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Irish Music on the Silver Flute

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Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society

This review first appeared in Pan, the journal of the British Flute Society and is reproduced with permission. Join the BFS: membership starts from £20 a year.

This book serves as an ideal introduction for any Boehm flute players who are interested in exploring the traditional language of Irish Music.    One of the most important elements in idiomatic Irish flute playing is the execution of a wide range of ornaments,and they are clearly explaned her and backed up with examples from the repertoire.  Barnes stresses the difference between classical ornamentation (which is essentially melodic) and Irish ornamentatin where the focus is on rhythm.  He disusses differences in hand position and an appropriate approach to vibrato, and covers techniques such as feathering, cuts, rolls, cranns, bounces and slides.  Each technique is clearly explaned in straigntforward language, and there is plenty of repertoire included to help skills develop in each area. Recommended.

Carla Rees

From the Publisher

This book is for someone who can already play the silver flute to some extent. I hope to show you some of the techniques to engage with the sounds of traditional wooden flute, as well as teach you a few tunes along the way. There are lots of my own tunes included which are particularly suited to the silver flute and a few traditional tunes to help illustrate the techniques.


"There are very few Boehm system silver flute players in Irish traditional music; this slim but hugely important book caters directly for their needs. Outside the confines of Celtic music the silver flute is the dominant fipple instrument. Why then with so many silver flutes aren't there more to be found in traditional music? The reasons for their scarcity and a door into the tradition for Boehm flute players are addressed magnificently in Philippe's book. 

The way in is to master a new set of techniques on the silver flute that fit the accent of Irish traditional music, and those techniques may be alien to many players who have been brought up on classical music; from using the pads and not the tips of the fingers, to embouchures and diaphragm control. In one sentence Philippe explains the key to unlocking Irish music: "Ornamentation is one of the most important factors in making your silver flute sound like a wooden flute and more appropriate for playing Irish music." The book takes those ideas of Irish ornamentation: rolls, cranns, finger vibrato, the cut, trill keys, and in very simple clear notation explains each of them. Philippe is a master of those techniques himself. Irish Music Magazine's John Brophy's comment is quoted in the book; "I've heard nobody else who can make the Boehm flute sound like the true traditional thing, who can mould tone to the tune so nicely, the sheer musicality is exceptionally impressive."

With each set of ornaments there are examples of tunes, cross-referenced to albums, which are listed on the final page. Reels The Green Room and the New Brighton, are revisited showing how variations can be tastefully applied. Given that classically trained flautists will especially welcome the book, Philippe goes the extra mile and arranges the selection of Miss McLeod and the Mason's Apron for a quartet. This is an invaluable resource for Silver flute players and is a great teaching aid; it should be in every secondary school music room in the country." - Seán Laffey, IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE

Difficulty guide: 4
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).


1. Feathering

  • May Morning Dew

2.The Cut

  • The Green Room, Castlebrook

3.The Roll

  • Chalice Well
  • Pete's Jig
  • Connemara Jig
  • Eric's (quartet)

4.The Crann

  • O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick

5.Roll/Crann Fingering

6.Trill Keys

  • Noogleshifty


  • New Kings Road
  • New Brighton Reel

8.The Bounce

  • Ali's Reel

9.The Hard D

  • Up

10.The Slide

  • May Morning Dew
  • Eilidh's Reel

11.Advanced Ornaments

  • Joan Brodie's (duet)

12.Some Tunes

  • Mrs McLeod's/Mason's Apron (quartet)
  • The Green Room/Brighton Reel

Item Details


  • Part 1: Flute
Category: Irish Folk Flute Music
Publisher: Philippe Barnes
Our Stock Code: 1430974
Media Type: Paperback (19 pages [score])