The home of traditional Irish music in Indonesia

The Lilt of Irish Music

Irish Music Must Have Lilt

Lilt is defined as a pleasant gentle swinging rhythm, a characteristc rising and falling in the tune. Lilt is an essential ingredient in playing Irish music


Tunes have a metre, the way notes are played in recurring patterns within the music. In a jig for example the metre is 6/8 for a single jig which means that in a standard length, a bar of music, there will be 6 notes and these will be played as 3 notes followed by another 3 notes. This cerates a da-da-da, da-da-da sound. Similarly reels are played in 4/4 time 4 notes followed by 4 notes in a bar. Hornpipes are also played in 4/4 time but with a different timing to reels, Polkas are 2/4 time, slip jigs are 9/8 time, and so on.

Lilt is far more than Rhythm

But lilt is far more than this basic metre of rhythm. Subtle differences in the length and positioning of notes (and missed notes) gives the music an "accent" which is heard in the flow of the notes giving the music a lilt. This accent is achieved by slightly stretching or shortening notes or plaing particualr notes a little louder or softer.

The lilt is achieved in different ways depending on the instrument being played. The fiddle is considered themaster of all instruments because the note is fully formed from the string and the note and gives the most ability to manipulate how a note sounds or is played. Instruments such as whistle, flutes, concertinas and banjos have more limited ways of making their notes. As a result how lilt is generated varies from instrument to instrument.

Understanding lilt is not easy and the only real way to really understand it is to listen to the music and the "feel" of the tunes and work until you get that magic feel.

Kevin Burke demonstrating lilt

This wonderful video by Kevin Burke will help you to understand lilt. See it here....

17 July 2021 Copyright © The Celtic Room,
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