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Capercaillie: Skye Waulking Song from the album Nadurra (2000)

Updated on September 21, 2016

Capercaillie: ‘Skye Waulking Song’ from the album Nadurra (2000)

Capercaillie is a Scottish band who combine traditional Gaelic folk music and elements of rock music. Their sound is a fusion of the two styles and could be described as Celtic rock.

The Skye Waulking Song (Chuir m'athair mise dhan taigh charraideach)

'Chuir m'athair mise dhan taigh charraideach' translates into English as 'My father sent me to the house of sorrow'.

Key Features

The Skye Waulking Song:

- 12/8 time signature

- based around three chords – C, E minor and G

- 8 verses and an instrumental section

- opens with an intro and fades out with an outro

- is from a collection of Gaelic folk songs compiled by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael


What is it?

MAD T-SHIRT is a tip for remembering musical features by going through 9 key parts of any musical piece.

They are:

Melody, Articulation, Dynamics, Texture, Structure, Harmony (tonality), Instrumentation, Rhythm, Tempo


Skye Waulking Song


- Melody is based on a pentatonic scale

- All instruments play in the middle of their ranges, apart from the singer, who sings a few head register notes to add emotion to the note

- Bouzouki and piano play a counterpoint melody to help Section A keep moving

- Vocables, nonsense words used to allow everyone to sing along

- Strophic structure – the melody is the same for both verses


- Tremolo effect on the violin at the beginning

- Ornamentation on some of the bouzouki line


- Dynamics based on the amount of instruments playing; quieter at the start, then becoming louder in section B with no instruments playing between section A and B to prepare for the new section


- Melody and accompaniment in section A

- Call and response between the piano and the Bouzouki

- Heterophonic sections between the pipes and violins in section B


- Binary form, Section A and section B, linked by an unaccompanied line

- Strophic structure – the melody is the same for both verses

- Section A:

- - Traditional, simple beat

- - In E Minor, chords change between E Minor and G Major

- - Quiet, calm and peaceful

- - Singer is the most important and keeps the rhythm

- Section B:

- - Full band section, drum and bass drive the beat forward

- - G Major (relative major or E Minor), chords change between C Major, G Major, E Minor, G Major

- - Generally much louder

- - Harmonised backing vocals, pipe solo which uses the vocal line to help improvise (pentatonic scale)

Harmony (tonality)

- Section A is in E Minor, Section B is G major

- Harmonised backing vocals

- Section A chord sequence:

- - Em – G

- Section B chord sequence:

- - C – G – Em – G


- Vocals, Violin, synth, Bouzouki, whistle, guitar, accordion, Uilleann pipes, Bodhŕan, bass, piano

Rhythm – vital section of the song

- During the intro, the time signature is ambiguous as it feels like it could be 6/8 or 12/8 but the hi-hat and shaker make it feel like triple time (3/4)

- The voice establishes itself as the main rhythmic feature, setting a strong 12/8 time signature – very important to keep the workers in time

- Uplifting rhythms, free sense of beat

Tempo – vital section of the song

- 172 bpm


- For all those words you didn't understand and more! -

Folk – music played by ordinary people, usually not written down and passed on orally (oral tradition)

Fusion – mixture of 2 styles of music

Oral Tradition – where a song is learnt by listening and playing, not from written music

Working Song – to help people, such as weavers, miners, farmers, builders keep in time and thus, more productive and efficient

Accordion - A portable wind instrument with a small keyboard and free metal reeds that sound when air is forced past them by pleated bellows

operated by the player

Bouzouki – a string instrument, like a mandolin

Fiddle – a violin like instrument

Tin/ penny whistle – An inexpensive, recorder like flute, usually having a plastic mouthpiece and a tin body

Uilleann pipes – sweeter, softer, used in a different way to Scottish bag pipes

Bodhŕan – an Irish framed drum used in Celtic/ folk music

Heterophonic – like homophony but the musical rhythms are slightly different (one pitch or note value)

Vocables – effect using vocals to sing vowel sounds, with no meaning

Pentatonic – scale, 5 or more note scale (known as a raga is Indian music) often used in folk songs to simplify the range of notes

Polyrhythmic – two different rhythmic cycles with accents in different places are played at the same time

Strophic structure – common structure of folk songs where the melody in each verse is the same

Waulking – stage in the traditional cloth making process. It is pounded against a table to clean, soften and thicken it

Listen - Get the track!

See if you can apply what you've just learnt!


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