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Adding Dances (and Publications) to the SCD Database


This is a brief guide to adding publications and dances to the SCD database. Publications may contain tunes as well as dances, but once you have figured out how to handle dances, tunes will be a cinch – perhaps unfortunately, the database doesn’t store all that much information about them at this time. You can also add individual dances (from leaflets or your unpublished manuscript collection) by simply disregarding everything we tell you about publications.

In this example, I’m going to walk you through adding my own publication, Nine Weddings (And No Funeral), and the dances and tunes within it. You can follow along, if you like, with a publication of your own choosing that isn’t already in the database (there should be rather a few of those, unfortunately).

Adding a Publication


The first step in order to add a publication to the database is to add a record for the publication itself. This is done by going to the database administration screen (at http://my.strathspey.org/dd/admin/, but we presume you knew that) and, on the “Publications” line in the “Site administration” menu, clicking on the “+ Add” link towards the right of that line. This, perhaps not unsurprisingly, brings up a form where a new publication can be entered.

The first two fields to fill in are “Name” and “Short Name”. “Name” should be what is on the title page of the book (in our case, “Nine Weddings (And No Funeral)” – including the parentheses). “Short Name” should be something snappy that would be suitable for printing on a very abridged crib sheet or anywhere else where space is in short supply. You get to make up something that makes sense – I put “9 Weddings”.

Any field with a boldface label is mandatory, any field with a non-boldface label may be left out if it doesn’t apply or the information is not obtainable. In this particular case, if there is no short name defined, the full name will be used instead when the short name is called for.

“Published by” gives the name of the person or entity that caused the publication to be prepared and distributed, as opposed to the person or entity that came up with the actual dances and tunes in it. I published my book myself, so my name goes in there (yay!). Publications of the Society go by “RSCDS”. Note that, in the database, the names of people are stored last-name-first, so you need to type “Skinner, James Scott” rather than “James Scott Skinner”.

All fields with a “magnifying glass” icon to the right of them support “autocompletion”. This means that you only need to type a few characters of the desired name, and the database will show you a brief “pop-up” menu with possible entries that contain the characters you typed. If you see what you wanted to enter in that menu, you may use the arrow keys or mouse to navigate to the entry in question, and the RETURN key or mouse button to select it. (Note that you need to type a minimum of three characters for the autocompletion to kick in.)

If the autocompletion doesn’t come up with the name in question, you can add a person to the database by clicking on the green “+” icon to the right of the “magnifying glass”. See Addendum: Adding Persons below.

The “Has dances” and “Has tunes” checkboxes pretty much speak for themselves. (As a matter of fact the database could figure these out by itself, but for the time being it doesn’t, so you will have to prod it.) My book contains dances as well as tunes, so I’m checking both boxes.

Check the “Pagenumbering” box if the dances in the publication are not in a numbered sequence. For example, in my book the dances are not numbered, so we identify where they are in the book by their page numbers, and check the box. (It is not a problem if there are several dances to a page, like in many of John W. Mitchell’s books – the page number does not need to be unique to a dance.) On the other hand, the dances in the main series of Society books are very conspicuously numbered – Book 46, for example, says “No. 1 – Christine M Phillips”, and in that case you should leave the “Pagenumbering” box unchecked and use the “dance numbers” later on.

The “Url” field gives you an opportunity to mention a Web page that is connected to the publication. My book can actually be downloaded bodily from the Web, and so it would make sense to give the URL as http://www.anselms.net/SCD/wbook/wbook.pdf. You could also enter the address of a web page that advertises the publication (presumably by the publisher) and allows you to buy, order, or download the book, or tells you where to obtain a (paper) copy. For example, the RSCDS books could point to the corresponding pages in the RSCDS online shop (although I don’t know whether that makes technical sense).

The upcoming new edition of the SCD database will allow several URLs per publication.

Check the “On paper” checkbox if the publication is available (also or exclusively) on dead-tree cellulose, vellum having fallen out of use since the Middle Ages. I sell paper copies of my book to interested parties – I have a couple of boxes left so if you’re interested, drop me a line –, so I’ll be checking that box, too.

