Jig Dance Definition Essay

Uninitiated listeners, of which there are many, and even some tune-book editors have mistaken slides as hornpipes, single jigs, polkas, or double jigs, since slides share various traits with each. Once you know a few, you realize they are distinct from any of those.

The tempo is rather quick, often in the 150 bpm range, if you were to count each heavy-light pair as a beat. But in practice each beat of a slide (counting around 75 bpm now) gets two pulses, which is either a heavy-light pair (very close to an accurate "quarter note, eighth note" distribution) or a quite even triplet – not a jig pattern. Thus if all four group-halves in a bar were triplets – which is uncommon –, you'd have a twelve-note bar. The ratio of heavy-light pairs to triplets in a slide is slightly in favor of the pairs, which again clearly distinguishes them from double jigs. Most slides break the pattern once or twice in a tune by delaying the strong note for a bar's second group until that group's second half, creating a cross-rhythm with respect to the foot taps. Other unique characteristics of slides are not necessary additional information for identifying them – only for playing them!

Note that slides are peculiar to the Southwest of Ireland, and some are directly related to double jigs, single jigs, or hornpipes played elsewhere in Ireland. Musicians quite familiar with slides are generally unfamiliar with single jigs, and some otherwise respectable authorities on the slide have rashly pronounced that single jigs "are the same as slides." We can have some sympathy with that by understanding that these musicians simply use the term "single jig" to mean "slide," and are apparently unaware of the existence of the distinctive "single jig" rhythm in Irish music. Over the course of the 20th century the customary notation for slides shifted from 6/8 to 12/8, which I think is an improvement in accuracy. However, I have given bar counts for slides here according to the 6/8 notation, for the very practical reason that the set dancers count them that way! See Top Ten Slides for examples.

 Leaving Cert Music

Irish Dance Music

Much of what we now call Traditional Irish music originated in the Gaelic speaking peasantry of the 18th Century. Dancing was very popular at weddings and other social events. Up until the early 20th Century, the practice of dancing masters travelling from town to town with a fiddler or piper, and giving dance classes was common. In rural Ireland, dancing at the crossroads was still very popular towards 1950. Today, dance music is often played in a concert situation, to be listened to, rather than to be danced to. This affects the way the music is played. For example, a hornpipe wont necessarily be played at dance speed now. Modern players particularly in bands or groups often like to play very fast. Modern bands also like to run a slower dance like the slip jig into a faster one like the reel. The tempo change for the Reel gives the music a lift. It's also typical to run sseveral tunes of the same dance type together.
The Jig
The jig is the oldest form of dance. There are 3 types; the Single Jig in 6/8 featuring all quavers            , the Double Jig in 6/8 featuring crotchet quaver movement         and the Slip (Hop) Jig in 9/8 featuring quaver movement. The Lark in the Morning, Morrison's Jig are examples of well known Jigs. Slipjigs include, The Butterfly and the opening of Riverdance
The Reel
The Reel is of Scottish descent and is often the favourite dance of traditional musicians. Although written in 4/4 it is played in 2/2 with 2 steady beats in each bar. Drowsy Maggie, The Mason's Apron, the Wind that shakes the Barley and Toss the Feathers are examples of well known Reels

The Hornpipe
The Hornpipe is the slowest dance leaving room for the most complicated of dance steps. Many set dances are Hornpipes. It is characterised by the dotted rhythm      (pizza!), triplets and 3 strong crotchets in the last bar of each section. Other dances related to hornpipes include Barndances, Scottishes and Highlands. The Harvest Home and King of the Fairies are good examples of Hornpipes.

The Polka is a dance associated with the set dances of the Sliabh Luachra area of West Munster. It is in 2/4 time and it's tempo is very fast. The Kerry Polka and Britches full of Stiches are Polkas.

The structure of Irish music is simple. In the past, most tunes consisted of 2 x 8-bar phrases, called Parts, which are usually repeated. These 8-bar parts can be further sub-divided into 2 x 4-bar sub phrases which are often quite similar. A typical form therefore is AABB whic is usually repeated. Today it is common for tunes to have 3 or even 4 parts. Repitition is still used though not always. The Contradiction is an example of a Reel played by fiddler Zoe Conway, with none of the 4 parts repeating, but the whole tune repeats. i.e. ABCD ABCD.  Occasionally, tunes are structured in an irregular pattern but this is not common. Note; The parts in a slip jig are not normally repeated.
Sets and half sets were the most popular form of dance in the 19th and 20th centuries. a full set consists of 8 people making 4 couples. Different parts of the country have different forms of set. The half set consists of half the number of people. The most skilful form of Irish dancing is the solo step.
Céilí Bands
The first Céilí bands were probably as a response to the Gaelic League's creation of the céilí dance in the early years of the 20th Century. a Céilí band consisted of a Piano, snare drum and an accordion. As venues became larger so the bands grew, so today  fiddles, flutes, banjos and even saxophones are found in Céilí Bands. The Céilí Band was often the only type of traditional music played on radio in the 1950s and '60s. Some bands stand out for the quality of the music they perform. the Kilfenora Céilí band are an example of a band that is thriving today and all the members are first rate traditional musicians. there is also a movement towards 'listening' Céilí Bands with the emphasis on the music alone. 

This tune is a Reel played on the Fiddle accompanied by Bodhrán and Guitar. Note there are 4 sections without the usual repeats. Form - ABCD ABCD.

This is another Reel this time by the Chieftains. Note the combination of instruments. Again the expected repeats are missing. Form - ABAB which alternates with the solo instruments, Fiddle, Harp, Pipes. Note that the Harp solo is a Jig, probably for variety in this long arrangement of a short tune. 

This tune is a Jig but also a really good opportunity to hear the increasingly popular instrument from Greece called the bouzouki.

This Hornpipe is called the Harvest Home played on Concertina. Note the dotted rhythm, triplets and the relaxed tempo. 

3 Sliabh Luachra Polkas. The combination of Fiddle and Accordion is very common as melody instruments.

Riverdance was a huge event but the full video really belongs on the Fusion page. It's included here as the opening dance is a Slipjig in 9/8.

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