Style is about the particular setting of a tune or song and how that tune is played or that song is sung. Key elements of style are the variation of the melody and spontaneity in performance. The performer might never exercise precisely the same subtle nuances twice - it is very much the music of what happens. So the performance environment and the audience play a part in the music.

Many regions in Ireland have differing musical styles. For example, the style found in Sliabh Luachra in Kerry is very different than that found in Teelin in southwest Donegal. In the days before motorised transportation, travel was obviously limited. This isolated regions from one another and preserved the individuality of the country’s musical pockets. Ease of travel changed that. Today, many of those distinct regional styles have developed into something more homogenous.

But it’s not only travel that has increased exposure to new musical styles. Style has been influenced by manuscript collections and printed music since the 19th century, and the mass media explosion (especially over the last forty years), has had a huge bearing on it. Once the only way to learn new music was from another musician seated beside you. But now, printed and recorded music make it possible to learn in even the remotest circumstances.


  • Seamus Begley & Steve Cooney

    Begley on accordion and Cooney on guitar perform Dul dti’s na Raiseanna (Going to the races), a fine example of a polca in the Sliabh Luachra style

  • James Byrne

    Performs Jimmy Lyons (highlands) on the fiddle, in the Teelin style