Welcome to the terms section. Please feel free to browse through our list of terms. The list is arranged alphabetically.

Accidental - The determination of whether a note is to be sharp, flat or natural.

Bellows-driven - Where the air source is a set of bellows, as in uilleann pipes, rather than mouth-blown, as in highland bagpipes.

Binary form - A form of music in two distinct parts, where the both sections are generally repeated, thus AABB.

Bow Grip - How and where the bow is held.

Button-keyed - An accordion where buttons are employed as opposed to the piano-like keys found on the piano accordion.

Ceili - From the Irish word meaning to gather, thence to visit to neighbouring houses, and now generally meaning a dance.

Chanter - The part of pipes on which the tune is played.

An Chomhd·il - In existence prior to The Irish Dance Commission was The Irish Dance Teachersí Association, Comhdh·il na MuinteoirÌ RincÌ Gaelacha, known as An Comhdh·il. Initially an integral part of the Commission, differing opinions led to their eventual split in 1969, and now the two bodies exist separately. An Chomhdh·il organises its own competitions and classes and has its own independent constitution. Both organisations are responsible for the interest in feis dancing today.

Chordal - The accompaniment of more than one note that the regulators can afford.

Chromatic - Incorporating semitones not common to the home key.

Classical Left-hand Position - The generally adopted position of a violinistís left hand, whereby the neck of the violin rests on the heel of the playerís hand, as opposed to it resting more on the palm, as found in traditional music.

Comhaltas CeoltÛirÌ …ireann - Established in 1951 with the objectives of promoting Irish music, dance, language and culture in general, it is the largest body of its kind, with now more than 400 branches worldwide. CCE and the fleadh cheoil have developed in tandem.

Concert Pitch - Where A above middle C is pitched at 440 cycles per second or 440 Hertz.

Concert Pipes - Pipes pitched at A440, in other words, set in the key of D; as opposed to flat pipes where the pipes can be pitched as low as Bflat.

Connaught Rangers - 1793-1922. Troops who excelled at close-hand combat, they were organised as the county regiment of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, encompassing its Militia infantry.

Irish Dance Commission - An Coimisi˙n le RincÌ Gaelacha was established by Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) ñ in the late twenties as a commission for the purpose of examining the organisation of Irish dancing as it existed at that time and to make recommendations as to how it might be better organised in the future. The body first met in 1930.

Diatonic - Staying within the home key and not modulating to any others.

Double-stop - The playing of two notes at the same time, the bow drawing on two strings at once.

Drone - A continuous bass note accompaniment to pipes.

Dublin Feis Ceoil - Established in 1897 to promote Irish music. It is now known as the Siemens Nixdorf Dublin Feis Cheoil, and the traditional element is now reduced to harp competitions.

Feis Competitions - Irish step-dancing competitions.

The Festival of Britain - The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition which opened in May 1951 in London. At that time, shortly after the end of World War II, much of London was in ruins and redevelopment was badly needed. The Festival was an attempt to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress and promote better quality of design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities following the war. The Festival also celebrated the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition. It was the brainchild of the Labour Deputy Leader Herbert Morrison who described it as 'a tonic for the Nation'.

Fleadh Cheoil - Literally a 'feast of music'. An annual gathering of musicians, the first of which was held in Monaghan in 1952. Albeit essentially informal, central to the fleadh are instrumental and singing competitions for various age groups. There are county and provincial fleadhs, as well as the all-Ireland.

First Position - On violin, the hand staying in the basic position, not moving up the neck of the instrument into the higher register.

Gaelic League - Established in 1893 to promote all things Irish, it was founded in a small room in Dublin by, amongst others, Douglas Hyde, who was to go on to become the first president of Ireland.

Gaelic Revival - Various bodies that encouraged a resurgence of interest in Irish culture ñ its language, literature, history, music, dance and folklore - and inspired by the growing Irish nationalism of the early 19th century. By that time Gaelic had died out as a spoken tongue except in isolated rural areas and English had become the official and literary language of Ireland.

Genres - Types, styles.

Gourd - A large, hairy, hard-skinned fruit (of the cucumber family), its shell can be scraped out and used to help amplify or resonate the sound of an otherwise quiet instrument.

Harmonic Accompaniment - Where suggested chordal accompaniment is employed.

Homogenous music - Music sounding the same, or very similar.

Improvised - Not pre-prepared; in theory at least, executed on the moment.

Key System - On a flute, an arrangement of keys to enable certain notes to be played.

Linear - Music solely melodic, without accompaniment.

Melodeon - Early form of accordion.

Melody - An air or tune.

Metered - With a meter, or pulse; in a definite rhythm.

Modal - Modal ñ traditional music uses certain modes or scales, and most of the music falls into four of them. If we were to play the eight white notes on a piano as suggested below, we would find the characteristics of the following:

  • C to C ñ Ionian mode
  • D to D ñ Dorian mode
  • G to G ñ Mixolydian mode
  • A to A ñ Aeloian mode

Modal System - A system of modes or colours that have certain characteristics that give a piece of music a particular flavour.

Octave - A range of eight notes (12 semitones) above or below the note in question.

An tOireachtas - An annual competitive and social event, established in 1897, that celebrates Irish language and music.

Operetta - Light opera.

Ornamentation - The decoration and embellishment of a note or tune.

Parallel Bore - On the inside of an instrument where the wood has been bored with sides parallel, as opposed to the sides tapering in a conical fashion.

Popping Strap - A piece of leather a piper puts on his knee to help keep the bottom of the chanter air-tight to enable staccato, or detached playing.

Reeds - The voice by which the sound is produced. In uilleann pipes, double reeds are used for chanter and regulators. This is whereby two pieces of cane are bound together on a staple, or small cylinder of metal. Both blades of cane vibrate to produce the sound. Single reeds are used in the drones ñ these are cut from cane and have a single vibrating tongue. Central to the development of concert uilleann pipes.

Regulator - Part of uilleann pipes that affords an optional harmonic accompaniment.

Rhythm - Pulse or beat.

Sean-nÛs - Literally meaning old style, a decorated style of singing and dancing.

Staccato - Short and detached.

Stopped Keys - Instrument holes covered by keys that can be released at will to let the note sound.

Stop-key - On the regulators, the keys that cover the holes, or 'stop' them. At the players discretion, these keys can be opened to allow the regulators to sound.

String-crossing - String-crossing ñ in violin playing, where the bow moves rapidly across some or all of the four strings, demonstrating technical expertise.

Tempo - The speed at which something is played.

Tenor, Baritone, Bass - The pitches of the 3 drones and 3 regulators, the tenor being the highest, the bass the lowest.

Tenor Regulator - The highest pitched regulator on uilleann pipes.

Timbre - The tone or musical colour of an instrument.

Union Pipes - Original name for uilleann pipes.

Unmetered - Without strict, regular time; freeform.

Vaudeville - A term used to describe the vibrant and diverse forms of popular entertainment that thrived in North America from 1870-1920.

Vibrato - A form of decoration where the main note is oscillated between the notes above and below without any discernable shift in pitch.

Virtuoso - A performer whose technique and style know no limitations.