My entry screen now looks like this:

Adding a Publication

Tender Loving Care

If you’re feeling responsible, you can open the “TLC” panel by clicking on the “Show” link after “TLC”, entering your my.strathspey username in the “Adopted by” field and clicking on the “Today” and “Now” links near the “Date” and “Time” fields. This means that, for the time being, you consider yourself in charge of the data pertaining to this publication – the community at large is counting on you to keep it correct and up to date.

As far as “correctness” is concerned, if people call in what they may perceive as mistakes in the data about this publication and its content, these reports will be routed to you, and we’ll expect you to take care of them by looking into them and possibly fixing the database. You’ll be in a good position to do so since you will have the actual publication around to check it out. (Please do not adopt publications that you do not actually have access to.)

As far as “up-to-dateness” is concerned, every so often the database may acquire ways and means of storing more or different information about a publication, dances, or tunes. It would then be incumbent upon you to add to or change the information in the database to reflect this.

You can “unadopt” publications at any time by removing yourself from the TLC panel. Please adopt only as many publications as you can reasonably handle – we’d love for all publications to be adopted by somebody, but then again we don’t want people to go for adopted publications in the way some folks seem to go for Facebook “friends”.

The “TLC level” specifies the amount of TLC the publication is currently receiving. This is currently defined as follows:

  • 0: We don’t know.
  • 1: The information on the publication itself is correct (i.e., title, publisher, and so on — what is on the publication page).
  • 2: The basic information for all dances and tunes in the publication is correct.
  • 3: As 2, but the steps are correct too.
  • 4: As 3, but the formation information is correct too.

Feel free to set the TLC level for a publication that you have adopted to the appropriate level. I think what I have done for my book so far justifies at least TLC level 1, so I’ll enter “1” in the “TLC level” field.

Now would also be a good time to click on the “Save and continue editing” button which appears either at the top or the bottom of the form, in order to upload what you entered so far to the server – just in case your computer explodes or your cat decides to take a nap on the RESET button. We don’t want to lose all that hard work.

We reserve the right to downgrade the TLC level for publications if that seems necessary – for example, once the projected new formations subsystem comes out, all publications now at TLC level 4 will be forcibly reduced to TLC level 3 since there will very likely have to be changes to the formations part of the data.

There is a more extensive writeup of the system at Adopting Publications in DanceData but this document supersedes the other one as far as editing information in the database is concerned. In particular, please disregard the section there entitled “Direct database updates” and, especially, its last paragraph.

Adding Dances

The panel immediately below the “TLC” panel lets you link dances to the publication as well as (incidentally) add completely new dances. The way this works is by entering the dance title in the box in the “Dance” column to see whether the dance is already in the database on its own or as part of another publication, and, if not, clicking on the green “+” icon to bring up a new window to enter the dance. (We’ll go into that in just a little while.)

The autocompletion menu for dance names also gives the dance type and bars and the last name of the dance author in order to sort out ambiguities (try entering “Anniversary Reel”) – we operate under the assumption that dance authors are savvy enough not to write more than one dance of a given type and bars with the same title, and so far this has been justified. (Please don’t prove us wrong.)

The “Number” field is where you add either the dance number (if dances are numbered in sequence, and the “Pagenumbering” box above is unchecked) or the number of the page the dance is on (if dances are not numbered in sequence, and the “Pagenumbering” box above is checked). If the dances are unnumbered and the pages do not have obvious page numbers printed on them, please pencil consecutive numbers on the pages of the publication, starting with 1 on the first right-hand page after the title page and continuing to the end, then stopping, and use these numbers. If a publication has neither dance numbers nor visible pages, e.g., if it is a Torah-type scroll, put something else a user might find useful, or put “0”.

The “Priority” field expresses how “official” a publication is. For example, the database contains various editions of “Scottish Dances in Diagrams”, better known as “The Wee Green Book” or “Pilling’s”, and the “publication” of a dance in there is not really very official. Normally, the first publication of a dance counts as the “most official”, except possibly in the case where the RSCDS republishes a previously-obscure dance.

Priority values start at “1” for “very official”; the higher the number gets, the less official the publication is deemed to be.

If you look at the editing page for something like the 6th Edition of Pilling’s, the numbers there are around 4 or more, which probably means that there are 3 other publications that the database thinks are more official.

