Sheet Music

30 November 2006, 7:11 PM GMT

Sheet Music

Music notation may not be the best way to get a “feel” for traditional music. Unlike classical music, Irish traditional music generally cannot be notated exactly the way it is meant to be played, and music notation doesn’t always lend itself well to the transcription of Irish ornamentation.

Several notable collectors in the past (prominent amongst these are Petrie, Bunting, O’Neill and Brendan Breathnach) have completed extensive collection projects, transcribing large numbers of tunes. These collections form an important way to pass on the tradition, and you’d be welcome to come and browse through them at the library in our headquarters. Still, we do want to caution you about using these transcriptions as the sole source for a tune without getting the chance to hear it “in the wild.”

So while the best way to learn a tune is arguably to listen to a live musician, there is definitely a place for music notation as an alternative means of accessing and passing on traditional music. In this section of the website we’d like to share a few tunes with you that are both traditional and popular at most sessions.

There are, of course, other good resources for Irish tunes online; you will find some good collections at

and other sources. You should be careful, though, about using online resources to learn tunes, as the tune settings may vary considerably in quality and accuracy. Also, because of the many names used for tunes (with more than a few duplications), you may find that you have learned the wrong tune altogether but then “so what”, you can never have too many tunes!

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