There is something magical about Irish music played on the flute. Naturally, many styles of playing have developed over the decades – the breathy styles of Leitrim, the bouncy Belfast sounds and the smooth fluid style of East Galway. OAIM presents basic courses for the complete beginner given by Steph Geremia and Kirsten Allstaff. You can then expand your repertoire with Majella Bartley’s Fleadh Tunes for the Flute, or challenge yourself with the technical wizardry of Lunasa’s Kevin Crawford and the idiosyncratic Niall Keegan! Or focus on reels with our bumper course from Kirsten Allstaff. We even have a course focused on playing Irish music on the silver flute with Steph Geremia, so there truly is something for everyone. Scroll down to see the wonderful choice of flute courses.

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Flute Frequently Asked Questions

Is the fingering on a flute the same as a tin whistle?
Yes, the fingering doesn’t change except for some harmonic notes and cross-fingerings which are not essential.
Do you need to have keys on the flute?

I’d say that 90% of Irish music doesn’t need keys to play. Most of the tunes are in G Major, A Mixolydian, A Dorian, E minor, D Major, B Minor. For the occasional A Major tune or D minor (Us flute players tend to avoid these anyways), half holing is an option.

However, if you really want to get keys – here is the order you should get them in – from most used to least used:

Long F natural
Short F natural
C natural (although there is a crossed finger version of this. The keyed version is a bit better intonation)
G sharp
B flat
E flat

Two F natural keys are necessary – depending on the musical passage, for example if the next note after the F natural is a D, it’s impossible to use the short one first.

Kirsten

I often hear about flutes cracking. How do I avoid this?
Wooden flutes are very susceptible to changing temperatures (especially extreme heat and cold). As such, they need to be treated regularly in the early years with oils (linseed, almond). As the wood matures, there is less regular maintenance required but oiling should always be a routine measure. This keeps the wood in good condition to avoid cracking but, in any case, caution should always be taken when travelling to very hot or very cold climates.
Some older generation players used a pint of Guinness to fix cracks. Should I do the same?
Please don’t. In their endearing ignorance those musicians would spill Guinness into the instrument and, yes, it would seal the crack temporarily. However, once the Guinness had dried out of it, the crack would reappear even bigger. They would continue to use the same remedy without realising that, gradually, they were destroying their instrument beyond repair. The same applies for putting the flute into a sink of water.
I've been trying to get a tone for weeks and still nothing! Am I doomed?
The flute is a particularly demotivating instrument because if you can’t get a tone from it, you can’t play music in any capacity whatsoever. But fear not. It has taken some of our tutors at OAIM weeks on end trying to get a tone before ever succeeding and our tutors will share their varied methods on how to approach your embouchure. The flute is a very personal instrument as it is connected directly to your face muscles and breath. As such, everybody has a unique way of finding the tone. If you persevere, you WILL succeed.
I play Boehm flute. Can I use that for Irish traditional music?
Technically, yes but, ideally, no. The tone of a silver Boehm flute that one finds in classical music is not suited to the timbre of Irish traditional music. There have been a handful of practictioners who use a silver flute (best known in, perhaps, Joannie Madden of Cherish the Ladies) but she grew up in a household steeped in the Irish tradition which paved a pathway for her endeavours. Most people are not so fortunate. Other musicians like East Galway’s Paddy Carty and Peter Broderick utilised the Radcliffe system which had Boehm-like keys fitted to a wooden bore. This allowed the musician to play in the many unusual, un-flutelike keys while still producing a pleasing tone (albeit still different to a simple-system flute). There’s really no point in short-cutting, learning the Irish flute demands that you do so on a simple-system instrument (i.e. open holes). If you would like to play chromatically, you can always get a fully-keyed, simple-system instrument (i.e. open holes with added levers for chromatic notes).
What is a concert flute? Is it a classical instrument?
This is a common misnomer. A concert flute, in the context of Irish traditional music, refers to concert pitch i.e. 440hz. This simply means that the flute is in the key of D. However, the term has widened it’s usage to refer to an Irish, open-holed, simple-system flute. It has nothing to do with a reference to classical concerts.

 

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Flute Courses

Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

Learn Irish Flute Online

Irish Flute Technique

with Kevin Crawford

  • Advanced

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Learn Irish Flute Online

Fleadh Tunes For The Flute ...

with Majella Bartley

  • Advanced

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Learn Irish Flute Online

Expert Irish Flute Technique

with Niall Keegan

  • Advanced

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Learn Irish Flute Online

Flute Basics

with Steph Geremia

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Music Online

Flute Foundations

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Basic

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Flute Progressions

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Intermediate

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Irish Flute Skills

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Intermediate

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All About Reels

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Intermediate

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Irish Music For Silver Flute ...

with Steph Geremia

  • Intermediate

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