The Scottish Guitar

For steel-strung or nylon-strung guitar, by Rob MacKillop


From the Introduction:

One of my chief concerns in this book is to show the stylistic differences between regions of Scotland, and also between periods. Guitars, lutes and citterns have been played in Scotland for almost a thousand years, and have always had a distinctive, contemplative voice. The arrangements in this book unite history with the present. Different areas of Scotland have cultivated different styles. These regional variations are a vital part of Scottish culture, but I fear they are being eroded due to political and economic pressures. In my arrangements, I have tried to reflect the origin of the tunes, with their appropriate ornaments and phrasing. The accompanying mp3 recordings are essential for a deeper understanding of the subtle art of phrasing, which cannot be found on the printed page alone.

I have spent many years researching and performing the historical traditional music of Scotland, and I feel that has given me an insight into a Scottish tradition of performing traditional music on plucked, fretted string instruments such as guitar, cittern and lute. I have tried in this book to show that thousand-year tradition for what it is, and to incorporate it into later material, from Gaelic song to traditional airs and dances. My main hope is that this book will raise an awareness amongst guitarists and their audiences of the great heritage the modern guitar can lay claim to, and the unique and distinctive style of Scottish guitar playing.

This book (I believe for the first time) attempts to define a uniquely Scottish way of playing the guitar, and it does so not through a dry academic analysis, but through performance – the heart of any musical culture. 

The book and CD is available from many online sources, just do a Google search for it in a store near you.

The following are free MP3 samples:

Example of the notation:

Your comments are welcome!

Such lovely music making! I didn’t know Tighean Geala Sildeag – what a stunningly lovely tune…How beautiful and haunting My Cheeks are Furrowed sounds on the guitar – wish you’d played it two or three times over…I could go on – but anyway you’ve got the drift of my pleasure. Many many thanks. Dr John Purser, author of Scotland’s Music.

Your CDs give me a great deal of pleasure – some of the tunes make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and the music certainly strikes a deep chord in my Scottish soul. Wonderful music, beautifully arranged and played with the touch of a maestro. Roy

The book is amazing. Learning the phrases has deepened my appreciation for the guitar, and made me a better artist! Brett

Rob, this is a wonderful contribution with a great deal of educational value, in the right sense, not just academic – leading forward! Beautifully soft and precise playing too, yielding from steel string what many would turn to nylon to attempt. – David Kilpatrick

Thanks Rob – This is an excellent resource. I’ll be pleased to link to your site and also recommend it to my students. Fretsource

I love pieces using DADGAD and learning some of them is much easier than the current classical repertoire with which I’ve been struggling, so this is a nice break. Excellent site, and I especially appreciate the distinction you make between Scottish and Celtic music. Rick

This is Brilliant !! THANK YOU !! Blugtrz2

This work is both brilliant and truly a gift. RH

Wonderful and generous–hope this volume gets wide circulation! Steve Bornfeld

I really ejoyed the mp3’s on your site, and the book looks wonderful too. It’s wonderfully understated playing, beautiful melodies masterfully arranged. Jon Gomm

This is going to serve me as a coursebook this summer :))) Scaramousche

That’s an absolute gem — I can’t wait to get to my guitar to start trying some of those pieces! “Thanks” hardly seems to cover it! digitig

Scottish Traditional Music for Guitar in DADGAD and OPEN G Tunings by Rob MacKillop

Published in Scotland by The Hardie Press and in the rest of the world by Mel Bay

For beginners to intermediate fingerstyle players. Popular traditional tunes mixed in with some forgotten treasures. DADGAD and OPEN G tunings. Extensive notes on technique, modes, ornamentation. A must for Celtic-style players.

Sonatas of the Scottish Enlightenment

Published by Mel Bay

For classical guitarists and ambitious steel-string players looking for something a bit different. Sonatas Of The Scottish Enlightenment was described in Classical Guitar as ‘Quality Baroque in any man’s language’.

A Sonata of Scots Tunes by James Oswald

~ arranged for 4 guitars or guitar ensemble by Rob MacKillop (Lathkill Music)

“An absolute delight – what gorgeous music!” Classical Guitar

Four Scottish Renaissance Pieces

~ arranged for 4 guitars or guitar ensemble by Rob MacKillop (Lathkill Music)

“This is a well-presented and very satisfying set of pieces” Classical Guitar


13 thoughts on “The Scottish Guitar”

  1. Pingback: Anonymous

  2. Mark mcgregor said:

    Hi rob love your music stuff and qouls like to sign up for some jazz lessons only thing is I’m in Dundee any suggestions

  3. Jean Cameron said:

    Sorry to be vague, I have your new book “The Scottish Guitar” with the marvelous CD. Am looking for the older book direct from Mel Bay. Amazon has copies from some dealers i am not familiar with but I think I will give it a go and order it from one of them. I did not find it on the Mel Bay site but emailed them and asked it I had missed seeing it somehow. Thanks

  4. Moving from the Ukulele blog to this discussion- thank you very much for posting the wonderful Lady Lie Near Me week before last. Not only is it great to compare it to the CD version, and especially the music on the page, but you powerfully illustrate your advice to breathe and let the guitar sing.
    Hearing your original recordings of these songs on the lute, I thought I would never be able to attempt to play them, but the Centerstream edition and your recordings make it much more approachable.
    Time for a Skype lesson!

  5. Rob, I noticed your tuning on the You Tube of that one is different than the book or the CD as it also is in your CD version of Lady Lothians Lilt, which is capoed at the 3. fret.

  6. Possibly, Jeff. I’ve played these pieces on many instruments and in different tunings, often just to see what new light they shine on the tunes. You know, when you shine different coloured lights on an object, and different aspects of it are highlighted? I like doing that.

  7. Joseph Lucido said:

    Hi Rob.I am trying to get lute pieces done on a 8 strings guitar,just like the ones you played on you tube.Are those available?

    • I have not done an edition for 8-string guitar, but many of the ones I played in that video are in the first book at the top of this page, but in DADGAD tuning. It has the standard notation (as well as tab) so you could possibly make your own arrangements from that book. When I did the video, I was playing from memory of the original lute tablatures.

  8. Hey Rob – starting to get stuck into the Scottish Guitar. I picked up a Waldzither and tuned it GDGBD (most are open C…), so the section on the open G tunes is great. You open it with “wet is the night and cold” and the advice to learn how to sing it, but I cannot find lyrics or recordings anywhere. Any clues?

  9. This is very nice. I enjoy playing various Celtic arrangements by many, such as Stephen Wake, Jim Tozier and El McMeen. The pieces in the book will bring me many hours of entertainment.

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