Celtic Fiddle

Newcastle Piping Festival - Andy & Margaret Watchorn playing the Celtic Fiddle

Celtic Fiddle

The Celtic fiddle is one of the most important instruments in the traditional repertoire of Celtic music.

The fiddle itself is identical to the violin, however it is played differently in widely varying regional styles. In the era of sound recording some regional styles have been transmitted more widely while others have become more uncommon.


Compared to classical violin, Irish fiddler tend to make little use of vibrato except for slow airs, and even then it is used relatively sparingly. Like the rest of Irish traditional music tradition, melodies are embellished through forms of ornamentation, such as rolls, trebles, and cuts.

Irish fiddlers also use a vocabulary of bow slurs different from other fiddle traditions, at least in proportion of usage. Most notably, fiddlers often slur into the beat to produce a certain lilt, not unlike the Newcastle hornpipe style of bowing in England and Scotland, though the technique in Ireland is not restricted to hornpipes. They may also slur over beats in such a pattern as to create a natural back-beat in reels. Numerous Irish Reels are performed by The Dubliners, one of the pioneers of traditional Irish Music.

Slow airs are occasionally played upon the fiddle, but the style is best known for fast, snappy reels and jigs. Strathspeys, popular in Scottish Fiddle are seldom played, as such, but there are some tunes which amply utilized dotted rhythm.

Some tunes are:

  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley
  • The Humours Of Lissadell
  • The Maid Behind The Bar

See all piping.