Bryce McCulloch - Scottish Highland Bagpiper

by Bryce McCulloch

Scottish Small Pipes
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Music for the Lowland Pipes

The Music

According to Joseph MacDonald* there was not, in the 18th century, any special music written for the Lowland Pipes and as stated earlier, this may explain in part why the instrument died out in the later years. Nor was there, according to MacDonald, any stylised grace noting for the instrument.

The former situation has been partially rectified by the Lowland and Borders Piping Society, which through the good work of it's founder member Gordon Mooney, has compiled and published two collections of tunes for the instrument. It is sufficient, however, for the Lowland piper to play on the instrument any music which is pleasing to his own ear.

Many Lowland tunes require a high B note and the records tell us that the Lowland pipers of old had a method of achieving this. The high A hole was pinched (allowing only a little air to escape) while fingering B with the right hand and blowing a little harder. This technique is very difficult and is seldom done satisfactory.

It is not necessary to play complex fingering of the Highland pipes and the musician can be content playing simple airs or marches with only a few grace notes to good effect. The use of vibrato and slide techniques from the Irish (Uileann) pipe tradition can also sound effective if used sparingly and with good musical taste.

It is perfectly possible to play with other musicians without the pipes dominating completely. Guitarists may have to re-tune or use a capo and fiddlers can tune their strings up and still use traditional fingering techniques.

Courtesy of Robert Wallace June 1988

*"Complete Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe"

Compiled 1760

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Last Update 19 March 2015



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