Scottish music

A group of Scottish musicians
A group of Scottish musicians

Scotland may be a small country, but it has a vast and colourful musical culture. It is well known for its traditional folk music which is popular around the world.

Music is a very inclusive part of Scottish culture. People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to perform and listen to music together. Traditional music is frequently performed at social gatherings such as weddings, funerals, parties, holidays, festivals and formal civic events.


Dancers at a céilidh
Dancers at a céilidh

The céilidh, meaning ‘a visit’ in Gaelic, was traditionally a gathering of people in the home. Neighbours would get together informally in the evening to share songs, music, poetry and storytelling around the fire.

House céilidhs were an important part of the culture as local knowledge was shared in addition to the music and dance. In larger communities, céilidhs grew into social gatherings held in halls.

Melody and scale

Scottish melodies are written using a number of different scales, but many are commonly based on the five note pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale, starting on the note G would be G A B D and E. It is a scale commonly used in folk music but particularly in Scottish music.

Treble clef, whole notes on High F sharp, G, A, B, D, High EPentatonic scale

Many well known Scottish songs are written using the pentatonic scale, eg 'Auld Lang Syne', 'Skye Boat Song' and 'Mhairi’s Wedding'.