So which of the instruments used in Irish music is easiest to play, not counting bodhran or guitar.
So which of the instruments used in Irish music is easiest to play, not counting bodhran or guitar.
Glad you excluded guitar and bodhran. They are by no means the easiest to play well in any genre.
Easiest to play. Do you mean easiest to play a recognisable tune, easiest to play to an acceptable standard or easiest to play well?
No instrument is easy to play. Some are easier to play badly than others.
Easiest to play to an acceptable standard. Excluding spoons.
Easiest to play, easiest to learn, or easiest as an entry instrument?
All different things.
For example, it’s much easier to start playing tunes on the mandolin than the fiddle. However, after you find your way around the fiddle and become reasonable proficient, most tunes are actually more easy on this instrument than the mandolin once you’ve familiarised yourself with different bowing techniques and use of ornaments. You can do much with the mandolin too, of course, but you need to work much harder to make things sound interesting.
We’ve not to mention the guitar or bodhran but I’d argue that the same applies there. They are both very easy "entry instruments" but require a lot of work in the long term to get beyond the basics.
Since when did the bodhran become a musical instrument, its percussion. Guitar in wrong hands is a WMD.
Logically, "which is easiest to play well" cannot be answered, because the standard of what "playing well" is - by definition - is the standard that a talented and dedicated player reaches after years of practice. They are therefore all equally difficult.
"Acceptable standard" is a rabbit hole - acceptable to whom, under what circumstances? Acceptable to an audience experienced in this music for an hour’s listening? Acceptable as a party-piece at a family gathering of cloth-ears like half my family? Acceptable to the other half of the family who are trained in (and lovers of) classical music?
If we are looking for "easiest to play a simple tune that’s pleasant to hear", isn’t the whistle is a strong candidate?
//Since when did the bodhran become a musical instrument, its percussion.//
Isn’t it more accurate to say bodhran is a musical instrument of the percussion family?
A marimba is a percussion instrument too, and you can play diddley tunes on it.
Same with vibraphone.
You are just tugging our boots, really, aren’t you? 🙂
Just thinking - aren’t all musical instruments things that you either hit, or blow into? Or in some cases, suck …
I guess it is easier to learn to play tunes in a basic way (no ornamentation, in tune, with a non horrible sound, etc.) on the mandolin than it is on fiddle. The same with Tin Whistle. It is certainly easier to learn to play a tune in a basic way on the whistle, compared to flute or pipes, because of the latter two instruments.
However, I think it is a lot harder to put more expression into playing the whistle or mandolin, compared to fiddle or flute/pipes, because per default you don’t have so many options. On the flute you can achieve bring control over the sound of the instruments.
For example, you can easily control the amount of overtones a flute sound has and the flute does have a bigger dynamic range than the whistle.
So if you want to learn some tunes without any previous musical experience, you can do that easier with mandolin or whistle. But learning to express yourself musically probably takes a lot more time on mandolin and whistle…
I think Matt Molloy thinks similarly about this topic:
“Well, if you like, I like the sort of expression that one can give. The flute does it for me. I can express what I feel best on that instrument.”
Have you never heard a guitar or bodhran played sympathetically or well? You should broaden your mind and listen to some good players.
I have certainly heard some absolutely awful playing on any instrument you can find at a session.
Jim what do you mean by Dudley music?
Why is there a redundant ‘So’ at the beginning of the question? And why is there no interrogative mark at the end?
I can’t help thinking these are more worth discussing than the ‘easiest-to-play’ topic.
I’ve got it now Bo Diddley.
Dick, I have been playing Irish music with great musicians all my life, I have witnessed and heard what bodhrans can do.
Why not tell us what you think the answer to your question is, goose, instead of acting like a facilitator.
Back when I was a teenager a wise old musician told me "the music is in the person. A musical instrument is merely a mechanical device."
Many times when I’m out doing a Highland pipe gig someone will come up and say
"I’ve heard that the bagpipes are a very difficult instrument".
To which I say
"all instruments are the same. Once I had two students, one an excellent pianist, one a mediocre guitarist. The pianist became an excellent piper, the guitarist a mediocre piper."
However, being someone who plays whistle, flute, Highland pipes, and uilleann pipes I can confidently rank those instruments in that order of difficulty.
The reasons are purely technical, that is, how many different technique-sets/skill-sets must be tackled to get proficient on the instrument. I don’t mean the level of musicianship. Musicianship will out, regardless of the instrument. I’m talking purely of the number of different mechanical skills which must be attained.
The whistle. There is a reason that around these parts anyway, all kids in elementary school are taught to play the recorder, which is very similar. Because it is super-easy to learn.
