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Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Contra Dan's Rehearsal Review: Jig to Reel

Going from a jig to a reel can be tricky musically, but it can really boost the energy in the room. It's a technique worth practicing.

We don't go from jig to reel very often, otherwise the "trick" would become stale. And we never, ever go from a reel to a jig!

Review of Basics

Jigs have three eighth notes to a beat, reels have four eighth notes to a beat.

6/8 vs 2/2

Reels have more notes in a beat and more notes in a bar, but both jigs and reels have the same number of beats in a bar: two!

Tempo is beats per minute. We usually play around 115 bpm, which means each beat takes up about 0.522 seconds of time—whether it's in a jig or a reel.

Changing from a Jig to a Reel

What happens to the tempo when we change from a jig to a reel? Nothing! Feet tap and dancers dance at the same pace. Each beat is still 0.522 seconds long and there are still 115 of them in a minute.

Two important things do happen:

  • Each beat gets subdivided differently, four eighth notes to a beat in a reel versus three eighth notes in a jig.
  • The off beats / back beats that give the tune its lift come in different places within each beat.

But the tempo does not change! Reels feel faster at the same tempo because there are more notes to a beat and each note is a bit shorter than its kin in a jig, but reels should not be faster (or slower!).

Audio Examples

All of these are set to 115 beats per minute.

1. Just downbeats. These could be downbeats for a jig, a reel, or even a change from one to the other. It doesn't matter what the melody is—the downbeats and the tempo stay the same.

2. The same downbeats with a melody that transitions from a jig to a reel.

If you're having trouble playing the transition from a jig to a reel, you might want to listen #2 a few times, as it isolates the transition.

3. The last half of the jig into the first half of the reel, with block chords in the last two measures of the jig and the first A of the reel.

The reel feels faster because it has more notes to a beat, but it is not faster! The tempo remains 115 BPM throughout.

4. The last half of the jig into the first half of the reel, with broken chords immediately after the transition and no drum to help. This is the goal.

5. Stool of Repentance into Devil's Dream. The clip starts with four potatoes then goes once through the jig and once through the reel. The flute plays a simplified version of Devil's Dream. That simplied version is in Dropbox . Feel free to play along!

Hope This Helps!