Scottish Folk Music

Scotland is very well known for its traditional Folk music, which has remained popular around the world in the 20th century.  It has both influenced and been influenced by traditional English and Irish music, but despite increased immigration to the country and its increasing diversity, Scottish music has retained many of its traditional aspects. Most people around the world associate the bagpipe with Scottish Folk music, and while this instrument, imported to Scotland around the 15th century, is vital to their playing, it is not the only part of the music.

There are many different forms of Folk music in Scotland, with very fluid rules. In fact, many artists, rather than simply sticking to one style, tread the line between two completely different musical styles. Ballads and laments are very popular in Scottish Folk music, normally sung by one singer with the backing of instruments, normally the harp, fiddle or bagpipes. Dance music is played across the country at dances, Highland balls, weddings and other ceremonious occasions. These dances include jigs, waltzes and reels, and are normally done accompanied by a group of musicians, a dance band or ensemble. The typical band includes six members, including one fiddle, two accordions, a piano or keyboard and bass and drums. However, this setup can vary considerably, and there is no strict fixed band setup in Scottish Folk music. Traditional Folk songs are often melodic and haunting, and vary from region to region.

Scottish Folk music has a very long history. The first collection of Scottish Folk songs known to have been written down was written by John Forbes in Aberdeen in 1662. “Songs and Fancies: to Thre, Foure, or Five Partes, both Apt for Voices and Viols”, it was called, and it was printed a total of three times over the next twenty years. It contained 77 songs, 25 of which were Scottish and the remainder being English. Most of the Scottish songs published in the book are anonymous. Ballads, which had been popular as Scottish Folk music for hundreds of years, were only printed beginning in 17th century. However, they only began being printed in mass in the 18th century, including great works such as “Orpheus caledonius: or, A collection of Scots songs” published in 1733, James Oswald’s “The Caledonian Pocket Companion”, published in 1751, and David Herd’s “Ancient and modern Scottish songs, heroic ballads, etc. collected from memory, tradition and ancient authors”, published in  1776.

Scottish Folk music has a long history of tradition and variety, which, despite many threats to traditional Scottish culture, has remained relatively unchanged since the 15th century at least. From ballads and laments to optimistic dances to haunting traditional music which varies by region, Scottish Folk music is one of the most varied forms of Folk music in the world. Appreciated by the entire world, the bagpipes are a vital part of this tradition, and their popularity will help ensure that they traditions of the old Scottish Folk music will not die.