Generally there is nothing wrong with various publications having the same priority; if it was up to me, I would probably assign any dance publication in Pilling’s a priority of “10”, since one diagram is probably as good as the other (barring mistakes).

The first dance in my book, Nine Weddings (And No Funeral), is called “The Wedding Bells”, and it turns out that it is already in the database (probably because I taught it in class at some point after I introduced weekly “logs”, which get their dance info from the database). So I’ll just add it with a (page) “Number” of “2” and a priority of “1”, since this book is supposed to be the definite publication.

It turns out that the same applies to the next few dances in the book. There’s room in the form for “The September Wedding”, “Apple Wine & Georgia Peaches”, and “Antje Erben’s Reel”, and once you fill up the “Dances” form you can either hit “Save and continue editing” again (possibly not the worst of ideas), at which point you will get three more fresh rows to fill, or add another row by clicking on “Add another Dance” at the bottom of the form.

Adding New Dances


With the fifth dance in the book, “Twists and Turns”, we finally hit one that apparently hasn’t made the database yet. This is where we will need to click on the green “+” to the right of the magnifying glass near the “Dance” column to get an entry form for a dance.

Most of the fields in this form are fairly self-explanatory. “Name” is what the dance is called. The database puts articles at the end of the entry, so it’s “Duke of Perth, The”, “Trip to Bavaria, A”, “Tempête, La”, and “Tushker, Da” (the database only knows about English, French and Shetlandish – with other languages, leave any articles where they are).

The “Type” is a bit misleading. We all know about jigs, reels, and strathspeys. Please code “hornpipes” as “reels” – there is no difference between them as far as country dancing is concerned (or at least in over 20 years of dancing I haven’t found any), and we’ll let the musicologists fight that one out.

At some point in the future all dances classified as “hornpipes” in the database will be forcibly made into “reels”, musicology notwithstanding. This will also free up the “hornpipe” category for the actual hornpipes that Rob Sargent is working hard to reintroduce into the repertoire.

“Listening” is, of course, not a dance category, and that ought to be fixed in the menu (my bad). Most ceilidh dances will probably end up in “Other”, although given that we have “Highland” and “Ladies’ Step”, which are categories that – unlike most of the others – have nothing to do with music, we might as well have a “Ceilidh” category.

“Bars” is the number of bars in one repeat of the dance, where a “repeat” is when the choreography picks up from the beginning. This means that the Eightsome Reel is 464 bars, done once through. (The Buchan Eightsome Reel should be 1×400, not 10×40, which is correct in the dance entry but some of its recordings give “10×40”. This on the other hand is maybe not completely wrong as these could come in useful for 40-bar reels repeated ten times.) Medleys like “Johnnie Walker”, where the same formations are done in strathspey time and then once more in quick time, are one repeat of 128 bars rather than two of 64 bars each. In “The Queen City Salute” from RSCDS book 37, 1st couple does 32 bars in strathspey time with 2nd and 3rd couples and, having progressed to 2nd place, repeats the same 32 bars in reel time with 3rd and 4th couples. This is a 4×64-bar medley, a 4-couple dance in a 4-couple set.

You may wonder why dance entries have “bars” but not “number of repeats”. This is because the number of repeats is really not a dance feature, but a recording feature. Many dances are nominally 8 times through but have been recorded 4 times or 6 times through, too.

The “medley type” gives the distribution of bars for medleys. We just saw that “Johnnie Walker” counts as a 1×128-bar medley, so the “Type” should be “Medley”, the “Bars” should be “128”, and the “Medley type” should be “S64+J64”. (This is about 2/3 of the way down the list, which is ordered according to dance types and number of bars in each dance type.) For non-medleys, just leave that menu as it is, with a bunch of dashes visible.

The “shape” specifies the type of set the dance is usually (i.e., as per the dance description) performed in. “Circle” is a big circle round the room, with an unspecified number of couples, all facing in. (Something like the “Gay Gordons” would be “Round the room, 1 couple”.) “Square” primarily means a set with 4 couples arranged around its circumference, every couple facing another couple, although there are five-couple (“Spiffin’”) or six-couple (“The Twelvesome Reel”) square sets, too. “Triangular” is the same for 3 couples (think “The Wind on Loch Fyne”). I haven’t heard of 4-couple triangular sets. Something like “Domino Five” would be “Other”.

