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CalumII 04-30-2020 08:19 AM

An experiment in notation
What do you make of this? Is it helpful? Does it add clarity?

Matt Willis Bagpiper 04-30-2020 09:11 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
I prefer it, though I wouldn't notate the D throw that way, as I don't play it that way (if playing a light throw, I play all three gracenotes the same length). But that's being pedantic. Overall, definitely an improvement.

I've also experimented with changing the note head shapes. a "^" head for a lifting gracenote, a "v" head for a lowering gracenote, a "~" head for a sweeping gracenote (high A doublings and birls), and the normal full note head for the sounding tones (my term for gracenotes that aren't really gracenotes, but actually, well, sounding tones within an embellishment).

Steven Knox 04-30-2020 08:01 PM

Re: An experiment in notation
Yes. That would have helped me a lot when I was starting.

Aaron Shaw 04-30-2020 09:36 PM

Re: An experiment in notation
I've done something similar, keeping the standard 1/32 notes but replacing the note heads of what I call the "percussive" gracenotes (g & d in a C doubling for ex.) with x's rather than the usual oblong. This indicates what finger to use but that it's not really a 'note'

Makes it really easy to see the melodic movement of the embellishments.

CalumII 05-01-2020 05:13 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
[QUOTE=Matt Willis Bagpiper;1345298]I don't play it that way (if playing a light throw, I play all three gracenotes the same length). /QUOTE]

Yes, that's the issue with any such system - there are quite a few movements where there are reasonable alternatives, and standard notation leaves the question open.


keeping the standard 1/32 notes but replacing the note heads of what I call the "percussive" gracenotes

Which raises the question: how do you notate an E strike? And a high A?


That would have helped me a lot when I was starting.

That's what I'm wondering! As a teacher it's very easy to overload information and the bagpipe is particularly prone to it since you need to know so much to play three notes in a row. Hence I'm wondering whether this comes into the helpful or hindral category...

David 05-01-2020 05:34 AM

Re: An experiment in notation

Any promising, diligent student could benefit by a greater understanding of the real timing of movements. A good teacher will have a sense of how much to pass on to a student at one time, but not what to pass on. A huge number of pipers pay no musical attention whatsoever to embellishments. Yet in listening to the top players, the timing and the crispness of gracing can be awe-inspiring. Though, there is a difference even among top players in crispness and timing, though all are indeed accomplished musicians.

Strathspeys and big 2/4 marches come to mind as being very much a full synthesis of melody and gracing.

Joseph Diodato 05-01-2020 08:47 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
As a novice piper who initially struggled with embellishment interpretation due to lack of properly reading my tutor book:

I prefer the traditional system. Some beginners may like the convenience of having the embellishments "literally" laid out in a way that's more consistent with their interpretation, but there's something to be said for a good instructor properly layering on this knowledge in a way that is most conducive to each pipers growth. I don't think it's at all unreasonable to expect that after some time a novice piper knows that when they see a doubling, grip, or taorluath that these embellishments are not just a series of 3-4 grace notes rammed together as quickly as possible.

That being said, I think it's a fine idea and some novice players may very well benefit from this style of introducing the embellishments. I hope that you find success if you implement this notation with your students. :)

Dakota Lewis 05-02-2020 10:57 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
kek reminds me of the eyebrow cuts you see on the 'suave gangsta' type

colinmaclellan 07-04-2020 02:30 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
I think it's excellent. If only there were additionally a way to indicate what way a gracenote was made (ie) it is either made by lifting one single finger as in a simple G gracenote, or say a simple Low A strike from E.

The G gracenote technically is what we would call a "false" note, and the Low A strike from E would be the way we would make a melody note Low A. Sandy Jones' excellent tutor "Beginning the Bagpipe" makes a very good explanation of this and refers to these type of gracenotes as "true" notes.

I wanted to include this in the full revision which I did to the Green Tutor when I was at the College of Piping but that would have meant altering too much of the original intent of the work; that revision, while including several new items, (including pencil alterations I found which Seumas MacNeill did but sadly passed on before they were able to be published), was more a reversion to much of the original content and flow in order to repair the damage done by a previous attempt at "improvement".

I've always thought that if the gracenotes were simply colour coded then folk could set about doing much more learning by themselves; it is impossible to learn the bagpipe without a teacher because there is nothing at all (apart from the explanation in Sandy's book) that tells you how you actually make the gracenotes.

I suppose there are explanations and videos of course within the tutor books, but it would be so helpful I think if there were a way that tunes could be written showing whether the gracenotes were "single finger" or, as Sandy says "true note".

Callum's method clearly shows the weight and emphasis which should be given to each gracenote which I think is great but as another contributor has already observed maybe I would not delineate the Throw on D that way either.

CalumII 07-04-2020 08:23 AM

Re: An experiment in notation
Yes, there are various approaches to the throw on D, and there are some very good players who are not playing any of the conventionally taught methods. And I can think of at least one who plays something quite different from what he teaches.

From what I see, the "even" notes approach to teaching the light throw tends to turn into something else at speed - rarely bad per se, but not controlled.

On fingering, I've experimented with the use of tablature notation:

I find this is helpful with a lot of students (though some really struggle to relate to it), but I find it's easy for it to become a crutch - I use it in my beginner sequence but I am careful that students only see a particular piece of tablature once. I also set it physically separate from the actual piece of music they're working on, so they have to memorise it before they look at the music. I also teach gracenotes and changing between notes as a single unified strategy, so that (in theory) the student can correctly work out for themselves how to deal with new situations.

The other kettle of fish, of course, is looking at rhythm in much more detail. For an example, here's another attempt at Scotland The Brave:

Of course I don't present students with this monstrosity, but I do teach them what's in there - and writing it out like this is quite instructive (I can't persuade my software to bend my G gracenotes in the right direction, but you get the gist).

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