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Irish Music on the Silver Flute

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  • Staff Pick

Staff Pick

“Engaging and precise”

Beth Penny Just Flutes staff member - [email protected]

Irish Music on the Silver Flute is a perfect choice for classical flautists who are interested in learning to authentically play Irish Folk music. The book provides an excellent way to gain an understanding of the fundamental characteristics of the genre, and how these can be conveyed in practice.

Barnes explains the various techniques and ornaments extremely clearly, with a concise writing style that allows each concept to be as straight-forward as possible to grasp. He references comparable classical terminology so that the player can get a sense of the initial effect, before describing how the two styles of ornament differ and why this important e.g. classical vibrato vs. feathering/finger vibrato. The contrast between rhythmic and melodic ornamentation is emphasized as a key element of creating a fitting sound. Barnes also highlights the timbral differences between the simple-system flute and silver flute, suggesting how the character of the former (including its strengths and weaknesses) can be used to inspire the colours created when playing on a silver flute.

An array of wonderful tunes are used to illustrate each type of ornament. There are classics such as ‘The Connemara Jig’ as well as many of Barnes’ originals. A particular highlight is the funky reel ‘Up’, which provides a fantastic introduction to ‘the hard D’.

While I have praised the accessibility of the book, this is not to say that it doesn’t provide numerous challenges for the flautist. A significant amount of perseverance will be required to master each technique, while the provided tunes are brimming with style and spirit to be brought out by the player. A rewarding learning process!

Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society

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 explained here and backed up with examples from the repertoire. Barnes stresses the difference between classical ornamentation (which is essentially melodic) and Irish ornamentation 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 explained in straight-forward 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 total 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
  7. Triplets
    • 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
Publisher's reference: PB01
Our Stock Code: 1430974
Media Type: Paperback (19 pages [score])