The Epic Folk Music of the British Isles

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The folk music of the British Isles has a long and storied history. Join us as we explore the music, the instruments, and the people who make this music so special.

Celtic Music

Celtic music is the traditional music of the Celtic people. It is a genre of folk music that originated in the Celtic countries of Europe. The music is characterised by its use of traditional instruments and its focus on storytelling. Celtic music has been influenced by many other genres of music, including rock and roll, folk, and classical.

The Celtic harp

The Celtic harp, also known as the Folk harp or lever harp, is a type of small, portable harp with levers that can be used to change the pitch of individual strings. The earliest evidence of the Celtic harp dates back to ancient Ireland, where it was known as the cláirseach. The Celtic harp has a distinctively bright, ringing sound that is perfect for folk music.

The levers on a Celtic harp are used to raise or lower the pitch of individual strings. This allows for a wider range of notes than a traditional folk harp, which has a set tuning. The levers also make it possible to play in multiple keys without retuning the instrument.

Celtic music often features solo performers playing beautiful melodies on the Celtic harp. The instrument is also commonly used in ensembles, providing a backdrop of sparkling arpeggios and chordal progressions.

The Celtic flute

The Celtic flute is a type of flute native to the Celtic nations. It is typically played solo or in small groups. The music played on the Celtic flute is often fast-paced and lively.

The Celtic flute is a wooden flute with six holes, similar to the Native American flute. The instrument is often tuned to a minor key, which gives it a mournful, melancholy sound. The sound of the Celtic flute has been described as “haunting” and “evocative.”

The history of the Celtic flute is unclear. Some historians believe that the instrument was introduced to the Celts by Roman soldiers, while others believe that it was developed independently by the Celts. The first written record of the Celtic flute dates back to the 14th century, when it was mentioned in a Scottish poem.

Today, the Celtic flute is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to its use in television and film scores (such as Battlestar Galactica and Outlander). The instrument is also popular among folk musicians and new age performers.

The Celtic bagpipe

Celtic music is the folk music of the Celtic people, who are spread across Europe, the British Isles, and Brittany. It is characterized by its unique instrumentation and its use of different modes. Celtic music has been influenced by many other genres, including rock and roll, country, and classical music.

The Celtic bagpipe is a wind instrument that is played with two bags, one for the player to blow into and one for the player to squeeze. The player blows into the first bag, which fills the second bag with air. The player then squeezes the second bag, which forces air through the pipes.

The Celtic harp is another popular instrument in Celtic music. It is a stringed instrument that is played with the fingers. The harp has a long history in Celtic cultures, and it is often seen as a symbol of Ireland.

The fiddle is also a popular instrument in Celtic music. It is a stringed instrument that is played with a bow. The fiddle has a distinctive sound that is often associated with Irish and Scottish music.

Celtic music often makes use of mode, which gives the music its distinctive sound. Mode refers to the arrangement of tones in a scale. There are two main types of mode: major and minor. Major modes have a bright sound, while minor modes have a more melancholy sound. Many Celtic tunes make use of modal interchange, which means that they switch back and forth between major and minor modes. This gives Celtic music its unique sound.

English Music

English music is a rich tapestry of sounds and styles, drawing on influences from all over the world. The folk music of the British Isles is a particularly rich and diverse tradition, with roots in Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman cultures. In this article, we’ll explore the epic folk music of the British Isles, from the medieval ballads of the troubadours to the modern songs of the heard on the streets of London.

The English lute

The English lute, also called the bandora or pandore, was a stringed musical instrument of the Renaissance era. It was quite popular among the upper class in England during the 16th and 17th centuries. The English lute was similar to the modern-day guitar, except it had a pear-shaped body and usually had eight to 10 strings. Lutes were played with picks or by plucking the strings with the fingers.

The English guitar

The English guitar is a type of guitar that was developed in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is similar to the Spanish guitar, but has a number of distinguishing features, most notably its six or seven (occasionally eight) strings and its lack of frets. The English guitar was used extensively by the English Romantic poets, such as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was also popular with the upper classes in England during the Regency period.

