Around the World - Great Highland Bagpipe

by Sinisa Cekic

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  • Hi GMC!!!
    Welcome again to Around the World series. Our route continues - next stop is Scotland !

    Many outsiders associate Scottish folk music almost entirely with the Great Highland Bagpipe, which has indeed long played an important part of Scottish music. Although this particular form of bagpipe developed exclusively in Scotland, it is not the only Scottish bagpipe, and other bagpiping traditions remain across Europe. The earliest mention of bagpipes in Scotland dates to the 1400s although they could have been introduced to Scotland as early as the sixth century. The pìob mhór, or Great Highland Bagpipe, was originally associated with both hereditary piping families and professional pipers to various clan chiefs; later, pipes were adopted for use in other venues, including military marching.(Wikipedia)

    Pipe music is written in the key of "A." But the scale - consisting of only nine notes (low G to high A) - has a flat G. You music people would call this - a mixolydian mode :)

    The flat G causes the "A" scale of the bagpipe to be fairly unusual sounding, and a lot of tunes in the key of A don't have a leading tone because there is not one in the chanter scale. If you want a more normal sounding scale, the key of D works very well on the pipes, since it has the correct number of sharp tones. The only trouble then is the limited range of the pipes.

    Another thing that will be noticed in bagpipe notation is a lot of "little" notes. These are called "gracings" or "embellishments." They are very short notes used as a means of separating notes and adding articulation in the tunes. Grace notes are necessary in piping since the chanter is getting a constant supply of air.

    There are no rests, stops or tonguing which other woodwind players can use to add musical expression. Once a bagpipe starts, it doesn't stop until the end of the tune or set. This is a challenging new way to think about music. :)

    Ok folks, here is my modest attempt to conjure up bagpipes -

    Chords proggresion /A G D

    Scale- A mixolidian (D major scale)

    TS 3/4

    Tempo 100bpm

    A Mixolidian

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