Resources for the Irish Flute Player

When I started playing Irish music on the flute here in Canberra, Australia, in the 1970s, we couldn't even get records of Irish instrumental music! Fortunately, the picture has now changed utterly. A world full of resources are now at your fingertips, many right here on the 'net.


Probably one of the most exciting developments in recent years is the ABC format for writing out, sending, reading, playing and printing out tunes. Special software for achieving this is available as shareware for both Mac & PC, with basic versions free to download. Thousands of tunes have been transcribed into this format and again are available free off the 'net. Find out about this fabulous resource at the ABC webpage

Check out Richard Moon's TUNEdb - the largest source of tunes on the 'Net.

Slowing Down Tunes

Tunebooks or the ABC program above will provide you with the notes to play but nothing else.  Listening to great players is fundamentally important in absorbing the nuances which make the difference between playing a string of notes and great Irish music.  But great players tend to play a lot of notes rather quickly, giving you no time to analyse what's going on.  In the old days, we used to use a two speed tape recorder to reduce the tunes to half speed, which conveniently left them at the same pitch but one octave down.  These days there are better tricks.  Digital Audio Editing programs like Cool Edit (demo version downloadable off the 'net) can slow down tunes without changing pitch!  And you can even record straight to Cool Edit from a CD in your CD Rom drive.  You need a soundcard in your computer.

Discussion Groups

The Discussion Group "" is the first stop off place for people wanting to discuss or find out about Celtic music in general. Access it through your Web Browser's Discussion Group section.

Mailing Lists

The Irish Traditional Mailing List (IRTRAD-L) is a more serious forum which will bring you into contact with over 500 people around the world whose enthusiasms include Irish music.

Earlyflute attracts those with an interest in baroque instruments, but has become a hangout for those with an interest in flutemaking in general.

Woodenflute has been set up for discussions relating to playing wooden flutes in general and Irish flutes in particular.

Flutemakers is a list where flutemakers and wannabe flutemakers discuss the nitty gritty of our art.

A Guide to the Irish Flute

written and maintained by Brad Hurley.  This site contains information for players of traditional Irish music on the flute, including advice on choosing an instrument, resources for learning to play the flute, an extensive directory of wooden flute makers, interviews with leading flute players, and more.

Ceolas and Other Web Pages

There are heaps of web sites dealing with Irish music. The best starting place is the Ceolas site at Stanford University. There you will find links to all sorts of resources as well as heaps of information on every topic relating to Irish music. Ignore this site at your peril!

Ceili House

Ireland's national broadcaster, Radio Telefís Éireann, broadcasts a weekly program of live Irish music and makes it available on the 'net from their website.  You can even download the Realplayer software from the same site.  Enjoy great music straight from the source:

The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle

480 pages, with two companion CDs.

"Grey has, through his research, patience, and diligence, completed a work on Irish flute and tin whistle that I feel is essential reading for anybody interested in getting it right."

- Matt Molloy, Irish flute player with The Bothy Band and The Chieftains

This is a book for the beginner to the highly advanced player of Irish flute, tin whistle, or Boehm-system (modern) flute. It features a simple and penetrating new approach to understanding and notating ornamentation that goes beyond any previous method, exploring ornamentation techniques never described in print before. It also includes adaptations for Boehm-system flute players, guidance on breathing and phrasing, 49 ornamentation exercises, history and theory of traditional Irish flute and whistle music, and 27 meticulous transcriptions of recordings (1926-2001) by these important Irish flute and tin whistle players: John McKenna ,Tom Morrison, William Cummins, Séamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Paddy Taylor, Paddy Carty, Grey Larsen, Josie McDermott, Matt Molloy, Cathal McConnell, Mary Bergin, Donncha Ó Briain (Denis O'Brien), Desi Wilkinson, Breda Smyth, Seán Ryan, Conal Ó Gráda, Micho Russel, Joanie Madden, Kevin Crawford, Catherine McEvoy, and Seamus Egan.

Available from Grey Larsen 


Learning the Irish Flute

A couple of pages devoted to learning the Irish flute:

Rob Greenway's Irish Flute Pages
Gordon Turnbull's Web Page


CD-ROM tuition

Stuart Paterson advises:

CD Rom multimedia tutorials are available from Mad for Trad, the brainchild of Frank Torpey and Ciaran O’Connell from the band Nomos. I have the whistle one by Flook maestro Brian Finnegan and have found it a fun and efficient way to learn. I have just received the flute one by Seamus Egan and it looks great too.

The format involves text, sheet music and video clips and extends from beginner to advanced level. It also includes interviews with the tutor and a (blistering) performance. It is especially useful to slow the clip down and watch exactly what he does with those rolls and crans.

There is enough detail here to keep me busy for months if not years. Highly recommended! 

Tuner Software and Metronome

Tatsuaki Kuroda has designed a tuner for PC or Mac with facilities far outstripping the usual hardware devices.  At our request, the program has been modified to permit a wider range of reference frequencies, making it an ideal tool for analysing 19th century originals.  You need a soundcard and a microphone.  If you don't have a microphone, just plug your earphones or an un-powered loudspeaker into the microphone input. You'll find a metronome on the same site.

Personal Hygiene

Roger Holman Enterprises is the source for Flute and Piccolo Flag brand swabs.  These swabs are a new approach to drying the bore of your instrument in the least possible amount of time.  Moisture is captured even at the face of the head joint cork.  Several varieties are currently available.

If all else fails ...

If I can be any help, feel free to contact me.

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