“Couples” is the number of couples involved in one “repeat” (see above) of the dance, even if they’re just being danced around (“The Flowers of Edinburgh” is a three-couple dance in a four-couple set, even though third couple never gets to do anything but look decorative).

“Progression” describes the order of the couples after one “repeat” of the dance. The most common progression, “2134”, isn’t actually expressed in the database (i.e., leave the field blank), which I believe is more of a hassle than it is worth, and this will be fixed in due course. “Spec” in the menu means “special”, which I take to stand for things like “Glasgow Highlanders”. The “fugue” entry really means “canon”, i.e., a new couple starts at the top before the previous couple has finished its repeat of the dance and reached its progressed place. This will also be fixed in time.

A “fugue” is a way of constructing a dance, not a way of progressing in a set. In a fugue, the term being borrowed from music, various dancers start dancing the same (or a very similar) formation at different points in time within one repeat of the dance, usually ending up all doing something together, and end up in progressed positions at the end of a repeat just like they do in most other dances. For example, “The Immigrant Lass” from RSCDS Book 39 is a very simple fugue. If you want to appreciate the apex of the genre, the equivalent of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue” for Scottish dancers, check out “The Waverley Fugues” by Hugh Foss.

“chng” as a progression is presumably used for dances like “Caddam Wood”, where everybody ends up with a different partner after each repeat. “set” is for “set dances” that go only once through, although it seems that most of the dances in question don’t apparently have it set (no pun intended).

“Devisor” is the person or entity that came up with the dance (the same caveats apply as for the “Publisher” field mentioned above).

We know everything about how a “devisor” is somebody who disposes of real estate by means of a will, and how somebody who devises (i.e., comes up with) a dance ought to be a “deviser”. Personally I’d much rather use “author”, but for the time being we’re stuck with “devisor”, which is what the field is called inside the database. (Maybe not for long, though. Muahahaha …)

“Devised” is supposed to give the date when the dance was invented, if available. Often we don’t know the exact date but only the year (possibly the month). How to represent this in the database is an unsolved problem so far; the way to go would probably to do away with the “date”-type field in favour of a “string”-type field that we could use for SQL “LIKE” queries in order to find dances written on some 27th of June, while still making it possible to express that other dances were written in 1756 (whatever month or day). For the time being, if you know the year or year-and-month a dance was invented but not the exact date, put something like

Devised: 1756 Devised: 2003–03

as the first line in the “Notes” field below, where a program can pick it up and transfer it into a new-style “Devised” field once I get around to implementing this, and leave the actual “Devised” field blank.

“Url”, once more, gives you an opportunity to point to a web page connected with the dance.

Leave the “Verified” check box unchecked.

Use “Notes” for anything worthwhile that you would like to mention, like the back story for a dance if it is given or if you are sure you know how it goes (perhaps because the author told you). In the upcoming new-style database, there will be more opportunity to add free-form “extra info” about dances.

Here’s how the dance entry box for “Twists and Turns” looks so far:

Adding a Dance


Use the pull-down menus to pick out the various steps that occur in the dance. As usual, you can get more rows by clicking on “Add another Step” (there is no “Save and continue editing” in this form).


The formations subsystem is going to be redone in the near future so I probably wouldn’t bother putting a lot in here. If you still want to do it, enter a formation name in the “Formation” column (the autocompletion is really a big help here) and use the “Number” column to enter the rough position of the formation in the dance’s choreography.

For example, in “The Duke of Perth”, the “Turn corner, partner, corner, partner” could be number 2, the “Set to and turn corners” could be number 3, and the reels of three could be number 4. There is a certain amount of good judgement involved here.

The “Instancenum” is used to differentiate between several occurrences of the same formation in the same dance. At this point I would enter each formation just once, even if it comes up twice or more (think of the hands across in “Shiftin’ Bobbins”), so I would put a “1” in this field to keep the consistency checker happy.


Here’s where you get to specify any named tunes for the dance. If the dance author has done their homework, the dance description will say “Music: McGonigle’s Reel, by Hamish McGonigle”, and you can use this to check whether the tune is already in the database and, if necessary, to add it. (You won’t have to fill anything in beyond the name of the tune and the name of the composer.)

