The reel is the fastest of all the tunes played on instruments in Scotland. Reels are generally in 4/4 or 2/4 time, meaning that it has four or two beats in each bar. The rhythms most often found in the reels are quavers and semiquavers, often with a 'swing' to the semiquaver groups which means that they are not played as absolute equal values.
Reels can be used to highlight the agility and dexterity of musicians on their instruments, and they can be played on pipes and fiddle especially, but also on the accordion and other instruments that can play a melody.
The reel is a very old form of music in Scotland. Reels are mentioned as early as the 16th century - and they are found in Ireland, parts of England and in places where Scots and Irish people emigrated, such as Quebec in Canada and the Appalachian Mountains in America.
The reel is used for many set dances, mostly for three, four or eight dancers to a set. In Highland and Island Scotland, it was traditional at weddings for the bride and groom to dance a foursome reel with their best man (in Gaelic, the fleasgach) and the bridesmaid (maighdeann). The most popular set reel is the eightsome reel, although it is quite a long and complicated dance which can lead to chaos on the dance floor!