Scotlands Culture\|Scotlands Songs


From slow melodic airs to lively, energetic reels and jigs, there are a wide variety of tunes used in Scottish traditional culture. The slow airs are melodies in themselves or melodies taken from song, while the fast tunes are all dance-tune forms, although they can be enjoyed in their own right rather than just being used to dance to.  

Descriptions are given of each of the different forms, with some examples of tunes and how they can be played. There are also some examples of tunes written in musical notation.

Close up of a swinging kilt

Hornpipes and waltzes

The hornpipe and the waltz are dance forms that have stayed popular over the years.

Ceilidh dancers' hands joined together


The jig is a form of dance tune in compound time related to the European baroque dance, the gigue.

side drummers marching


Marches were originally composed for soldiers to march along to.

Image of a man playing a fiddle


The reel is the fastest of all the tunes played on instruments in Scotland.

Close up of a musical manuscript

Scales and harmony

Scottish traditional music is essentially melodic and monophonic - it is rooted in unaccompanied tunes and songs.

Painting of Niel Gow, violinist and composer (1727-1807)

Slow airs

Slow airs can be either instrumental tunes in their own right, or melodies borrowed from songs.

Image of Blurry ceilidh dancers


Discover the origins of this popular dancing tune that can be played on many different instruments.