If you want to play Irish music, you have a selection of instruments open to you.
Some of these fall into the ‘traditional’ category, and some, including the melodica, into the ‘alternative’ category.
There are instruments for backing (playing the accompaniment), and there are instruments that play the tunes (melodies).
Traditional tune playing instruments you’ll find at an Irish music session are the wooden flute, fiddle (violin), tin whistle, uilleann pipes (pronounced ‘illin’), banjo, concertina, button accordion and piano accordion.
Accompanying instruments are normally piano or guitar, and sometimes harp.
The bodhran (pronounced ‘borran’), a hand drum, provides the rhythm.
These are all good choices if you’re starting out, and want to play with other Irish musicians. Traditional instruments:
If you’re feeling more experimental, you can actually choose any instrument of your choice, including one you might already play.
I often choose to play the melodica – I started out with the piano accordion, but didn’t like carrying the instrument around, and was dissatisfied with the level of expression available to me.
The sound of the melodica is very similar to the more traditional concertina, as it produces the sound in the same way.
Other alternative instruments I’ve seen playing the tunes are saxophone, viola, hammered dulcima, and cello.
Alternative backing instruments include portable organ, clavichord, bouzouki, and mandolin. Again these accompanying instruments are more than capable of playing the tunes too.
It’s really your own creative decision, but bear in mind, many traditional Irish music sessions will not be open to you bringing along an instrument which isn’t established as a ‘standard’ instrument.
Whatever instrument you choose to play, if you would like to play with other Irish musicians at a music session, explain to the players that you are a beginner, and listen to their advice on how to proceed, and whether or not their particular session is suitable for you.