//I’ve got it now Bo Diddley.//
Well, "diddley" is just an onomatopoeia word, mimicking the jig rhythm … did-il-y, did-il-y, etc
One ex-member of this site used the word copiously, in an affectionate way, rather than pejoratively.
Diddley is not music.
You’ve been playing all your life and not heard the term ‘diddley’? It’s just a descriptive word for Traditional Irish music.
And before you ask, goose, which I know you won’t, just as you won’t answer your own question I have no opinion on the matter because:
1 I’m a guitar player
2 Being a Scot, I don’t play Irish music; I play Scottish music.
Youve asked ‘What is diddley music’ on another thread some years ago Goose. Maybe refresh your memory there on the comments.
Whichever one you have the most experience with…
Are we talking ‘diddly’ or ‘diddley’ music here? I’ve been told there’s a difference!
Mandolin was my ‘starter instrument’ into Irish traditional although I’d also messed about with a tin whistle as a youth.
From the perspective of a multi-instrumentalist that plays hammered dulcimer, guitar (EADGBE tuning), guitar (DADGAD tuning lessons at present), tenor banjo, bouzouki, cittern and B/C box I would say that no instrument is played easily until some level of mastery had been reached. All of the instruments anyone plays at a session require eff0rt to play well - there are no shortcuts. Therefore, there is no particular instrument that is easiest.
I will answer my own question, the jawharp or jewsharp is the easiest instrument to play. Diddley is a derogatory term for our music.
//Diddley is a derogatory term for our music.//
This is weird …
Do you have a better term for Irish Traditional Music?
gooseinthenettles: "… the jawharp or jewsharp is the easiest instrument to play."
Really? It’s an easy instrument to get a sound out of, right enough, but so is a piano or a whistle. Playing a tune on a jawharp (jewsharp, trump, gew-gaw etc.) such that it is recognisable to anyone other than the person playing it is quite a skill; playing a tune on one with finesse is admirable.
I have found the use of the word, "diddley" interesting. I have not heard that word in decades. As a kid it was used as a pejorative, to replace another, less acceptable word, as in "He doesn’t know diddley about it."
Swanee whistle? You don’t even have to remember which holes to put your fingers over!
Jew’s Harp: sore lips and teeth after trying that!
Purpose of this thread?
I’d echo the comments of DickT.
The whistle is the easiest because you can put it in your pocket and have it always at the ready, and you can abuse it with weather and liquids so you aren’t required to baby it. It is also inexpensive relative to other instruments. It doesn’t take a lot of air to blow. It’s not too large for people’s hands. But it’s not easy to play. It is loud and shrill and penetrating.
The mandolin is also the easiest because it is easier than the fiddle, it’s not too large for people’s hands, it’s relatively inexpensive, less delicate than a fiddle. And the bonus is that even if you are terrible at it, it is not loud, shrill and penetrating. Aside from the portability of a mandolin compared to a whistle, it wins the contest between the two in my opinion.
Thanks shbikes for your civility.
‘Diddley’ is, of course, a totally appropriate word for describing Trad Irish music to the great unwashed. Lilters use it all the time. One uses it all the time, as do loads of others who love and play the music. People instantly understand what one means!
Ironically, although Diddley is onomatopoeic of a jig rhythm, the signature rhythm attributed to the fabulous Ellas McDaniel himself (aka Bo Diddley) the ‘shave and a haircut, two bits’ is often heard accompanying reels.
Above someone referred to it as Dudley. Maybe they are from the Black Country (England). One has a friend called Dudley and we were working there. He was asked by a native, ‘Mr Didd-lye, a kipper tie?’ (Mr Dudley, a cup of tea?’)
Diddley - Irish music
Diddly - Scottish music
Like uisce beatha 😉
Michelle, I’ve heard the word Diddley many times, usually uttered by people that know nothing about our music.
Our former resident curmudgeon would have disagreed.
This was one of his favourite tunes.
"The essence of all diddley".
"Diddley is a derogatory term for our music." I have heard it used in both a derogatory fashion (usually followed by the word ‘shite’) as well as in a friendly way, like in this thread. I don’t think its origins are necessarily derogatory, though. And even if they were, it wouldn’t be the first derogatory term that has been taken up as a term of endearment by the very people that it is being used to discriminate against… So that begs the question, is it a term of endearment if we use it, and an offensive term if used by someone who doesn’t love Irish trad?
Do you mean ‘easiest=causing fatigue slower’, i.e. less hard, goose? If so, banjo or mandolin wins.
Well I’ve only ever heard it as a derogatory ,dismissive term as in "he plays that diddly shite " so it definitely grates on me …..
