Structure of Reels

How many different sizes and shapes do Irish reels come in? This report reveals the broad variety of lengths and structures found across all of the Irish traditional reels documented in . The AABB-style notation used here is conventional when describing musical form. Within the Irish tradition, the common terms "doubled" and "singled" can be translated as simply meaning whether each 8-bar part is repeated or not, and the somewhat old-fashioned Irish terms "the tune" and "the turn" can be translated as "the A part" and "the B part" respectively.

8-bar structureCount of reels% of
total
Bar graph
AABB1,20056.5%bar
AB64930.6%bar
AABBCC783.7%bar
ABC612.9%bar
ABB261.2%bar
ABCD200.9%bar
AAB150.7%bar
AABBCCDD100.5%bar
AABB'90.4%bar
ABCDE80.4%bar
AABC60.3%bar
ABCC60.3%bar
AABCC40.2%bar
AABCD40.2%bar
AABBC30.1%bar
AABCCDD20.1%bar
ABCB20.1%bar
ABCDD20.1%bar
ABCDEF20.1%bar
AA'BB10.0%bar
AA'BB'10.0%bar
AABAACC10.0%bar
AABBA'10.0%bar
AABBA'A'B'B'10.0%bar
AABBAABBCCDDCCDDEEFFEEFF10.0%bar
AABBAACCDDCCDD10.0%bar
AABBCCBB10.0%bar
AABBCCDDEE10.0%bar
AABCBC10.0%bar
ABB'10.0%bar
ABBC10.0%bar
ABBCC10.0%bar
ABCB'10.0%bar
ABCCDDEE10.0%bar
ABCDD'10.0%bar
Total2,123

This chart does not include an additional 23 reels that do not have a consistent 8-bar structure.

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