Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Music for Scottish Country Dances

Except in The Quadrilles and The Lancers, Scottish Country Dance music is arranged as one continuous piece with no break even when changing tempo in a Medley. In most dances, it is made up of as many tunes (including repetitions) as there are Repeats for the dance, each being of length appropriate to the number of bars required for the Repeat. The ending of one tune provides a clear indication that a new Repeat is about to begin though the inexperienced should beware the false ending after 32 bars in the tunes for many dances with 40 bar Repeats.

The most common Repeat length is 32 bars and so for a Longwise, 3 couple repeat in 4 couple set, 8x32 bars are required; for a 5 Couple repeat in 5 couple set, 5x32 bars are needed and so on for other formats. Repeat lengths of 48 bars and 40 bars are common; longer and shorter lengths also occur. Exceptionally, some dances in the 4 Couple repeat in 4 couple set format have only two Repeats (for example, Angus MacLeod); this is completely acceptable when the dance is symmetrical Up and down.

A few dances do not have the simple Repeat structure and so are made up of tunes aggregating to the total needed and, ideally, suited to the structure of the dance as, for example, in The Eightsome Reel which starts and ends with a 40 bar chorus and includes a 48 bar solo for each of the eight dancers.

The start of the dance is almost always heralded by a chord and there is usually a final chord as well. These provide the dancers the opportunity to acknowledge each other with a slight bow by the Man and a gentle curtsey by the Lady.

A few dances, mainly Longwise, 4 Couple repeat in 4 couple sets, require some of the Couples to start on the Opposite Side; these are introduced with two chords, the second being used for the appropriate Couples to Cross to the Opposite Sides. The 3 Couple repeat in 3 couple set Jig, My Heather Hills, starts with the 1st and 3rd Men interchanged; a second chord is useful here, with the 1st Man Casting to 3rd Place and the 3rd Man Dancing Up Inside The set. The 2 Couple repeat in 4 couple set Strathspey, The Glasgow Highlanders, also requires a second chord so that 2nd Man and the two Ladies can Chase anticlockwise one Place to Finish beside their Partners in the Side lines.

Occasionally an 8-bar introduction is used instead of the chord; this is particularly beneficial in dances such as The Dashing White Sergeant and Nice to See You where the Middle dancer of each threesome has two Partners and so has Time to acknowledge the Partner on the right on bars 5-6 and on the left on bars 7-8. In the 4 couple square set Strathspey, The Bonnie Lass O' Bon Accord, the deviser incorporates this form of acknowledgement of Partner and First corner into the dance.

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Types Of Sets

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