The English guitar is typically played with the fingers rather than with a pick, and itsstrings are plucked with the thumb and first two fingers. The first finger is placed behind the second fret, while the other fingers are positioned behind the third, fourth, and fifth frets. This allows for a wide range of chords to be played on the instrument. The English guitar is usually tuned to an open tuning, such as C-G-C-G-C-E or D-A-D-F#-B-D.

The English violin

The English violin is a type of fiddle that was developed in England in the late 17th century. It is distinct from the Continental violin in several ways, most notably in its use of gut strings and a different tuning.

The English violin became popular in the folk music scene of the 1960s, when many traditional musicians began to explore various types of world music. In recent years, it has also been used in a number of other genres, including pop, rock, and even jazz.

If you’re interested in exploring this unique type of violin, we’ve put together a helpful guide to get you started. Keep reading to learn more about the history of the English violin and how it’s used today.

Scottish Music

Folk music of the British Isles has been around for centuries, and has been a significant part of the region’s culture. Scottish music is particularly well-known and loved worldwide, and has had a significant influence on other genres of music. Let’s explore the history and evolution of Scottish music.

The Scottish fiddle

The Scottish fiddle is a centuries-old folk instrument that is closely associated with the country’s traditional music. Often used in lively dances such as reels and jigs, the fiddle has a distinctive sound that is instantly recognizable.

Fiddles are found all over the British Isles, but the Scottish variety has its own unique features. The most notable difference is the use of a softer, sweeter tone, which is achieved by using a slightly different tuning than other types of fiddles. This gives Scottish fiddle music a softer, more lyrical sound.

Scottish fiddle music often features complexOrnaments and embellishments. These are added to create a more interesting sound and to add variety to the melody. Many of these Ornaments are unique to Scottish fiddle music, and they can be very challenging to play.

If you’re interested in learning to play the Scottish fiddle, there are many resources available online and in print. There are also several excellent teachers who offer online lessons or Skype lessons for students who live far from Scotland.

The Scottish bagpipe

The Scottish bagpipe is a type of musical instrument that is native to the country of Scotland. It is one of the most recognizable musical instruments in the world, thanks to its unique appearance and sound. The Scottish bagpipe is played by blowing into a set of pipes, which are connected to a bag filled with air. The player uses their fingers and thumbs to control the amount of air that flows into the pipes, which produces different notes.

The Scottish bagpipe has a long history, with evidence suggesting that it was first used in ancient times. It was likely introduced to Scotland by Roman soldiers who were stationed in the country. Over time, the Scottish bagpipe became an important part of Scottish culture, and it is now considered to be a symbol of the country.

There are many different types of Scottish bagpipes, each with its own unique sound. The most commonly used type is the Great Highland Bagpipe, which is often used in traditional Scottish music. Other popular types include the Lowland Bagpipe and the Border Bagpipe.

The Scottish bagpipe is a versatile instrument that can be used for a variety of purposes. It is commonly used in traditional Scottish music, but it can also be used for other genres such as jazz and rock. Regardless of how it is used, the Scottish bagpipe always provides a unique and memorable experience.

The Scottish Highland bagpipe

The Highland bagpipe is a type of bagpipe native to the Scottish Highlands. It is perhaps the best-known form of bagpipe globally. The Highland bagpipe is used for both traditional and classical music. It has bellows-driven reeds and a chanter with a double reed.

There are two types of Highland bagpipes: the Great Highland Bagpipe and the Small Highland Bagpipe. The Great Highland Bagpipe is the most commonly known form of the instrument, and has been used for centuries by Scottish highland clans. TheSmall Highland Bagpipe is less commonly known, but is gaining in popularity. It is similar in many ways to the Great Highland Bagpipe, but has a smaller chanter and fewer drones.

The Highland bagpipe has a long history, dating back to at least the 15th century. It is thought to have originated in France or Germany, and was brought to Scotland by Scottish mercenaries who fought in Continental wars. The instrument quickly became popular in Scotland, and was adopted as the national musical instrument by King James VI (ruled 1603-1625).

Today, the Highland bagpipe is most commonly associated with Scottish culture, but it is also played in other parts of the world, including Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and North America.

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