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Instruments

Vamp

When improvising an accompaniment at the piano the left hand plays the bass note followed by the right hand playing the notes of the chord

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 The piano can be heard in the background of this excerpt for fiddle orchestra.

Drone

This is a continuous note above which a melody is usually heard. This term is often associated with bagpipe music. Listen to this example played by a modern style folk band and notice that the melody instruments play the same notes and play in unison while a drone continues in the background.

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Here is a march played by a fiddle with a drone background.

Fiddler

Folk instruments

The fiddle is the Scottish name for a violin. The instrument is just the same as the orchestral violin but is given the name fiddle as it represents the style of music for which it is used. In this slow air a piano plays a slow vamp while the fiddle plays grace notes, or ornaments, and the Scots snap rhythm can also be heard.

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Celtic harp

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 The Scottish harp, used in traditional music, has 30 strings and dates back many centuries with one of the most famous early players being King James I at the start of the seventeenth century. There was a revival of interest in the second half of the twentieth century. While originally used just for traditional music, the instrument has many young players who play to a very high standard and play all kinds of music. Listen to this rather funky excerpt in which the clarsach plays a riff, a repeated rhythm in the background, while a piano plays a melody over this in unison
 Notice also that although the music is in 4/4 time, the melody is syncopated, with notes accented off the beat. Here is another excerpt of original modern music for harp accompanied by acoustic guitar being strummed. Notice the use of arpeggios, broken chords, in both the accompaniment and the melody.

Accordion

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There are two types, the piano accordion and the free bass accordion, which are both used in dance bands and ceilidh bands. While the accordion is commonly used in Scottish music, it is also a very popular instrument in many central European countries and of course is also famous as the instrument used for Parisian cafe music. In this example you can clearly hear the first tune being repeated and at the end of this repetition a new section starts in the same style but in a minor key.

Bagpipe performer

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 The most common and familiar are of course the Highland bagpipes used as a solo instrument and in pipe bands. In the 1914-18 war the pipes of the Highland regiments were much feared by the German troops in the trenches. Regiments such as the Black Watch gained nicknames, theirs being 'The ladies from hell'.

There are also different types of smaller pipes such as the Northumbrian pipes, which have bellows operated under the player's arm and are used in traditional folk music.

Tin whistle

Penny whistle or tin whistle

Used in folk music, this instrument comes in many different sizes which are designed to play in particular keys. 

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 Listen to this excerpt in which a solo violin enters and a penny whistle plays a counter melody against the main tune. Here is another excerpt, where a large whistle is used as a solo instrument over a riff in the introduction to a song played by a modern folk band, Capercaillie.
Here is another example by the same group in which the whistle doubles the melody line in this rather funky, syncopated version of a jig. Notice the slap bass in the introduction and that after this the melody is in binary form, section A repeated followed by section B repeated.

Acoustic Guitar

Guitar

All types of guitars are now used in Scottish music, with electric instruments common in folk rock and acoustic instruments used in all types of music. You can hear these clearly used in the last two excerpts above. Listen to this example, which begins with an acoustic guitar playing broken chords or arpeggios. This is joined by a clarsach and then another guitar joins in playing a melody line.

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