I’ve heard the term "diddly" used both ways; as a term of endearment or as a derogatory term. More often as a term of affection but that may be regional. I’d hate to see it disappear completely. When used in the lighthearted sense, it means you’re not taking the genre so seriously that you can’t laugh at it occasionally.
To be clear, I believe ITM needs to be taken very seriously if you want to get anywhere with it as a musician. But it doesn’t mean we can’t step back and smile at it, once in a while.
"Well I’ve only ever heard it as a derogatory…" Maybe so, but you’ve *seen* it used as a playful term by at least 5-6 people in this thread alone. So my suggestion would be to try to not feel so personally assaulted by it, because it is used by a lot of players of this music as a term of endearment… But we don’t need to rehash that old debate. The topic has been thoroughly thrashed out in the forums here. Including one of the bigger threads of all time https://thesession.org/discussions/25064
Not spoons. Spoon.
Don’t know about spoons, but I tell you I saw somebody playing bones and thought "how hard could that be?" and I got a pair of bones and couldn’t do diddly squat.
I’ve never heard the music referred to as diddley. Often heard it called diddley-dee though.
I know the voice is not an instrument, but I think its the easiest. Most people can sing a tune adequately and it seems, in traditional music one does not have to be a brilliant singer to belt one out with accompaniment (it helps though).
"I got a pair of bones and couldn’t do diddly squat." … Richard, the trick is to just use one bone until you get good at it.
When people ask, ‘What is the difference between trad Irish and trad English music?’ the answer is Irish goes Diddley widdley; English goes Rumperty tumperty.
Yes, and then you should go into detail and explain that a jig goes diddley-diddley, diddley-diddley, while a reel goes diddle-de, diddley-de. It’s all very complex.
No, that’s completely wrong. A reel goes "Black and Decker Black and Decker". Sheesh…
It has to be the whistle. I mean it only has six holes, how hard can it be?
I think it fine for us to use diddly as a term of endearment, but if someone who didn’t play used the term I would have to punch them in the throat.
Whistle, it’s why we give em to 5yrs olds at Comhaltas lessons tonstart out. Not easy to master, but eaay to learn the music and tunes on quickly
Jim yes, Irish Traditional Music.
‘Diddley’ grates on me too. I’ve not heard it used in Australia, nor in my visits to Ireland. Could this be mainly an English usage?
Cheeky Elf! Steady!
I’ll try to control myself. 😀
JJMP said: "Our former resident curmudgeon would have disagreed."
I take it you are referring to Michael Gill - whatever happened to him?
In Sydney I once met someone visiting from Scotland who knew him and said that in real life he was quite a nice guy. I thought that was nice to know.
@Bill Dwyer…. I live in Australia, in fact just up the road from you (Nagambie), and ‘Diddley’ music has always been what I have ‘affectionately’ called it. I’m a Pom though, and I grew up hearing it in my predominantly Irish neighborhood in Manchester.
@ Goose, or is it Cracked Teapot? For some reason I am suddenly confused. !! ??
(forgive me,… just a friendly dig wot I couldn’t help.)… To address your question, as a long time and reasonably proficient player guitar player, I honestly believe that the guitar is one of the hardest instruments to play well in an Irish session. I can’t achieve it. That’s why I now play fiddle; it’s easier. I have total respect for what it takes to be a good ITM guitarist.
Gobby, on guitar which chord in our music do you find difficult, I find it easy to accompany on guitar once you know the structure of the tune and its chords.
//I take it you are referring to Michael Gill - whatever happened to him?
In Sydney I once met someone visiting from Scotland who knew him and said that in real life he was quite a nice guy. I thought that was nice to know.//
In real life, he was fine, in my estimation, and I’m assuming he is still around.
Unfortunately he was at odds with many members on this site, and over a period of many years, was persistently warned about bad online behaviour. This is the reason why he was eventually banned from this site.
That’s it in a nutshell.
"Gobby, on guitar which chord in our music do you find difficult?"
I don’t really find any chord hard to play, although they are not the full ‘block’ chords that I am used to. I just can’t fit them artistically into the melodies. I don’t know…. I could play most music, including jazz, and I am decent finger-picker, but I just can’t get my head around those Irish modes. Sure I can play some of the simpler ones where the important thing is to provide a good rhythm with a couple of block chords, but I couldn’t be confident enough to sit in on a session and improvise up and down the neck. I just don’t believe it is as easy in ITM as it is in other genre’s.
Gobby you should sit in at different sessions, and you will get the feel for it. Good luck.
I never heard the terms "Diddley" or "Diddley Music" until I began visiting The Session.org and I have been playing this music for at least twenty-five years now.
fauxcelt the people that use that derogatory term only write it, most of them would not say it to your face. Imho
Okay thank you gooseinthenettles.
