Irish Folk Music: A Torrent of Tradition

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover Irish folk music and its history, from its roots in the country’s oral tradition to its modern incarnations.

Irish Folk Music Defined

Folk music, in the strictest sense of the word, is music by and for the common people. It is passed down orally from generation to generation and is not written or published for sale. In Ireland, folk music has been defined as “the music of the people as distinct from that of the professionals or trained musicians”.

This definition, while helpful in some ways, is not without its problems. It implies that there is a clear dividing line between “folk” and “non-folk” music which is simply not the case. Many professional musicians have their roots in the folk tradition and many traditional songs have been commercialized and rewritten by professional songwriters.

It also gives the impression that all traditional Irish music is hundreds of years old when in fact much of it is only a few generations old. Many of the most popular traditional songs were written in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The definition also fails to take into account the fact that there are many different types of folk music within Ireland itself. There is no single “Irish folk music” style but rather a variety of regional styles United Irish Music Defined stemming from different influences and traditions.

The Origins of Irish Folk Music

Irish folk music has its origins in the traditional music of Ireland. This music was passed down from generation to generation, and was eventually written down and recorded. Irish folk music includes both vocal and instrumental pieces. It is often accompanied by dancing, and it makes use of a wide variety of instruments, including the Irish flute, the tin whistle, the uilleann pipes, the bodhran (a type of drum), and the accordion.

The Instruments of Irish Folk Music

Traditional Irish music is played on a variety of instruments. The most common are the fiddle, tin whistle, accordion, concertina, Celtic harp, and bodhran.

The fiddle is by far the most popular instrument in Irish folk music. It is a stringed instrument that is played with a bow. The tin whistle is a type of flute that is commonly used in Irish folk music. It is a simple instrument that is easy to learn how to play. The accordion is a type of squeezebox that is often used in Irish folk music. It adds a lot of energy to the music and creates a lively sound. The concertina is similar to the accordion but it has buttons instead of keys. Celtic harps are large stringed instruments that are played with the hands. They have a very soothing sound and are often used for slow, beautiful songs. The bodhran is a type of drum that is commonly used in Irish folk music. It has a very distinctive sound and can be used to add rhythm to the music.

The Characteristics of Irish Folk Music

Irish folk music is the music of the people of Ireland. It has many different styles and genres, ranging from the traditional ballads of the Gaelic speaking countryside to the contemporary folk rock and punk of bands such as The Pogues and The Cranberries.

There are four main characteristics of Irish folk music: it is vocal, it is communal, it is played on traditional instruments and it is highly influential.

Irish folk music is predominately vocal. This means that there are more songs than instrumental pieces. The lyrical content of Irish folk songs often deal with topics such as emigration, politics, love and loss. In addition, many of the songs are humorous or deal with light-hearted subject matter.

Irish folk music is meant to be performed for an audience rather than listened to passively. In other words, it is designed to be interactive. This interactivity takes many different forms including call and response singing, clapping and dancing.

The instruments used in Irish folk music are often quite simple such as the fiddle, tin whistle, flute, button accordion and bodhrán (a type of drum). These instruments are often played solo or in small groups making Irish folk music quite intimate.

Lastly, Irish folk music is highly influential. It has helped to shape the sound of popular music genres such as country, rock and roll and blues. In addition, many famous musicians have been inspired by Irish folk music including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and U2.

The Popularity of Irish Folk Music

Irish folk music has become extremely popular in recent years, both in Ireland and abroad. This is largely due to the success of Riverdance, which has brought the traditional Irish sound to a whole new audience.

However, Irish folk music has been around for centuries, and it is steeped in history and tradition. The music is often passed down from generation to generation, and many of the most popular songs are hundreds of years old.

Irish folk music is usually very lively, with a strong beat that makes it perfect for dancing. It often features traditional instruments such as the fiddle, tin whistle, and accordion.

There are many different styles of Irish folk music, from the gentle ballads of the west coast to the energetic jigs and reels of the east. Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find something you enjoy in this rich and vibrant genre.

The Future of Irish Folk Music

Irish Folk Music: A Torrent of Tradition is a documentary that explores the past, present, and future of Irish folk music. Featuring interviews with some of the genre’s most respected artists, the film offers an inside look at the music’s rich history and its bright future.

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