The home of traditional Irish music in Indonesia

Learning To Play Irish Music

How to Learn Irish Music

Irish music can be learned by anyone with a little bit of application and some extensive practice.

Understanding the learning process

Most people who learn to play music are not given any advice on the process we need to follow to successfully learn. For many the process of playing becomes confused and difficult because they are obliged to learn how to read sheet music as they learn how to play. This results in a high level of failure, for most people it is all too much and they give up.

Music is sound and learning traditional music is usually a far easier process because traditional music has always been handed down from one generation to the next as an auditory process, we learn to reproduce an established sound. This is a far richer process than learning how to read dots because we able to learn the subtleties of the timing and intonation that gives the music its ability to express feeling.

Let us start by understanding the learning process.

We have to practice playing until the instrument becomes an extension of ourselves.

Most of the things that we do regularly in our lives are carried out automatically, we don't have to think about how we do it. For example when we first learn to drive a car it is very difficult, we have to use of "conscious" mind. When we change gear wehave to think:take our foot off the accelerator, press the clutch pedal down, move the gear lever from one gear into the next gear, release the clutch feeling exactly where the clutch will bite as we gently put our foot back on the accelerator. It is mind boggling difficult until we can do it automatically, until we can do it without thinking about it. Of course we do think about it, our brain gives the instruction s however it becomes a subconscious act carried out by our "subconscious" mind.

So we learn to play music by practicing until we can play the notes without thinking about what we are doing. Once we achive this level we can use our conscious mind to play with the tune, to ornament it or play with the lilt and texture.

Once we understand this process learining becomes much easier.

So how do we go about this?

Step 1. Get the Tune Into Your Head

Learning traditional music starts by knowing the tune to be played. This is simple, all we have to do is find a recording of the tune and keep listening to it until we have it in our heads. We can now pick up an instrument and start to learn how to play it.

Step 2. Work out where the notes come on the instrument

Next we work out where we have to place our fingers to play the sequence of the base notes in the tune. At this stage only find the basic notes of the tune and leave ot the ornamentation until you get btter. We need to take the time to do this with care so that the tune is as easy as possible to play so that when we start speeding up and adding ornamental notes we can still play the tune satisfactorily.

Step 3. Practice, practice and practice

We now need to practice and practice playing the tune. Start slowly and make sure you get each note correct. Progressively speed up making sure that you are still acurate in your playing. Do not play faster than you can accurately play each note crisply and cleanly to make sure you do not learn bad habits

Remember that the goal is to be able to play the tune automatically - without thking about it. There is a danger here in that if you learn to play the tune with mistakes in it the mistakes will become automatic.

Step 4. Learn to play the tune fast enough

To be able to play ornamentation well you will need to be able to play the notes very quickly so practice to be able to play the tune very quickly.

Step 5. Learn to play the tune slow enough

This can be more difficult than step 4. We now have to learn to slow the tune down and keep the timing steady so that we can start to add the extra notes for the ornamentation and to be able to speed up and slow down the delivery of notes. We can now achieve the essential qualities of traditional Irish music.

Step 6. Learn more tunes

In traditional music small snippets of tunes are often repeated again and again. The more tunes you learn the more different snippets of tunes will become part of the automatic playing process and your playing will become easier allowing you to progress to more satisfying playing.

Adding Ornamentation

It is suggested that in the first instance you do not try adding ornamentation, get you hands around your instrument, become familiar and competent with it. You can then start learning about and adding ornamentation as you go.

Generally we learn how to play many different "snippets" of ornamentation which at a later stage can be thrown into a tune at will.

At first it will be necessary to work out how to play these snippets and it should be remembered that it may be necessary to change the fingering of a tune to be able to add the ornamentation we want.

17 July 2021 Copyright © The Celtic Room,
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