Frequently Asked Question:

What Are the Instruments Named Here?

The following uniform terms are used throughout to describe the following instruments used in Irish traditional music. For more about traditional Irish instruments, I recommend consulting the The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (see the Bibliography).

InstrumentBrief Remarks
pipesUilleann pipes. The native Irish bellows-blown bagpipes. Pronounced "ILL-in." Also spelled "uillean pipes." Visit Na Píobairí Uilleann for more information.
whistleTin whistle (known as "penny whistle" in English music). Visit Chiff and Fipple for more information.
fluteTransverse flute. I do not differentiate here between wooden flutes and silver flutes. The former are by far the most common.
fiddleThere is no difference between fiddle and violin other than what music you play on it.
accordion / melodeon This term, also spelled "accordeon," and synonomous with "box," covers all button accordions, regardless of tuning patterns or number of rows, except for single-row button accordions, which are traditionally called a "melodeon" in Irish music. I do use the specific term "piano accordion" in the few cases where that instrument is used.
concertinaVisit for more information.
banjoIn Irish music this almost exclusively means the four-string tenor banjo played with a single pick.
bodhránThe Irish frame drum. Also spelled "bodhran." The preferred English-language pronunciation is "bo-RAWN." The Wikipedia Bodhrán article is a useful introduction.
bouzoukiAgain the Wikipedia Irish bouzouki article is a useful introduction.

Sometimes you will see a pitch specified for an instrument, such as "C# pipes," "Bb flute," etc. These are commonly used descriptions within the Irish traditional music community that indicate how many half-steps above or below standard tuning the instrument is tuned to. For example, an "Eb whistle" is tuned a half-step sharp, which means if you hear a tune played in G# Major, it's actually being played in G Major, just tuned a half-step sharp. This is particularly important for the mission of , since if you want to learn a tune from that source, you need to either use the same instrument or edit your copy of the recording to bring it up or down to match the tuning of your instrument.

If you play or would like to play Irish music, you might be interested in some Tips for Learning Irish Traditional Music.