How Music is A Part of Scottish Culture


Scotland is known for its traditional music, even today when so many other countries have moved away from their traditional song roots. As a country it is most commonly associated with the playing of the bagpipes, and particularly the performance of the Great Highland Bagpipe. The bagpipes date back to the 15th century in Scotland and were historically associated with various clans, piping families and with the military and are also often played in marching bands. The bagpipes are a very particular, often difficult, instrument to learn to play which makes it even more impressive that so many people in Scotland are willing to learn.

Bagpipes and Instruments

The bagpipes are played in Scotland by all ages today, and to cater to their popularity there are numerous events in which various pipers (as they are often known) compete. For instance, the World Pipe Band Championship is held every year in Scotland during which various bands compete against each other for the ultimate accolade.

The traditional Scottish music is still heard today all over Scotland as it is deeply engrained in the culture of the country. Although the bagpipes are the instrument most commonly associated with Scottish culture, the accordion, fiddle and harp (clarsach) are also very significant. The harp is the most ancient of these instruments and was frequently played in the Gaelic courts during medieval times. Not unlike the bagpipes, the harp is still played to this day in Scotland and in there is a harp festival that is held in Edinburgh. A type of flute known as the tin whistle and a type of drum known as the bodran are also popular in traditional music and will often feature in folk music that can be enjoyed at many a local pub. Music is a part of celebratory and sad times and is very closely associated and integrated into Scottish society.

Folk Music

Stringed instruments, such as the lyre, were present in Scotland from about 2300 BC indicating the long musical history this land has and just what an integral part of the country and the culture it has been since the very earliest of times.

A great deal of folk music and folk songs were prevalent before the 18th century but around this time songs are actually written down and thus more consistently preserved. There have been times during history when traditional folk music was less popular and seemed to be dying out. For instance, it was not very common to hear folk music after World War II. However, a group of individuals during the 1960s really worked to bring the traditional folk music back by promoting it on radio and by establishing a folk club culture in Scotland. Folk festivals and cèilidhs have also functioned to keep folk music alive during the 20th century in Scotland.

The Celtic music of Scotland has never completely gone away and in fact there have been rock groups and other musicians who have attempted to fuse traditional Celtic music with modern forms of music to create a uniquely Scottish sound. Music has always been and still is a very important part of this fascinating culture.