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Glossary of
Irish Music Terms


Here's a list of terms commingly used to describe the instruments, song forms and styles used in traditional Irish and other forms of Celtic music. In the case of old Gaelic/Irish words, a prounciation key is included. (More on Irish musicians on our
Irish Music page)

Bainseo p: BAN-sho
Banjo

Bodhrán p: BOW-RON
A commonly used traditional Irish Drum

Bosca Ceoil p: BUS-ka CYOO-ial
Button accordion

Bothy Ballad: Songs about work, written by dwellers of "bothies," or farm cottages in Scotland.

Box: A type of accordian

Buíon Cheoil Phíob p: BWEE-yun HYO-il FEE-ib
Pipe band

Keen: A death song (crying at funerals is called "keening")

Céilí p: KAY-lee
Evening of Irish dancing

Ceol p: HYEEOHL
Music

Ceoltóirí p: KYOHL-TOE-ree
Musicians

Cláirseach p: CLAR-shuch
Irish harp

Comhaltas p: COLT-us
A gathering or group of musicians

Cranning: Groups of grace notes played in succession.

Cruit p: KRIT
Harp

Drumaí Ceilí p: DRUM-ee-KAY-lee
Drums of a Céilí band

Fidil p: FIHD-el
Fiddle or violin

Fleadh p: FLAH
Music festival

Geantraí p: GYAN-tree
Traditional Irish dance tune

Goltraí p: GOHL-tree
Dirges or laments

Ground: A slow melody

Jig: Traditional tune played in 3/4 time.

Planxty: A song written for a patron or a praise song.

Píb Mhór p: PEEB-more
War pipes

Píb Uilleann p: PEEB-illun
Uilleann pipes, a very traditional Irish music, a small type of bagpipe

Reel: A dance song played in 4/4 time.

Seisiún p: Ces-SHOON
A non-formal gathering of musicians to play; equivalent of a “jam session" in the U.S.

Sean Nos: p: SHAN-NOS
A traditional singing style, almost always in a capella, where the melody shifts among various keys. Translates literally as "old style."

Slip Jig: Folk song played in 9/8 time

Suantraí p: SOO-an-TREE
Irish lullaby

Uilleann p: ILL-un
"Elbow pipe", a small bagpipe where air is forced into the instrument by the movement of the player’s elbow.

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