On one of many of the dreaded Paddy’s Day gigs, this one at a local Irish centre, a bunch of well-oiled middle-aged Irish people came in, but didn’t get past the door.
I heard this : "Feck, I’m not paying £3 to listen to all that diddley shite all night."
They would have preferred their first love, that of a country and western band singing "Jolene", "One Day At A Time", "The Blackboard Of My Heart" and the like.
Such is life!
Jim, you are right, and who is the genius that named the music that those people wanted to hear "Country and Irish"
A certain flute holder I have played with hundreds of times referred to the music as ‘diddlement’.
"to sit in on a session and improvise up and down the neck."
I’m sorry, but I don’t see how a guitarist who did that during a session would fit in at all.
So do you think a guitarist who stays in cowboy corner and plays from a script would fit in better?
What’s so wrong with playing chords up the neck and ending a part on the IV chord instead of the I now and again?
Surely it would depend how you played. I actually don’t see how a guitarist strumming block chords in the first position would fit in well. Maybe I shouldn’t have said the word ‘improvise’ as it infers making it up as you go along. What I meant was to play on the fly to a tune you know. But a good guitarist should know the neck like the back of their hand. And how could you accompany in say DADGAD without going where you need to go. Also, a good accompanying guitarist in ITM needs to know the tunes in the first place. It isn’t just about strumming, you have to ‘walk’ to the tune. I should add also, that I generally don’t even like them in ITM.
Sorry, I cross posted with Donald. He said it much more succinctly.
Re all the diddleyment, after reading fauxcelt’s post, I had to think, and I’m honestly really not sure If I had ever heard anybody say the words diddely music before I followed this site. But I am certain that I have always known what it is, because how do you lilt an Irish tune without the diddle? I doubt that there have been many days in my life when I haven’t diddled to myself, either vocally or just mentally. And that was years before I ever picked up a whistle or fiddle. Nowadays it’s how I practice when I haven’t got my fiddle with me. For that I find diddling to be very valuable practice (the deliberate experimental placings of the dee’s and diddley’s is crucial to trying out mental variations and ornamentation). I just can’t see it as a derogatory word. To me it is very serious and valid.
I agree with you gobby, diddling a tune is different than describing our music. don’t you think.
Fair point Gobby.
As applied to describing Irish trad music, I see the word as being not exactly derogatory, but rather as diminutive.
Did the Pogues intersperse their songs with diddley music? They probably thought that, so ok - yes.
Is ‘Molloy, Brady, Peoples’ an album of diddley music? Hmm …. I’m a ‘no’ on that.
Personally I prefer to not use the term to describe the music. At best it is a reference to lilting; a.k.a. diddling. Second to this it can be a term of endearment when it’s used ‘offline’ with acquaintances. This forum though reaches a larger audience. Many who may not post replies yet they know about this music as well as contributing members probably do consider it demeaning. I suspect some of them may not think the term is being well used everytime it comes up on the forum. I cannot be certain. Since I cannot be certain, though I can be sensitive to the idea it may be demeaning to some of you who love this music, I choose to describe the music online by using other terms.
Jim Dorans, you answered your own question. ;)
"Improvising up & down the neck" describes Grant Green, Joe Pass etc. Hardly an appropriate way to approach playing in a session.
Strumming chords would very seldom work either.
And what’s this business about "block chords"? That’s piano terminology, not guitar.
Call them what you like, play it however you want. I still hold that playing the guitar (properly) in Irish music is not easy. Nor should it be surely?
@ Goose, re… "diddling a tune is different than describing our music. don’t you think"…. Okay, I concede after thinking about it, that I have never done that.
I remember once asking the great Raymond Roland if he new The Laurel Bush, he said diddle it for me.
@gooseinthenettles: And diddle you?
I only sqeek when I’m squoking to.
//Jim Dorans, you answered your own question. ;)//
Sorry, I’m not following you … what are you talking about?
"Richard, the trick is to just use one bone until you get good at it."
Oh, I did! Baby steps and all. I got quite good, actually. I had moves.
But I never could get enough volume.
Yeah, likewise, I gave up my spoon because I couldn’t keep it in tune.
I’ll paraphrase something I saw once in another discussion…"every instrument is easy to play…roughly"!
Ref Diddley, growing up it was always Diddley-aye, which was kinda disparaging and not a term I liked. SO why am I so irritated by my friend in the band I play in ALWAYS calling it Diddley-dee?? Doesn’t make sense - my anger, and also Diddley-dee: when you are lilting, you’d always change the sound of the next syllable.
Jim Dorans, you answered your question here, "Do you have a better term for *Irish Traditional Music*?"
The voice? At least it’s built-in!