Grey Larsen at the Celtic Cafe


Review by Alfredo De Pietra

The Celtic Cafe is grateful to Keltika Magazine of Italy for sharing some of the work of Alfredo De Pietra, its Music Column Editor, translated into English. Click here for Alfredo's bio page at the Celtic Cafe, with links to his other features available here at

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The Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle

By Grey Larsen - Mel Bay Publications, Inc. ( - ISBN 0-7866-4942-9; $39.95

Just to be clear from the beginning: every lover of Irish music should consider buying this Essential Guide, and even more so if he or she is a flute or tin whistle player. It was published only a few months ago, but already I had been struck by the comments of readers who spoke of it as a reference book of unusual dimensions, completeness and accuracy.

Well, when Grey Larsen, the book's (very kind!) author, had the publisher (Mel Bay) send a copy of the book directly to me, and when I could leaf through the book's pages myself, I easily understood the reasons for so much praise. Sure, there are other instruction books about Irish flute and tin whistle, but have you ever seen one with nearly 500 (!) A4 pages? And with two audio CDs included, containing dozens of audio examples? Here is why the great Matt Molloy (Chieftains) writes about this book: "Grey has, through his research, patience, and diligence, completed a work on Irish flute and tin whistle that I feel is essential reading for anybody interested in getting it right."

And by the way, Grey Larsen is the right person to write such a comprehensive book: a flute player and tin whistler since the beginning of the '70s, he has learned the music from many great Irish-born musicians, both in Ireland and in his own country (he is from the Midwest, U.S.A.) where so many immigrants from the Emerald Isle have settled.

What is most striking about the Essential Guide is the overall scope of the project and the general design, which is perfect both for a beginner and for an advanced musician. The book can be divided into three main parts: the first thirty pages explore these instruments' places in the evolution of Irish traditional music. The second section, entitled "The Instruments" (70 pages), is dedicated to the history and technical development of the flute and whistle themselves, and to various techniques of holding and sounding the instruments.

But it's in the following 300 pages that you reach the heart of the matter, with sections called "Ornamentation", "Phrasing, Articulation and Use of the Breath", and final chapters about the playing of slow airs and on the building of one's own musical memory. Everywhere the pages are replete with examples, drawings, schemes and photos. Even for someone who - like me - is not a flute player, the richness of detail and completeness of the treatment are absolutely evident.

And, to conclude, there are also transcriptions of some of the most important recordings in the musical history of these two instruments, plus a detailed, dedicated discography and bibliography. This is a book for musicians of course, but it is also useful, even precious in my opinion, for those interested in the history of Irish music, for it fills a gap of knowledge that has existed in these areas. This is a perfect work to become the gold standard, a reference point for whistlers and Irish flute players.

"The Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle" can be purchased online from Mel Bay Publications, but also directly through the official web site of the author:

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Review: Alfredo De Pietra
Feature: Bernadette Price
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas




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