Irish sound

Irish sound

There have been a lot of discussions over the years of what are traditional instruments and what are unsatisfactory instruments for Irish music but no-one ever seems to have asked the question: If you wanted the most indisputably Irish sound possible what instruments would you line up?

Re: Irish sound

I refer you to a discussion of some time past. https://thesession.org/discussions/6109

Re: Irish sound

The link above (was that Michael Gill?) covers it pretty well.

"Indisputably Irish" for me, means sustaining instruments that can easily perform the distinctive ornaments on a sustained tone, which — apart from the harp tradition which is a different category in my view — seems to be the characteristic sound of Irish dance music. To my ears, anyway.

I say that as someone who came into the music first as a guitar accompanist, and then a mandolin melody player, and for the past couple of years I’ve been attempting to learn Irish flute. Because I think a sustaining instrument with articulation on the sustained notes is at the heart and soul of the music.

There I’ve gone an upset all the fretted instrument players. :) I’m not going to quit playing tunes on my mandolin, it has some interesting options for partial harmony within the melody line. But I recognize the limitations. There is a reason why even the more pop-oriented Irish trad bands have sustaining instruments as the lead instruments.

Re: Irish sound

‘Indisputably’ is a big word. Is there anything that *cannot* be disputed? Planxty, with all their Southern European double-course plucked strings and their American steel-string guitars, sound Irish enough to me - but some would no doubt dispute their Irishness on the basis of instrumentation. Some people will dispute any point - especially when provoked by a word like ‘indisputably’.

Re: Irish sound

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Re: Irish sound

I think that discussion is about what I don’t mean, Johnny Jay. What I’m looking for is something more positive and personal on the lines of "if you were setting up a group and you wanted a very Irish sound which of the many (perfectly good) instruments would you choose to produce what you consider the quintessential (or maybe the stereotypical) Irish sound"? I didn’t want to put it that precisely and lead the answers.

I agree, Conical bore 7. I too play the mandolin and I don’t see it there. There would certainly be a whistle (or flute) and there would probably be a fiddle and there might be a set of Uilleann pipes. These are all sustaining instruments capable of slides between notes - and this is, as you say, in line with the definitions by the indisputably able Michael Gill. No other instruments seem to be necessary to give the sound - but it is hard to find any group performing with just these two or three particular instruments. The nearest I can find is flute, fiddle and bodhran, for instance https://youtu.be/LCL2MlcCEAg. Is an extra instrument to give everything a hard edge actually essential after all?

Re: Irish sound

Gallopede said: "… and there might be a set of Uilleann pipes."

Might be? Uilleann pipes are the only extant instrument that is uniquely Irish. If "indisputably Irish sound" is your goal, I would think that pipes would have to be at the very top of your list, not just a "might be".

Re: Irish sound

My own choice (in order of importance) would be fiddle, uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, melodeon, concertina. To give a bit more body, a guitar backing. What I do not like is the new trend for tenor banjos. I’ve come across several videos of a band with two banjos (each with a huge resonator), whose noise completely obliterates what the sole fiddler is playing.

Re: Irish sound

As long as it sounds "right", you can play ITM on whatever you have. The problem is that Irish music played on "non-traditional" instruments rarely sounds right, and not even all who play it on trad instruments sound right, even if they play tunes that are hundred years old. There’s more to Irish sound than just the instruments and the repertoire.

Re: Irish sound

For me, the quintessential Irish trad sound is pipes, fiddle, flute, concertina, and whistle—pick any two.

Re: Irish sound

Couldn’t add much that hasn’t been said (in 12 years). But, regarding ‘(hierarchy) of diddley’, want to mention the other forms (as it was mentioned) where drums/percussion/rhythm is the essence - many varied tribal societies, African, Arabic, indigenous cultures all around…tabla is among the main instruments in India..

For purposes of considering this topic from historical perspective - as someone had mentioned both ‘voice and drums’, early ritual forms were/are often essentially rhythmic, etc. And something that shouldn’t be underestimated is rhythmic essence in ITM, of course. (And my own take why sustaining instruments fiddle/pipes/reeds are preeminent/prevalent, not just in ITM but globally: what you can do *rhythmically* with music is as profound as anything else…think of all instruments as rhythm/percussion instruments, in the ‘drum’-family so to speak. These are superpower instruments. I often sense how powerful these tools - to manipulate time and pitch.

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Re: Irish sound

All that matters is that when the music soars in pitch, the tin whistle suddenly screams into prominence. Then you stop mid-step, and say, Hey! Irish music! Think I’ll go in and have a pint ….

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Re: Irish sound

Saxophone?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZBgY9fplCU


Kidding! Don’t take me apart.

Top of my list would be Uilleann pipes, for reasons given above.

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Re: Irish sound

OK that video’s convinced me Ergo. It’s not the instruments. It’s how they are combined and played. That’s brilliant!

Re: Irish sound

I was at a session once where Rory McLeod was playing a trombone. It worked.

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Re: Irish sound

Only one vote for melodeon (button accordion) so far? I’m devastated! Even depressed! Where are your Begleys, Jackie Dalys, Pady Callaghans and the rest now?

Re: “Irish” sound

Why would I want to isolate Irish music to a singular, objective, definable sound or a particular combination of instruments?

That’s fine for the forum. Beyond here it’s silly.



carry on



cheers!

:-D

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Re: Irish sound

I’m not sure about the "most indisputably Irish sound possible", but my absolute favourite combination is flat pipes (ideally pitched around B) and a fiddle tuned down to match. Listen to the duos of Mick O’Brien & Caomhín Ó Raghallaigh and Ronan Browne & Peadar O’Loughlin (may he rest in peace) for some great examples.

Coming in second place, button accordion and concertina together, a la Tony MacMahon & Noel Hill, or Micheál Ó Raghallaigh and Danny O’Mahony. It’s possible though that I enjoy the skill of those musicians and how well they play together rather than any particular love for either/both instruments.

Also worthy of a mention is the solo flute or whistle player accompanied by (well played) bodhrán.

Re: Irish sound

@Colman O’B

Did you hear this one yet? https://thesession.org/recordings/5480

Great fiddling and the piper’s not half bad either…

Re: Irish sound

@Cheeky Elf, no I haven’t heard that one yet - I’ll have to add it to my list!

Re: Irish sound

This would be the Anglo concertina that’s being advocated. I was just reading an article about concertinas at http://www.concertina.com/worrall/beginnings-concertina-in-ireland/index.htm and there’s a nice story of an objection to a pub license at Bantry in 1896 and the objector hadn’t turned up and it quotes: "I am sorry to say that he is indisposed. If he had stirred himself up with a little whiskey he might have been possibly here (laughter). I believe that Mr. Wolfe’s objection is to music of the concertina kind; it is not classical enough for him (laughter)". That should be the right sort of instrument!