Irish Flute

Name: Irish-Flute.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: Ireland.
Region: North Western Europe.

Description: The term Irish Flute refers to a conical-bore, simple-system wooden flute of the type favoured by classical flautists of the early 19th century, or to a flute of modern manufacture derived from this design, often with modifications to optimize its use in traditional Irish and Scottish musics. This flute is played in almost every country in Ireland and has a very strong presence in the mid-western countries of Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, South Fermanagh, East Galway, Clare and West Limerick also having a reputation.

Tunings: The flute is tuned with keyless finger-holes playing a diatonic major scale as the tone holes are successively uncovered. Flutes from the Classical era and some of modern manufacture will include metal keys and additional tone holes to achieve partial or complete chromatic tonality.

Most Irish flutes are commonly pitched in D, other keys are available ranging from E flat, B flat and C. Although referred to as a D flute, this is a non-transposing instrument, so if you finger C, a concert-pitch C is sounded. The name D-flute comes from the fact that the simplest 6-hole wooden flute has D as its lowest note and plays the scale of D without any cross-fingering. The E-flat, B flat and C versions are transposing instruments.

Playing Techniques: The simple system flute has a distinctly different timbre from the Western concert flute. Most Irish flute players tend to strive for a dark tone in comparison to classical flautists.

Citations: Bibliography: Breathnach, Breandán: Folk Music and Dances of Ireland, 1971 ISBN 1-900428-65-2 ; Gearóid Ó hallmhuráin, 1998 ; A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music. Dublin: O’Brien Press ; The Flute and its Patrons, Chapter XXVII of Francis O’Neill’s Irish Minstrels and Musicians. Taylor, Barry 2013 ; Music in a Breeze of Wing; Traditional Dance Music in West-Clare 1870-1970. Danganella: Barry Taylor. ISBN 978-0-9927356-0-9 ;

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