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The Piper's Corner

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The Piper's Corner

In this series of essays for the Strathpotomac Fiddler newsletter, PVSFC board member and multi-instrumentalist Peter Walker breaks down the music for the Highland Bagpipe, which is often played by fiddlers, and discusses aspects of ornamentation, interpretation, and performance.

Essay 1: An introduction to the bagpipe, focusing on the key and range of the instrument, and the standard convention of transposition between the way the music is written, and how most modern pipes are tuned.

Essay 2.1: An introduction to the simple articulatory and emphatic ornaments of the Highland Bagpipe: grace notes, echo beats, doublings, and shakes, and how they are played, and ideas for simulating their effect on fiddle. Additionally, ornaments articulated like birls on the fiddle (3-pulse birls and jig shakes) are explored, and the distinct 2-pulse birl is introduced.

Essay 2.2: The exploration of Highland bagpipe ornamentation in light music continues with the semi-melodic ornaments, the leumluath, taorluath, and other grip and throw figures seen in light music, again exploring how a fiddler might play them. The essay ends with the discussion of the hornpipe Rathven Market, and how a fiddler might read and interpret this pipe tune.

Essay 3.1: The 6/8 march. Introducing the tune type lending itself to the least degree of interpretation, the 6/8 march is explored as a jumping off point for further putting ornaments into use, using the pipe version of Wi' A Hundred Pipers, and The Heights of Casino as examples.

Essay 3.2: The 4/4 March. The most common type of parade march is introduced, the 4/4, along with the concept of "pointing", the shading of a dotted eighth note at the expense of the following sixteenth, to create the illusion of stress, in both a direct and indirect mechanism, using the tune Jack's Welcome Home as an example.

Essay 3.3: The 3/4 Retreat March. The most common type of retreat is explored, expanding on the use of pointing, and illustrating a shift of the heavy beat in the way the music is notated, to accomodate piping on the march.

Essay 3.4: The 2/4 march (coming soon)

Essay 3.5: The Jig (coming soon)

Essay 3.6: The Common-time Strathspey (coming soon)

Essay 3.7: The Cut-time Strathspey (coming soon)

Essay 3.8: The Pointed Reel (coming soon)

Essay 3.9: The Round Reel (coming soon)

Essay 3.9: The Round Hornpipe (coming soon)

Essay 4.1: An introduction to Piobaireachd. Using The Lament for the Old Sword, the "classical" music of the Highland Bagpipe is explored. Starting with the concept of the themal skeleton, working through the variations, and then finally discussing the ground, some basic ideas for how a fiddler might read, and perform, this type of music are discussed.

Essay 4.2: An introduction to Piobareachd 2: Breabach Tunes. Using Struan Robertson's Salute The idea of the breabach tune, where the singling variation alters its end phrases to a more melodic form, is discussed. (In progress)

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