Various dance authors have developed the nasty habit of not specifying tunes for their dances but recordings. This is inconvenient for any musicians with the proper attitude to original music who are supposed to play “something” for such a dance, because they need to track down that particular recording to see what whoever recorded it has seen fit to use as the lead tune (it’s not as if recording artists would always stick to what dance authors tell them, no sirree). If you run into one of these dances, do try to see whether the recording in question is in the database and put the lead tune of that recording into the “Tune” field. In this case, please also put “Tune: from suggested recording” in the “Notes” field of the dance – the new-style database supports comments on the links between dances and tunes so when we move over to it we can shove that information where it belongs.

If you do anything with tunes you will also find that the world of SCD music is a maze of twisty names, all alike to each other. For example, “The President’s Quadrille” in RSCDS Book 46 specifies a tune called “Snouts and Ears” that has been recorded many times as “Snouts and Ears of America”. Without wanting to delve too deeply into the question of whose appendages this tune has been composed for, as well as their putative nationality, I’d suggest that if you run into situations of this kind you bring the issue up on the dancedata-friends@strathspey.org mailing list, which as a database editor you ought to be subscribing to, and let the musicians there advise you. Various people on the list also have access to some of the real 750-pound gorillas of the SCD music world, so that sort of question can be bounced even further up the ladder if necessary.


Please stay away from the crib editor for the time being until I get around to documenting it. The new-style database will make it convenient to add and edit cribs through the user-facing part of the web site.

Adding Persons

persons Adding a person is also fairly straightforward. You can reach the “Add person” form by clicking on the “+” near a field that asks for a person’s name to be entered.

The database makes no distinction between individual persons and groups of people such as musical bands or co-authors of dances.

“Name” is a person’s name, last name first. For example, I am “Lingnau, Anselm”, and Muriel Johnstone is “Johnstone, Muriel A”. This is unfortunately not completely duplicate-proof, and if you run into a name that already exists in the database but whose entry there does not correspond to the person you’re currently dealing with, you will have to disambiguate. This means attaching something like “[II]” to a person’s name if it is the second instance of that name in the database. (If that approach is good enough for the International Movie Database it ought to be good enough for us.) If you don’t know a person’s full first name, put an initial or, if you don’t know that, just the last name. Recording artists should be named like they are on the CD/LP/…, although you may exercise some judgement there: Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith have recorded many albums together, some of which say “Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith” and some of which say “Keith Smith and Muriel Johnstone”. It appears that the database does not differentiate between the two versions – it’s all “Johnstone, Muriel and Smith, Keith”.

The “Short name” is one that is useful for MP3 players and such. If the “Name” is something like “Ranting Seumas MacGillivraddy and his Original Scottish Highland Loch Ness Monsters”, the “short name” could be something like “Loch Ness Monsters”. The duo mentioned earlier is “Johnstone/Smith”.

The “Display name” is what the database uses to display the person or entity’s name in a friendly format, so instead of “Johnstone, Muriel and Smith, Keith” we get to see “Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith”.

This is surprisingly difficult to do automatically, so we’re asking you to give us a hand here.

“Year of birth” and “Year of death” are pretty self-explanatory. A “0” in either field doesn’t mean that the person has been around for 2000 years, but that we don’t know the specifics or – in the case of “Year of death” – that the person is still with us.

“Location” and “E-mail” are also self-explanatory, although I would probably shy away from filling these in unless the publication mentions them.

The four check boxes, “Deviser”, etc., again, could be filled in by the database automatically but aren’t. “Musician” means not that the person plays Scottish dance music but that the person has at least one recording in the database.

“Same as” is a bit tricky. This is used to track people who have changed their names. For example, Barbara McOwen (the famous Boston-based fiddler and composer) used to be Barbara Bouwsma earlier on, and was active in the SCD community under that name. (We don’t bother about people changing their names if they haven’t done visible things under both their new and old names.)

There is currently no way of associating groups of people with their individual members, which may be useful in the case of recording bands where the band leader (or other members) also composes tunes that are in the database, or collaborations between dance authors who have other individual works in the database already. I’ll be looking into fixing this ASAP.

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You see things, and you say »Why?« But I dream things that never were, and say »Why not?«
– George Bernard Shaw