Learn to Play Irish Music like a Genuine Clover

With St. Patty’s Day on our doorsteps, it’s time to take a moment to pay tribute to beautiful, wild Irish music – from those rowdy Irish drinking songs to the sobbing ballads, from the romantic sagas to the traditional jigs, and even the modern Celtic New Age rock music.

Let’s begin by getting you in the mood: here is a beautiful piece that will simply take your breath away and prepare you for the Feast of St. Patrick.

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Love the rhythm, flavor, and charm of Irish music? Read on for tips on how to turn your music lessons into a lesson on Irish culture. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t decided which instrument to play; these rules can be applied across the board.

Tip #1: Learn to Play Music by Ear

This is a somewhat contrary to what many people trying to learn piano have been taught. But there’s just something about Irish music that goes beyond traditional piano sight reading. You see, these pieces have soul woven into their beat, every note is another emotion and can carry from the highest high to the lowest low in a matter of a few beats. To master music like this, one must truly listen and hear the spirit within the music and play by ear.

Tip #2: Feel the Rhythm, Play the Music

Like we said, you need to hear the music to play the piece, and there’s a simple reason for this: most Irish music is too complicated to catch each and every note, nuance, rhythm, beat, tempo, etc. of the song through basic notation. What happens is that the person attempting to learn piano gets caught up in following what’s written on the page, missing out on the soul of the music, and never fully appreciating the piece in its entirety.

Instead of simply reading off of the page, you must feel the rhythm of the song as you are playing it, and internalize it and mimic it to create the full Irish music experience.

Remember, the only way to really get that authentic Irish flavor is to truly capture the rhythm of the song.

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Tip #3: Closed & Opened Piping

Piano is just one of the instruments you can play to experience those Irish vibes. But for a truly Irish experience, you can try playing the traditional Irish uilleann pipe. The same thing applies here about mixing your sight reading skills with feeling and internalizing the Irish music spirit, but with the uilleann pipe, you have the added challenge of learning the cadence of when to open and close your fingers on the pipe. The flow and dexterity with which you do this motion will determine how well you play a song.

Tip #4: Play It, Don’t Spray It

Still not sure which instrument to play? Let’s move along to the flute – another musical instrument you can play those Irish tunes with.

One of the biggest problems people have when they play the flute is using too much tongue. This instrument is delicate and light, so adding all that saliva to the mix will certainly dampen the sounds you are trying to produce. Practice breathing properly so your notes come out clear and strong.

Let’s Start Playing, Irish-Style

Like we said, which instrument you choose to play is less important than maintaining the traditional rhythm and energy of the song. Here are a few all-time favorite Irish songs that you are going to want to try this year:

    • Whiskey in the Jar is a popular war song with a great beat. It’s frequently played in the key of C, making it rather easy to learn even for a beginner piano player.
    • Will You Go Lassie Go, aka Wild Mountain Thyme, is a magical love song that will bring you to tears if you can tap into the music. There’ve been at least 40 cover versions of this song, and there are plenty of tutorials to teach you how to play it, so give it a whirl.
    • The Ferryman is a Dublin City Rambler’s classic ballad about a simpler time. It’s lively and fun, and you can enjoy the challenge of this piece.

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What song will you learn today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day?