Music & how it fits the dance

Scottish music and dance

Scottish dancing mainly uses three musical rhythms - Jigs, Reels and Strathspeys, with Jigs and Reels being faster than Strathspeys. 

Nearly all-traditional Scottish music is written in 8 bar phrases and the majority of Scottish dances use 32 bars for one turn through the dance. 

Hence, with four couples in a typical set and each couple dancing the dance twice before they get to the bottom of the set, it means that the most comment dance structure for SCD is eight times through each 32 bar turn. You will see the terminology 8 x 32 bars to describe the amount of music needed for a dance.

Most formations take 8 bars of music so this means that many dances have four formations (one of which is a progression a.k.a. a way of changing places with the couple below you). For some of the simpler dances you need to remember just four formations.

You still need two further bits of information to help you get started; steps and formations. 


Formations you will come across in most Scottish Country Dances and what it all means


Get started with our how to guide for the most common Scottish Country Dance steps

Music resources

Materials for dancers, musicians and anyone interested in traditional Scottish music

Armed with the above information it is possible to get through your first Scottish Country Dance and start out on this great adventure. 

This section is, of course, a very brief ‘quick’ guide; should you wish more information follow the appropriate links on the learn Scottish Country Dancing home page.  

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There are 159 RSCDS Branches and over 300 Affiliated Groups in more than 50 countries around the world, located on all continents (except Antarctica).

They organise and run classes, dances and other social events in their own areas and are committed to helping develop Scottish Dance and Music for future generations.

We encourage you to try Scottish Country Dancing for yourself to see just how much fun it can be, so please come along and learn how to 'Dance Scottish'. 

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