Irish Dances

Comparison of Jig and Reel


Irish Dances - Jig and Reel


  • Strong, regular beat
  • Emphasis on first beat
  • Clear phrases (Q&A Pattern)
  • Melodies often made up of 2x8 bar sections played twice, making a 32 bar melody in total
  • Binary structure (AABB)
  • Use of sequences in the melody
  • The melody is played in unison
  • Simple harmonies
  • Often in major keys or minor modes
  • Traditional Irish instruments include: Fiddle, Tin Whistle, Accordion, Guitar, Wooden Flutes, Villeann Pipes (like Bagpipes), Bodhran, Spoons


  • The JIG is in compound time (6/8, 9/8) and is fast and lively
  • The REEL is in duple time (2/4, 4/4) and features quaver movement and emphasis on 1st and 3rd beat

Overall comparison

The main difference between the two dances is the time signature. However, both dances are social and performance dances. Modern Irish music combines folk rhythms with modern beats and both synthesizers and live instruments are used.


Samuel Richardson


It's useful to have a chart comparing the jig and the reel in order to learn their subtle differences, and help us to not get them confused!