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Difference Between Reel and Jig

Reel vs Jig

“Jig” and “reel” are two different dance forms associated with traditional Irish music. The traditional music has different compositions or tunes on which the respective dances are performed. These dance forms are called step dances. Other than the jig and the reel, some other step dances are light jig, heavy jig, single jig, reel, and hornpipe.


The word “jig” originated from French word “gigue,” which meant “small fiddle.” A jig is a step dance which is danced by two, three, four, or eight couples. The couples arrange themselves on the sides of a square. When the dance proceeds, the couples arrange into figures 2-9 or 5, 6.

There are different types of jigs like: heavy jig, light jig, hop jig, slip jig, triple jig. The fastest of them all is the light jig. Slip jig is unique and expresses power and grace, thus also considered the ballet of Irish dance.

Irish people gather together during sessions where traditional music is played and couples start dancing to the tunes. Identifying the tunes and dancing to them is easy for those who know the differences.

A jig is a double; the tune has two parts. It has eight bars, and the time signature for a jig is 6/8. There are 6 beats to every bar, 1-2-3-4-5-6 I 1-2-3-4-5-6 I. The words pronounced or the tune heard is divided into three parts like jig-i-ty I jig-i-ty I. The main emphasis is on the first and fourth beats. On paper, the tune always starts with a clef, and one can find the numbers two and three for a jig.


A reel is the first dance form taught to any beginner student learning Irish dances. It is considered less graceful and less smooth than a single jig and light jig. A reel is influenced by the dances of Scotland, and it is the most common tune played and most common dance form in traditional Irish music. It has two parts also as it is a double, and the time signature is 4/4. Each bar has four beats 1-2-3-4 I 1-2-3-4 I. The emphasis is on the first and third beat like dum-dum-dum-dum I dum-dum-dum-dum I.

On paper, the tune starts with a clef, and the two numbers one can identify the reel with are six and eight.


1.A jig and a reel are two different dance forms with two different music compositions associated with each other.

2.Jigs are of many types like: heavy jig, light jig, hop jig, slip jig, triple jig; a reel has no types.

3.The time signature of a jig is 6/8, and the time signature of a reel is 4/4.

4.A jig is considered more elegant and graceful than a reel. A reel is the first dance form learned by beginners as it is easier and more basic.

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  1. Hi, the time signatures given seem to be the wrong way round from the description when mentioning how they appear ‘on paper’.


  2. It is clear description thank you despite mistakes ON PAPER:
    Jig is 6/8 you say but you add that on paper you’ll find 2 and 3

    Reel is 4/4 but on paper you say 6 & 8 will be found.

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