Irish flute is one of the oldest and most influential instruments in Irish musical culture, boasting its distinctive sound which is often likened to that of a whistle.
Before beginning to play an instrument, it is crucial that you learn how to do so effectively and fortunately there are a few straightforward steps you can follow to accomplish this task.
Beginners new to Irish flute should begin by learning some tunes. There are excellent book-and-CD sets available that can assist with this endeavor, providing basic blowing techniques as well as transcriptions of traditional tunes for reference.
Irish music utilizes two main types of flute: the simple system flute and Boehm system Irish flute. Both use wooden construction with direct (keyless) fingering.
The Boehm system flute is more intricate than its simpler counterpart and less popular in traditional Irish music. Beginners may find it challenging to achieve good tone on it quickly enough and switching between notes may prove more challenging.
Flute players typically cross finger or use half coverage when using cross fingerings to achieve the same note; however, using half coverage may save time when playing chromatic notes.
If you want to learn how to play Irish flute, you will require specific equipment – specifically a flute, case and music book dedicated to Irish music.
First, select your model of choice depending on what kind of sound and budget are important to you.
Beginners should choose an economical yet durable flute. However, professional-grade instruments may provide greater value over time.
If you’re feeling uncertain which flute will best fit your playing style, seek advice from others before making your decision. Ask local stores if they offer in-store trials to test out different models before buying and make sure refunds or exchange policies allow you to try out a few before settling on one that meets all your requirements. By doing so, it will ensure you find one which matches up well with what works for your musical taste and playing style.
Irish flute playing resembles that of whistle playing, in that it requires firm breath control and maintaining an even tone throughout a phrase. This differs significantly from classical flute playing which relies on tongue tonguing to separate notes.
As with any instrument, Irish flute requires you to rework some of the techniques learned when learning Boehm system flute. While this transition may be daunting at first, here are a few helpful hints to get you underway:
Start out playing on an instrument with a narrow bore, such as an Ellis “essential flute” or Angus fifes, as these instruments tend to better support higher pitches in the second and third octaves that may prove challenging on larger or smaller flutes.
Emboucheure may need to be modified slightly as well, with more vertical air flowing through to your flute’s embouchure hole – this will enable you to reach higher notes without breath sounds being produced by playing them.
The flute can be played to perform many traditional musical genres, as well as being designed specifically to suit different musical styles. Flutes come with either keyed or keyless head joints and vary greatly in terms of their number of keys and material composition.
There are numerous books available that can help teach the fundamentals of playing an Irish flute, including some that come equipped with CDs that may prove invaluable in your learning journey.
Conal O’Grada’s An Fheadog Mhor: Irish Traditional Flute Technique was written for beginners, published in 2011. This book provides all the knowledge necessary for playing flute in Irish traditional music.
Flutes are a beloved instrument across Ireland, and each region boasts distinct styles of playing the flute. From Sligo’s fast and ornamented style to Leitrim’s less ornamented rhythmic approach and East Galway’s relaxed and flowing tunes – each region can boast distinct flute playing traditions.