Traditional Scottish Music

If you have spent some time in the Scottish Highlands you may have found yourself listening to some traditional Scottish music. The Highlands may not be the only place in Scotland where people have an appreciation for this type of music, but it is certainly a good place to discover Scottish folk music.

Some may argue that traditional Scottish music is very similar to traditional Irish music and perhaps the proof of this is the way that musicians can very easily switch back and forth between the two genres. However, there are some very definite differences – most notably this is seen in the types of musical instruments used in Scottish music. For a start, traditional Scottish musicians tend to make much more use of the highland pipes in their songs. The northern parts of Ireland also make use of pipes, but they are a different variety of pipes. In Scottish music you will find a preference for the Scottish small pipes and border pipes which are both bellow-driven, but do not have the regulators found in the Irish uillean pipes. The Scots also tend to use piano accordions – where the Irish use button accordions – and the Scots make a greater use of other musical instruments such as the piano and cello.

Traditional Scottish music seems to differ somewhat from region to region. The Shetland and Orkney isles, for instance, sing mainly in English and make frequent use of the fiddle. Their music shows a strong Norwegian influence, while the Highlands and Hebridies are more strongly Gaelic with songs being sung in Gaelic and the highland bagpipes playing a strong role. The music in the Lowlands and Border regions may be sung in Scottish or English and feature the small pipes or border pipes. They also tend to employ a more English style of music. In contrast to this, the music made in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton is generally sung in the Gaelic language while the fiddle is combined with bagpipes and music is given a strong, dance-like quality.

Scottish music is also quite well documented, when compared to Irish music – though it is nowhere near as well documented as the traditional music from other countries. Nevertheless, there is another facet to traditional Scottish music that is somewhat unique – that of Scottish folk dancing. Most of the dances that accompany traditional music cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The most common Scottish dance is the strathspey. Whether you enjoy dancing and singing or just appreciate the way that the Scottish bagpipes can sound dramatically haunting or wonderfully cheerful depending on the way they are played, take the time to listen to some great traditional Scottish music the next time you are in the country.

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