Slow airs can be either instrumental tunes in their own right, or melodies borrowed from songs. Slow airs can be played on many instruments and are particularly suited to the fiddle with its sustained bowed sound. There are no special rhythms associated with the slow air; they are simply slow melodies.
When bands and solo musicians are making music that is not for dancing to, they often put together 'sets' of tunes of different types. In bagpipe music, a common combination is a march, strathspey and reel, and sets often also start out with a slow air before embarking on the livelier dance tunes, usually building up in speed to an energetic finish.
There are many, many slow airs from all around Scotland. Here are some examples of well known and favourite airs.
The 'Cradle Song', or the 'Forres Cradle Song' was written by the famous 19th-century fiddle virtuoso James Scott Skinner after seeing a sick child being cared for by its mother in a hotel in Forres.