Listening to music is the biggest key to success for aspiring fiddlers. Below are a few of my favorite Irish fiddlers as well as a few that are "household names" among Irish musicians. You'll be able to find most of these fiddlers on Youtube, Itunes, or Amazon and they are a good place to start if you are totally new to the music.
Kevin Burke (Bothy Band, Celtic Fiddle Festival, Patrick Street, Solo) - He's MY teacher and a well known fiddler. He was born in London but his parents were both Irish so he grew up shuttling between Sligo and London. He now lives in Portland. A robust, groovy, and inventive player. He has his own sound that arose from the London scene. Influenced by the likes of Coleman, Potts, Killoran, and Cronin (see below).
John Carty (Patrick Street, Solo) - Another London-born Irishman who now lives in Boyle. He is both a fiddler and banjo player with a distinct style from the Boyle/Roscommon/Sligo area. Very inventive and ornamented. His playing is informed by historic Sligo players as well as the playing of Brian Rooney.
Liz Carroll (Trian, Solo) - She is American, born in Chicago from two Irish parents. She has a hybrid Irish/American style and is a prolific composer of Irish tunes that get played regularly. An aggressive, inventive, and percussive player.
Oisín Mac Diarmada (Teada, Solo) - A northern style fiddler from Ireland with a distinctive style. A very clean player with lovely ornaments and a sweet approach to the music.
Martin Hayes (Solo) - A very well known fiddler from Clare. He tends to have a sort of open, jazzier style but still firmly within the Tradition. A bit slower playing in the Clare style. An example of the "high lonely" sound some fiddlers prefer. He was influenced by his father PJ Hayes and uncle Paddy Canny, as well as the Jazz he heard after living in Chicago for a while.
Frankie Gavin (De Dannan, Solo) -A Galway fiddler that was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s. Still going strong today. He still lives in Galway and is a big influence on the music there. Very fast and highly ornamented. Hang on to your hat. He was influenced by the likes of Stephane Grappelli and Sean Maguire.
Aidan Connolloy (Solo) - A young guy from Dublin that has made a big impression with his first album. Really complex and interesting playing. Influenced by Paddy Cronin and the music of Kerry.
A FEW HISTORIC FIDDLERS
Michael Coleman - He is the Grandfather of Irish fiddling. He recorded in teens and twenties while living in NYC and as the first major recording "star", he influenced generations of Irish fiddlers who came after him. Complex Sligo style fiddling.
Paddy Killoran - Recorded at same time as Michael Coleman. Still Sligo but simpler, more straightforward style.
James Morrison and Lad O'Beirne - Two more Sligo fiddlers who are influential, though their recordings are harder to find.
Bobby Casey - Clare style fiddler with a unique and powerful style. My personal favorite after Kevin!
Paddy Cronin - Recorded in 50s-70s. Hugely influential among young players today, including Aidan Connolly and Kevin Burke. He is a Kerry style player. One of his sons lives here in SF and plays flute at local sessions.
Tommy Potts - Dublin fiddler with a really unusual interpretation of tunes. Very personalized playing. Popular for his unusual settings of tunes.
Dennis Murphy and Julia Clifford - Two Kerry fiddlers related by marriage. Lots of slides and polkas. Students of Padraig O'Keefe who was a legendary Kerry fiddler though few recordings remain of him. If you want to know how to play a polka, listen to them!