Scots Sangs An Tunes Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs and tunes
for use in Scottish schools - and everywhere else

Jigs

The jig is a form of dance tune in compound time. It is a dance form related to the European baroque dance, the gigue, but it is not certain where the dance originated from. The vast majority of jigs are in 6/8 time, but there is also a kind of jig known as a slip jig - this is in 9/8. Slip jigs were brought over from Ireland, where jigs of different kinds are very popular, but they are also found in many other countries and the 6/8 rhythm is one of the most common to be found in cultures all over the world. Jigs in Scotland are relatively fast and lively with melodies featuring sequences of quavers and semiquavers, and often with dotted rhythms throughout the tune.

The 6/8 tunes are good for dancing set dances such as 'Strip the Willow', where you might hear them played by dance band instruments such as the fiddle and accordion. At a dance, you often find that even with a dance band playing, a piper will be invited up to play the jigs for this set dance. Although the harp is a much quieter instrument, 6/8 tunes are also particularly suited to it because of the ways the shapes and rhythms of the tunes lie under the fingers.

When you are listening to a jig, you may hear six quavers in the bar and these are grouped into two main dotted-crotchet beats to the bar. Listen out for this in 'Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife'. This is a very old tune - it has been suggested that it can be traced back 600 years and it was certainly popular in Scotland and Ireland from the 18th century onwards.