The process through which Irish traditional music is taught is in most instances overlooked. Although there exist several research works focusing on formal teaching, Irish traditional music education in informal context is limited (Waldron, 58). It is therefore vital that Irish music educators scrutinize the larger picture of Irish music transmission and possibly learn from other effective modes of teaching. This essay scrutinizes both formal and informal Irish traditional music education.

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The transmission of Irish traditional music involves illustration, aural insights, emulation, and memorization (Harte). For this reason, the music is primarily passed to students informally through traditional musicians’ practices. In other words, the music transmission is predominantly oral. In institutions, educators provide formal music learning by delivering the required contents digitally through community forums, audios, and visuals. Actually, the learning is done informally within the learning institutions. However, research has proven that informal learning outside the institutions is more effective and contributes significantly to aspects of education in music (Waldron, 57). Formal teaching of Irish traditional music provides students with aspects such as written notation, which are useful aids to learning the music. However, most learners highly value playing “by ear” than abilities in reading music (Harte). Therefore, learners prefer attending live performances or performing the music themselves to ensure skill acquisition. It is for this reason that teaching of Irish traditional music is commonly done informally within institutions in a formal context.

According to Smith, educators begin the informal teaching through advising students to select music for themselves. Competence in voice/instrument is primarily attained through group tuition. Teaching involves copying records or live session/performance heard. Additionally, the process occurs through a model of master apprentice, group learning, and peer-focused and self-focused learning. After the attainment of musical competence, assimilation of the knowledge and skills is done in a holistic manner through organizing complete pieces of music and performing. Furthermore, the integration of composing, listening, improvising, organizing, and performing takes place.

Irish traditional music is done informally in a formal context because of the effectiveness of informal teaching to educators, students, and transmission process of the music. For this reason, most individuals prefer informal teaching of the music, particularly when done outside learning institutions through listening to live performances or participating in them.

  • Harte, Colin. “Teaching the Tunes: Understanding the Role of Irish Traditional Music in Higher Education in North America.” ACADEMIA, 2016, Irish_Traditional_Music_in_Higher_Education_in_North_America . Accessed 19 April 2019.
  • Smith, Sally. “Traditional Music: Ceol Traidisiúnta: Irish Traditional Music in a Modern World.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 5, no. 2, 2001, pp. 111 – 125.
  • Waldron, Janice. “How Adult Learners Learn Celtic Traditional Music: An Exploratory Case Study.” Music Education Research International, vol. 3, 2009, pp. 57 – 71.