Music for Scottish Country Dancing

Music for Scottish Country Dancing


I’m and SCD dancer, and also I’m trying to make a band to play irish/scottish music - including playing for dancers. The rule is that before playing some sort of music, you should listen lots of it. So - what will you recommend?

We have some of these official RSCDS CDs [ ] (and will get more, I hope - although they’re quite expensive). They are great - but where can we find the names of the tunes they’re playing there? Not leading tunes (we have that Originally Ours book), but other tunes of the set?

And what other SCD music (bands, perfomers, CDs) will you recommend? And, generally, what other trad scot instrumental music is recommended listening for us?

…and, since I’m writing here, can you recognize these two tracks - [ ] and [ ]? Leading tunes are Flowers of Edinburgh and The Laird o’ Cockpen, bur what are other tunes, and who performs each of the two?

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

…and please note that we are in Russia - price which is OK for american may be too high for russian. And we have limited access to online shops also.

Good thing about being here is that we don’t need think about all that RIAA stuff too much - but SCD music is not something that can be found in torrents or pirate bays anyway.

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

…and one more thing: althouh was asking some specific questions above, any other links or advice are welcome πŸ™‚

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

I don’t know how strictly you view things, Breqwas, but in Scotland there is a difference between what we would describe as Scottish Country Dancing and Ceilidh dancing. Many of the dances and tunes are interchangeable, of course, but basically ceilidh dancing is much less formal.

Here’s a site which you might care to try. They publish various books with lots of well known popular tunes including some Irish too. Much of it is very good for dancing.

Also, have a look at Nigel Gatherer’s site. There are many tunes there which you can download along with good information and links to other sites.

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

As regards to recommendations for bands and recordings, again it depends whteher you are more interested in the SCD or more informal ceilidh side of things.

One good ceilidh band is The Occasionals but there are so many.

If you are able to listen to radio online, "Take the Floor" is a weekly programme from Radio Scotland and features quite a variety of bands from both sides of the spectrum

You can either listen live or up to seven days after the broadcast.

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

Johny J, here we usually mix up SCD and Ceilidh dances - and things here are almost always more or less informal, as it is done "just for fun" πŸ™‚

Thank your for the links. Niegel’s site is really great, I’ve found it long ago and use it quite often when I need to find some good tune.

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

As far as things Scottish, my heart is in the Maritimes, but I also am fond of ol’ Jimmy Shand Senior. I have come across some sources that might interest you ~

‘Grand Chain: The Edinburgh Scottish Dance Resource’

‘Ceilidh Dance Instructions’

James Scott Skinner ~ etc… The University of Aberdeen ~ music and dance

U.S. Library of Congress
American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library
American Sheet Music

Recommended read ~ anyone with a serious interest should have a copy ~

"Traditional Dancing in Scotland"
J.P. & T.M. Flett

Now, for the ‘ceilidh’ side of things, and the CD comes with dance descriptions for the 17 tracks as the accompanying sleeve notes:

CD: "The Glencraig Scottish Dance Band: The Ceilidh, Are Ye Dancin’?
Greentrax Recordings Ltd. ~ CDTRAX 303

Book: "Scottish Ceilidh Dancing" (dance descriptions)
David & May Ewart
Mainstream Publishing, 2004
ISBN: 1-85158-845-0

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

I play in a Scottish Ceilidh (rather than SCD) band and have learnt all my stuff from listening to "Take The Floor" on Radio Scotland for decades, (and of course Jimmy Shand). It is available on demand and is a must for hearing how different bands set their speeds for the various dances.

It is interesting to note, they are playing more and more ITM on there.

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

Note: when resorting to ‘recordings’, we have also used music from the Canadian Maritimes (Cape Breton, etc.) for Scottish Country Dancing (ceilidh & RSCDS), for example "Posties Jig" (that way with jigs & sets are brilliant!). We also prefer the Maritime fiddlers way with the strathspey, though you do have to ‘adapt’ to take any strathspey country dance at that raised tempo it is a hell of a lot more fun ~ for example "The Wind on Loch Fyne". πŸ˜‰

Generally, we find the RSCDS take on things, piano accordion dominated, plodding and dull, but each to their own preferences… Where Scottish music is concerned, we favour the ‘life’ and ‘lift’ of the Canadian Maritimes, where it is used for dance in the community, group and for stepdance, as opposed to the generally staid pomp and costumed balls of the RSCDS…

Miss Jean C. Milligan ("Won’t You Join the Dance?") and her cronies weren’t out for the people, for the masses, they were for it belonging to an elite class, for raising it’s profile out of the village and into the estate houses and upper class ballrooms. The RSCDS take on things is like creative anachronism or a bad period drama made for television, more fantasy than historical accuracy… 😎

But ~ I do understand folks want for such things ~ fantasy, pomp and fancy dress…and I’ve even dressed up, including wearing a kilt (old style & new - Prince Albert) and ghillies (like ballet shoes, which is revealing of the inclinations of Milligan and her cronies) … 😏

Prince Albert ~,_Prince_Consort
Not forgetting his fancy for body piercings, and the one named after him…

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing

Hello to a fellow SCD dancer!

For learning purposes, I recently purchased a CD by Laura Risk ( She played at the Chicago New Year’s Ball, and it was fantastic! Meaty strathspeys and everything.

If you’re interested in sheet music, I would recommend Susie Petrrov’s "Book of Musick"

Also, I’d try Hanneke Cassel.

Happy dancing (and playing)

Re: Music for Scottish Country Dancing


I’m with you in enjoying the lively beat of the Cape Breton (Maritimes) version of Scottish music; however, the difference we have learned as both RSCDS dancers, fiddlers of Scottish and Cape Breton music is this: Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) is the ballroom Scottish dancing. Men dress in kilts and Prince Charlie jackes (Scottish tuxedo-type jacket) while women wear ballgowns. The playing must carry a dancer in long smooth steps because they cover a lot of ground. Check out You Tube and type in Polharrow Burn to see a pretty good example of what this type of dance looks like.

Now contrast that with Cape Breton step dancing, which is very vertical. Steps are done in a confined area, and they don’t wear kilts. Our teacher notes that most fiddlers of Cape Breton music play seated while most SCD fiddlers play standing up. Always exceptions, but an interesting observation. SCD fiddlers tend to lightly tap their toe whilst Cape Breton fiddlers may actually lift their leg off the floor and keep the rhythmn in a very loud way. Again go to You Tube and type in Cape Breton Stepdancing 2 with Harvey MacKinnon dancing. If you type in Rodney MacDonald on You Tube, you can see him keep rhythmn with both legs going.

I think you’ll see the difference. Unfortunately, I can’t find any good videos of Scottish Country Dance bands with lead fiddlers.