In its strictest sense, traditional music is linear, purely melodic and generally not harmonised. Most of the dance music (jigs, reels, hornpipes, slides, etc.) is in simple binary form, each part being a repeated 8-bar phrase (AABB).

This framework allows for endless variations of rhythm, phrasing, and melody. It is really up to the individual. Dynamic variation and the use of vibrato are rare. Slower unmetered airs in general derive from song melodies.


  • Willie Clancy

    The Connaught Heifers, a two-part reel in binary form

  • John McKenna

    Colonel Frazier, here, a four-part reel

  • Paddie Glackin & Robbie Hannan

    Glackin on fiddle and Hannan on uilleann pipes perform The Glen Road to Carrick, a two part reel in binary form