Jig: Getting the Lilt

The Feel of It

The jig really takes some getting used to in order to get the feel, the lilt of it. Any Classical bow techniques won’t cut it. The lilt is lost and it becomes heavy and suddenly over-phrased when forcing a Classical method onto folk music. Just like the people who generally play such music they are (traditionally anyway) not trained for years on end into playing a very specific way for projection, phrasing, tone production, resonance, et al.


In folk music one must learn to trust the bow more fully. Trusting in its capacity to do the job without exerting oneself and some high and lofty ideals onto it. (Not that those are bad things in themselves, it just doesn’t sound right nor does it have the afore mentioned lilt.)

In the case of the jig everything happens above the balance point to the upper half. The more you play in the upper half the better the lilt. It seems that it has a lively and bouncy feel to the playing when done there.


The rhythm is not such a straight-forward thing in jigs. There is somewhat of an alteration to the nearly constant flow of eighth notes in 6/8 meter. I have not quite gotten this far in the learning yet, so I am unable to qualify the way the rhythm is altered. When I listen to folk musicians play however, I can feel that it is not simply straight eighth notes throughout. They are straight from time to time but altered as well.

First attempt

I recorded myself playing Atholl Highlander’s Jig–a Scottish jig–and felt quite accomplished having played it from memory. There were some nice things such as playing it with a regular beat and even getting the syncopating section that sounds like a 3/4 meter to be even.

The music on a whole was fun to play and I felt good about the work I had done. I accomplished the aforementioned things. The next step in the learning process is to start finding the lilt to the music. I have a hunch that I still need to trust the bow more and have yet to discover how those eighth notes are altered in the rhythm to achieve a more Jig-like feel.