Are you thinking of taking up a musical instrument? Can you already play some tunes but want to improve? Do you struggle to find the time or budget to commit to paid lessons? You can now perfect your playing skills with free online Irish Traditional Music courses in the most popular instruments. Discover the joy of making music, whether you are in Boston, Belfast, Brisbane or beyond, with completely flexible online music lessons. The tutors are all top Irish musicians and include the wonderful Nell Ní Chróinín, lead vocalist with well-known group Danú, who will teach you how to sing in the distinctive Irish Sean-nós style. There are three courses in each instrument, progressing from beginner through to intermediate level, so there’s something for every learner. Advanced players can take the courses to add more Irish tunes to their repertoire.

Choose from 8 Instruments

There are certified courses in:  

Bodhrán(Irish Drum) with Dermot Sheedy. The bodhrán (pronounced bow-ron) is a handheld drum which is hit with one or both ends of a short beater with movement through the wrist. You’ll be amazed at the sounds and rhythms Dermot Sheedy, drummer with Hermitage Green, can create.

Flute and Tin Whistle with Brian O’Loughlin. Popular across a wide range of genres, the tin whistle is the perfect instrument for beginners. Tin whistle and flute maestro Brian O’Loughlin teaches techniques that will help you play any style of music beautifully.

Concertina with Conor O’Loughlin. One of the best concertina players in Ireland, Conor is an accomplished teacher who will help you master the squeezebox whether you want to busk in the streets or perform the folk music of your own country. 

Button Accordion with Conor Connolly. The accordion is another squeezebox instrument popular across many cultures. Learn from a true artist and former Ireland’s Young Musician of the Year.

Fiddle with Doireann Ní Ghlacáin. Practice makes perfect whether you are looking for violin lessons for beginners or fiddle techniques to enhance your playing. Doireann is a natural-born teacher and you can hear her in action in the guitar and bodhrán lessons.

Guitar with Michael McCague. Multi-instrumentalist songwriter Michael McCague uses the DAGDAD tuning for Irish folk guitar. Learn the most frequently used chords and achieve the rich sound associated with folk, country and bluegrass music.

It’s easy to register and enrol – you could be playing your first tune by tea time!

Rich Irish Heritage

Doireann Ní Ghlacáin, a presenter on the Irish TV station TG4, organised the filming of the lessons on the west coast of Ireland. Doireann [pronounced Durrin] also teaches the Irish Fiddle courses.  A fiddle player almost as soon as she could walk, Doireann has stellar Irish heritage credentials and is passionate about all aspects of the culture. Her maternal grandfather is the famous composer and arranger Seán Ó Riada who is acknowledged as a giant of the 1960s Irish music revival, while her paternal grandfather, Tom Glackin, was an accomplished fiddle player from Donegal. As she says, “Music is very much the family business.”

“I love the vision of Alison in regards to these free courses and the learning of music – that it is a joy of life, and everyone should have access to learn how to play musical instruments without respect to their financial circumstances.”

Although Doireann plays fiddle in the Donegal style, and retains a strong connection to that north-western county, she was brought up in Dublin where her father, Kevin Glackin, played a key role in the capital’s resurgent traditional music scene. Doireann’s mother, Sorcha Ní Riada is a journalist with the national TV station RTE. She came from Cúil Aodha [Coolea], a village in the Múscraí [Muskerry] Gaeltacht region of Co Cork, and so Doireann was brought up as a Gaeilgeoir, or native Irish speaker. “My mother nurtured a love of sean nós singing in us and we spent our childhoods between Dublin and Cúil Aodha, where I learned the songs from the area,” she told us.

Unsurprisingly, Doireann’s life has revolved around performing and teaching the fiddle and she tours regularly with concertina player Sarah Flynn. They recorded an album, The Housekeepers, in tribute to the great women of the Irish musical tradition, and have performed from China to the USA and all over Europe. She hasn’t neglected her own education, however, with a degree in Irish and History, a Masters in Irish Literature and at the time our courses were recorded, was working on a PhD in Irish and Ethno-Musicality, focusing on the songs of the Muskerry Gaeltacht.

How is Irish Music Taught?

A young busker plays the fiddle at a music festival in Co Clare, Ireland. Image by Brian Morrison © Tourism Ireland

Irish music is traditionally taught through a learn-by-doing approach and the theory is ‘caught’ not taught academically as in classical music. By enrolling with Alison you will be learning from some of the best as Doireann has selected all-Ireland champions to teach these free online music courses. “We knew we wanted the top musicians in their field and that’s what these courses provide that is unique. The teachers are all young musicians at the top of their game. I love to sit down and listen to their music. As fellow musicians we were able to work together and make sure the lessons were accessible to learners.”

All of the tutors for these Irish music classes are experienced teachers of their respective instruments. “That’s the lovely thing in Irish traditional music. You’ve been taught for years and then when you master your craft, you go and teach it to others. Whereas in other art forms it’s very much about you, in Irish traditional music you are aware of being a link in the chain. You learn it from somebody and you pass it on to the next generation. All the teachers are very aware that we’re just bearers of the tradition and we must pass it on to the next generation as best we can, while being as truthful to the tradition as we can.

“I love the vision of Alison in regards to these free courses and the learning of music – that it is a joy of life, and everyone should have access to learn how to play musical instruments without respect to their financial circumstances.” Even better, each course is accompanied by free notes to download and use for practice.

Student Feedback

The courses are also available on Alison’s YouTube channel, however, you need to enrol on the website to download the free pdfs with all the course notes. Feedback from learners has been “mighty” as they say in Ireland:

As @HiddenEarth1916 shared under the Irish Singing Beginner 1, Lesson 1 videoI’ve been wanting to put my Irish to use and now have found something, thank you!” 

Wow, thank you so much for all the knowledge and I can’t wait to do more lessons!” @TriciawiththeTRUTH

DisAbili Solari comments on Nell’s singing: “Your voice touches some deep chord inside my heart and makes me cry.@disabilisolari

@messenger3478 adds:Thank you for sharing this! I love art and learning about my heritage!

Start your journey into Ireland’s musical heritage by checking out the Traditional Irish Music Hub now! For more musical updates, follow us on Facebook, X, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.

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