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About the project

Here at you can find the details of over 200 Scottish printed sources of fiddle music from before 1850, with images and indexes of 22 books from the University of Glasgow and Perth's A K Bell Library. Browse the collection, search for tunes and composers, and play the tunes!

This resource was created as part of the AHRC-funded project Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions. The project’s principal aim was to encourage musicians in traditional music to draw further on historical sources in their repertoire, their teaching, and in their understanding of the music’s history, with a particular focus on the musical practices which underpinned the tunes: the structural and accompaniment traditions.

Because of this focus, the database does not include songs or airs, and it features only sources which contain basslines. Most of these sources are substantial printed collections, but also included are some of the hundreds of surviving single-sheet publications. We excluded manuscript sources to keep the project to a manageable and practical size.

The Resources section provides links to other materials produced by the team, including papers, recordings and presentations about the music, and information on how we prepared and built the database and website. Under References there is a full bibliography for secondary sources referred to in the notes, and a list of the library sigla showing the locations of all known copies of the primary sources in the UK and Ireland.

The boundaries of ‘Scottish fiddle music’ are porous and difficult to define: one early finding from our research was that early Scottish fiddlers were familiar with a more diverse repertoire than our present-day conception of Scottish fiddle music might suggest. ‘Scottishness’ in music can also be a problematic concept in a period when the notion of a national culture was in its early stages of development and negotiation, and even identifying simple tune types such as strathspey, reel and jig is sometimes far from straightforward in the 18th-century material. The notes on the music given here for each source include:

  • a summary of the kind of repertoire the source contains
  • some features of the basslines, and
  • particular points of interest that the research team noted on a survey of the contents.

Images will download at the currently selected zoom level; for a larger image, select a higher zoom level.

Please pass on your feedback about the site: you can trace how we developed it from 2012 to 2015 in our blog.

Principal Investigator, project management and editor: David McGuinness
Researcher (post-doctoral), music bibliography & cataloguing: Karen McAulay
Systems Developer, web implementation: Luca Guariento
Co-Investigators, oversight and advice: John Butt, Susan Rankin
PhD student, project development: Barnaby Brown
Research Administrator, School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow: Jeanette Berrie


Systems Developers, systems design: Zoltán Kömives, Neil McDermott
music encoding: Karen Marshalsay
MEI and search engine implementation: Andrew Hankinson
HMS.Scot logo design: Ewan MacPherson

University of Glasgow Digitisation Centre for photography
University of Glasgow Library Special Collections
Nicola Cowmeadow and the team at AK Bell Library, Perth & Kinross
the staff at all the libraries we visited in Scotland for being endlessly patient and helpful:
go and visit them, they will be pleased to see you!

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • University of Glasgow
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • University of Cambridge

initial publication: October 2015

minor corrections: February 2016, May 2017

minor additions: April 2020

minor corrections and addition of the 'resources' page: June 2020

The material on is available for all non-commercial use. When reproducing or republishing, please credit and the library which holds the original, and provide a link to the page.

Historical Music of Scotland
Music, School of Culture and Creative Arts
14 University Gardens
Glasgow, Scotland,
G12 8QH

0141-330 3587