Clarke website, Mr. Clarke sold many whistles to Irish labourers
who worked on the canals and railways.
Finally, there's a new instrument on the block: the uilleann whistle.
It's a whistle with a drone attachment. You blow it through a tube. It's actually misnamed since
uilleann is the Irish word for elbow. I guess it's intended for people who want to
play pipes eventually. The fingerings are pipe fingerings which are not the same as
whistle fingerings. You could get the same sound by putting two whistles in your mouth.
For example, a Eb whistle with all the holes open would give you a D drone. Or you
can tape over the holes in the drone whistle to get different pitches. Whenever I
do this, my wife asks me to stop.
Martin Wynne, the celebrated County Sligo fiddler and composer of traditional dance tunes.
Check out the links page for additional references.
Go to the Standing Stones Site Map
(listing of the entire contents of this website)
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