Reel vs Jig
The difference between reel and Jig is about how a musician arranges notes in a composition. However, before going into the description about the differences, let us get to know the context in which reel and jig appear. Irish people are fond of their traditional music, and gather to play or hear this music. The event is referred to as a session, and musicians get together to play music in a relaxed manner, and those who love music just listen to this music in rapt attention. What happens in a session is that someone starts a tune, and those who know it join in later. It is customary to present tunes one after another in such a manner that it looks like a set. In general, tunes in a set are all similar such as jigs or reels. Jigs and reels are names given to particular compositions depending upon how the notes are arranged. People who are not Irish or those who are not musicians find it difficult to appreciate the differences between jigs and reels. This article attempts to clarify these differences.
What is a Jig?
If you love Irish music but are not a singer or a musician, how do you find a jig? Well, this is simple. Just tap your feet along with the music in a natural manner and then try to count fast notes between each tap. If you can count 3 notes, you are listening to a jig. To make it simpler, try to listen to words more carefully and clearly. Take an example of the word terminator. In a jig, you would hear the word as ter-mina-tor (remember, they come in groups of three).
Jig is a duple. A duple is something that is concerned with the rhythm. It is based on two main beats to the bar. In a bar, a jig has just 6 notes. If you know how to read music from a printed sheet of paper, you know that the tune starts with a clef. This clef appears as a weird squiggle. Just after the clef are two numbers. If the numbers are 6 and 8 then, the tune is a jig.
You must have also heard of a dance called jig. That is the dancing style people follow when dancing to this jig music.
What is a Reel?
To find out whether you are listening to a reel or not follow the same method we followed in finding out a jig. Just tap your feet along with the music in a natural manner. Then, try to count fast notes between each tap. If you can count 4 paces, it is a reel that you are hearing, and not a jig. Now, take the same word ‘terminator’we took for jig. In a reel, the same word would be heard differently as ter-mi-na-tor.
A reel is also a duple. However, in a bar, a reel has 4-8 notes. If you know how to read music from a printed sheet of paper, you know that the tune starts with a clef. Just after this clef, there are two numbers. If you find 2 and 3, the tune is a reel.
What is the difference between Reel and Jig?
• Jig and reel are words that tell about the tempo of a composition in Irish music.
• Look at how the notes are arranged. A jig has a 6/8 tempo, while a reel has a 4/4 tempo.
• Both jigs and reels are duples but, in a bar, a reel has 4-8 notes whereas a jig has just 6.
• If you know how to read music from a printed sheet of paper, you know that the tune starts with a clef which is a weird squiggle. Just after this clef, there are two numbers. If you find 2 and 3, the tune is a reel but, if the numbers are 6 and 8 then, the tune is a jig.
As you can see, reel and jig are words that are used to refer to the tempo of a composition in Irish music. Now that you know what each stands for, try to find out whether you are listening to a jig or a reel next time you are listening to Irish music.
- English Elizabethan clown Will Kempe dancing a jig from Norwich to London in 1600 via Wikicommons (Public Domain)