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 Traditional Music >> The Scottish Whistle >> Tutorials >> Tutorial 8.1


The Scottish Whistle

Strathspeys

Comin' Thro' Rye

Irregular Rhythm

Piper's Hut

 

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Whistle Tutorial - Lesson 8.1

 

The Strathspey

 

STRATHSPEY is a term used to describe a certain type of Scottish reel which employs a dotted rhythm and a distinctive "snap"; that is, a short note followed by a longer one. It's named after the area of Scotland called Strathspey, or the Spey Valley.

The first Strathspeys in print appear to be from James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion series published in the mid eighteenth century. How or why this peculiarly Scottish music form started is rather vague, but it caught on very quickly and became the most popular dance tune alongside the reel.

The most difficult part of playing Strathspeys is playing the snaps in the right place. There appears to be no set pattern for this, it rather being left to the spirit or the composer's whim, but in many tunes, it feels right to snap in some places and not in others. There is also a form of tune called the slow Strathspey which uses the same rhythms as its dance counterpart, but is played much slower, and is intended to be listened to rather than danced to. The celebrated Scots fiddler James Scott Skinner called his ones "solo Strathspeys". A good example of this is Mrs Scott Skinner.

 

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