In Ireland, May 22nd is known as Buy a Musical Instrument day. And, nothing can be better than buying a traditional Irish music instrument such as Uileann Pipes, a bodhran or fiddle. In this article we’ll explore what instruments to buy and the pros and cons of each. As Paraic McNeela from McNeela Instruments says ‘An Irish Instrument is a precious thing to buy, it’s worth exploring all options before buying and learning to play an Irish Instrument’.
Pros: It is quite difficult to find a good uileann piper as they are very rare. The good ones are generally devoted musicians. The uileann pipes emit a distinguishing sound and lets just say the sound cannot be ignored or overlooked.
Cons: The Uileann Pipes are very costly and are also difficult to obtain. The makers of this instrument are quite few and they differ from the Scottish Bagpipes. A Uileann pipes’ beginner set (that has only the components required to initiate playing) will require an ungrade to a half or full set after some time. The full set of these pipes comes with a heavy price tag, say, some thousands!
Pros: Fiddles can be obtained easily. It is quite similar to violin. The only difference is the absolute different style of it. The fiddle is played fast and it is tremendously communicative. Thus, it also leaves a lot of space for one’s own understanding. The best and the heavily paid fiddle players are the ones who have the talent of picking up tunes only by listening to them.
Cons: Learning to play the fiddle is extremely difficult. Fiddles do not contain any frets. These are the tiny spots on guitar which help you spot the notes and do not allow you to play sounds during notes (this means it is easy for you to follow the tune). New fiddle players may sound similar to a bag of cats to begin with but this is definitely the price for those who practice passionately. A fiddle brings great improvement to any session.
Pros: This is another instrument that can be found easily as it is used in most of the folk music types. It is used to play the chief notes of any tune. Hence, it is best for playing solo and also with the other members of the group. The tune and structure of the mandolin is same as the banjo and thus, similar skills can be utilized for both of these instruments.
Cons: Because these instruments are based on melody, you will be required to play any tune’s main notes. You will be required to enhance your speed while you play these instruments with others. Also, the mandolin is a quitter instrument with its small size and bright sound. (This is because mandolins have two strings for each string on banjo)
Tin Whistle (feadóg stáin)
Pros: You will be surprised to know that this instrument was once known as the penny whistle because of its cheap price. Even today, you can find some which are still quite cheap. Tin whistles are a simple Irish instrument which have six holes on the fundamental flute shape and covering these holes in different type of combinations help create a variety of notes. The Tin Whistles come in different keys and ‘D’ is the most common key for tin whistles.
Cons: Though notes are created by covering the holes, do not take it lightly as this simple looking musical instrument needs to be played fast. In other words, you need to quickly change the hole covering combinations and that too with absolute perfection. This is almost true for every instrument, but when you come across a good tin whistle player whose fingers dance perfectly as required, you are actually witnessing the outcome of long hours of practice, dedication and effort.
Pros: Identifiably Irish and the only devoted Irish rhythm instrument, Bodhrán or the traditional Irish drum is very distinguishable. This instrument can be noticed frequently during the Irish sporting events, in particular when one needs to galvanize the gathering.
Cons: The Bodhrán can be quite difficult to be found outside Ireland. Also, it is not considered as an essential component of a music session.
Pros: Guitars can be found almost everywhere and there is a high possibility that you may already in fact own one or have one at your relative’s place! Usually the rhythm based guitar is used in the traditional music group. Hence, it is the most suitable option for people who do not chase the limelight. In addition to this, playing guitar is a multipurpose skill for different types of music forms.
Cons: Points (related to guitar) that are considerable and attractive for some people, may be difficult and problematic for others. Though, you can play solo melodies on this instrument, the truth is that, this is not at all the traditional way. The guitarists will see that they are limited to the backing roles of music groups.
The Music Box, also known as the Concertina
Pros: To begin let us tell you that the concertina is not as costly as other traditional Irish music instruments. A basic concertina model will cost you just a few hundred. A concertina is quite multipurpose and melodious. Generally, it is played with single lucid notes rather than in form of chorus.
Cons: Concertinas are a famous instrument all across Europe. If you wish to play Irish music, then you will surely want to find yourself a Anglo-Concertina in the C/G keys. Searching for the right concertina can be difficult. However exploring online, going into music stores and talking to other musicians will help you find the right one for you.
In addition to this, it is important to mention that though the good pipers play attractive music, the sound of these pipes is not for every person.