Irish Dance Style Descriptions – WITH EXAMPLES!

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching and I posed a question to Dr. Alan Sissons – “What is the Difference between Celtic and Irish Music” AND what is the definition of the difference dance styles. WOW – what an answer I got – AND PLENTY OF SONGS TO GO WITH EACH STYLE! Thank you ALAN.

SOOO read his article – so you know HOW TO PLAY each style and you will be MORE than ready for a St Patrick Day Party!!!

Link to his Reply and FULL DESCRIPTION of each style – Celtic or Irish – Dance Descriptions

AND – this explanation about reading the music – The chords with a / through them indicate diad chords which are for instruments such as mandolin or bouzouki players. Diad chords are sometimes called modal chords and are just 2 notes, neither major or minor because they lack the third note of the scale. This makes them particularly useful in Irish music where so many tunes are constructed from broken scales where major & minor chords don’t always provide a satisfactory harmony.
So, for an accordion, just play the chords as written and ignore the strike through.


Hornpipe – IRISH HORNPIPES Sissons (Boys of Bluehill, Harvest Home and Off to California) m.m.= quarter note = 184 (half note = 92)

Reel –IRISH REELS Sissons- (The flaxen headed ploughboy, The merry blacksmith and The wind that shakes the barley) m.m = half note = 116

Jigs – 32 bar JIGS Sissons (The Railway and the Fiery Clock Face) plus 48 bar JIGS Sissons (Donnybrook fair and The Belfast Almanac) m.m.= Dotted Quarter Note = 132

Slip Jig – SLIP JIGS Sissons – (Drops of brandy, The Foxhunter’s jig and Tipperary hills)

Treble Jig –TREBLE JIGS Sissons – (The Three Sea Captains, The woods of old Limerick and Blackthorn Stick)

Slides (not Single jig) –SLIDES Sissons – (Denis Murphy’s, Merrily kiss the quaker’s wife and Kathleen Heir’s)

Polka – POLKAS Sissons – (After the battle of Aughrim, Trhe Ballydesmond polkas and the girl with the blue dress on)

Irish Waltz – Irish waltz Sissons – (Logic O’Buchan, Seamus O’Brien, The Gentle Maiden, & My Home)


Ceilidh” – the term is derived from the Old Irish céle meaning “companion” and was originally a social gathering where stories and tales, poems and ballads were rehearsed and recited, and songs were  sung but did not necessarily involve dancing.
In more recent decades, the dancing portion of the event has usurped the older meanings of the term, though the tradition of guests performing music, song, story telling and poetry still persists in some areas. Nowadays it is a term used throughout England Ireland and Scotland for a social dance evening.

Dancing at céilidhs is usually in the form of set dances or couple dances. A “set” consists of six to eight couples, with each pair of couples facing another in a square or rectangular formation. Each couple exchanges position with the facing couple, and also facing couples exchange partners, while all the time keeping in step with the beat of the music. There are also many couple dances performed in a ring.