How To Play Irish Traditional Music

Start playing Irish traditional music now

The easiest way to begin is with a tin whistle. All you need is 6 fingers and a tin whistle. A lot of musicians start out playing tin whistle and some choose to explore other instruments such as flute, fiddle, uilleann pipes, button accordions, concertina, bodhrán, banjo, mandolin, guitar, or bouzouki. The tin whistle is small, portable, and it a good foundation for those who want to start learning Irish music.

We recommend that you begin with a tin whistle in the key of D. This is the ‘D’ above middle C on the piano. You will find other keys available and are divided into high and low whistles. The low whistles are in lower octaves. If you are a complete beginner you will find it easier to start with a high D whistle rather than a Low D whistle.

If you are learning without a teacher, Geraldine Cotter’s tutorial comes highly recommended. She is from County Clare, Ireland, and plays tin whistle and piano, and is the sister of flute-player Eamonn Cotter who also makes finely crafted Irish wooden flutes. In addition to that, there is also the Online Academy of Irish Music (OAIM), where you can subscribe to video lessons. They provide you with staff notation as well as mp3 files that you can download and listen to later. Its just like Irish food. You’ll love it!

The Feadóg original Irish whistle has been and continues to be manufactured in Ireland since 1978 and is now sold in more than 20 countries worldwide. The Feadóg Irish Tin Whistle is the ideal Irish gift for people of all ages! You may even want to come to Ireland and study there! Check out also this post about the Deleware Valley Irish Hall of Fame.
Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor – Geraldine Cotter (available at Amazon.Com)

This is a complete method for Irish Tin whistle with a detailed appendix of one hundred choice Irish Airs and Dance Tunes. Varying from simple tunes and polkas, and progressing to more complex pieces. Outstanding and renowned teacher Geraldine Cotter guides students through all forms of traditional Irish music with step-by-step examples, exercises, and diagrams. Beautiful are also the traditional Irish school uniforms that are displayed.

This all-encompassing book is beautifully presented and contains prints, photographs, and clearly legible notation. The generous section of repertoire pieces includes The Jolly Banger, Lucky In Love, Limerick you’re a Lady, and The Galway Rambler. The accompanying demonstration CD features all one hundred tunes from the final section of the book.

Irish Organizations in Philadelphia

Music and Dance Organizations

Circle of Friends
Meet friends old and new while enjoying set and ceili dancing to music provided by John Shields. Hosted by John Shields and Cass Tinney. Admission $10 during the summer months on 4th Friday’s, $5 every Wednesday start in the fall. Many came from the Limerick area in Ireland. To read more about why visiting Limerick is such a great idea, check out this post.

The Cummins School of Dance
The school teaches Irish dancing to children at the Irish Center. They practice on Wednesday evenings. See their website for more information on the lessons provided.

The Philadelphia Ceili Group
The Ceili sponsors regular music and dance events on the last Friday of every month and much more–including its annual festival every September. To learn all about how to speak Irish properly, go to this post.

The Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band
The award-winning band holds practice every Wednesday evening from 7:30 p.m. in the Commodore Barry Ballroom. Information is available on their website.


Derry Society of Philadelphia 
A social society for those living in the Delaware Valley from Derry, and with Derry roots. Meetings held every other month at the Irish Center. Here you can find some favorite Irish recipes for Irish Americans.

The Donegal Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1888, described as a “Beneficial, Social, Charitable and Patriotic Association.”

The Galway Association of Philadelphia 
On a Sunday afternoon in March 1909, a group of eleven immigrants met in Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia to form an Irish society. The purpose according to record, “To cultivate more intimately the generous impulses of the human heart and bring into closer communion the men who have memories to refresh, purposes to declare and objects to accomplish.” This was the beginning of The Galway Society of Philadelphia.

Mayo Association of Philadelphia
An association set up by and for descendants of County Mayo, Ireland. Founded in 1905.