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Old 08-09-2017, 07:37 PM   #1
Ron Teague
Holy smoking keyboard!
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 1,288
Default Archie Cairns' "Expanded" edition of Book Two

Review of The “Expanded” Edition Book Tow of the “How To” Manual
by Maj Archie Cairns, MMM, CD

Many folk have benefited from Archie Cairns’ “How To” manuals. These have included his “How To” Manual for Learning to Play the Great Highland Bagpipe, Book Two of the “How To” Manual, the “How To” Piobaireachd Manual and the Companion to the “How To” Piobaireachd Manual. Each of these are ‘must have’ works for any novice and intermediate piper and can be quite helpful for the advanced piper as well.

In 2016 just before his death Maj. Cairns revised the Book Two of the basic “How To” Manual. Did this really need a revision? Probably not, as the first was superb. Never the less the “Expanded Edition” does indeed contain many useful gems for the practical piper.

He includes such useful topics as ‘setting tempos without a metronome’. Archie was nor or less against pipers having to use mechanical aids such as metronomes and tuning devices as he thought, rightly, that pipers should be able to count time correctly and tune by ear.

He repeats with greater clarity his method of teaching to learn bagpipe tunes by mastering phrasing. He taught that each tune is really a composition of ‘little tunes’, i.e. the phrases which make up the tune. This method really shines in his piobaireachd works but they are very useful for learning Ceol Beg as well.

He has a lovely chart on the general characteristics of pipe music that will help any piper understand HOW tunes are put together and acts like a mini course in piping musical theory. Archie was not only a piper, he was also trained in standard musical theory and he puts this training to good use for folk who are learning to play the bagpipes.

Probably the most important part of his expanded work is his section on the Use of ‘Neumonics’ that is his the study of melody and rhythm which is essential in learning any new tune. He helps pipers learn how to read rhythms and give plenty of examples of the various rhythms in various types of pipe music, marches, jigs, reels ect. He makes a great distinction between simple and compound time and he has a sections on which note to lengthen and which note to shorten which is very helpful.

He also has a section for performance subjects for pipe bands that includes: Tonal Exercises, and Pipe Band Attack by which he means how to strike up a pipe band well. I have never seen such clear and good advice before and this will be most useful for many pipe band who have a problem with this. He expands this section of the “attack’ with tips on Hand-Foot coordination as well as “Choke Drills”, i.e. what to do if a piper ‘chokes’ during a performance and he ends this section with tips about how to cut off a tune by a pipe band.

He givens a lot of practice exercises to develop an intuitive sense of rhythm, arpeggios and rhythm.

He ends the instruction part of the work with an examination of various difficult fingerings in ceol beg such ahs Hornpipe Triplings, a very good explanation of how doublings really work and on and on.

The last part of the work contains many tunes that Archie composed to important people in his life. This with the photos at the end of the book act as a dynamic auto-biography and is probably one of the most fitting tributes to a very long and productive life in piping. Unlike many other autobiographies these musical celebrations of the people who have touched Archie are a touching almost poetic expression of his deep feelings of love and friendship he had for many people and they are much better than words.

Should you buy the book? Yep, but only if you want to know why pipers do what they do and if you want to be a better piper and if you want to know about the big heart of one of the best piping instructors of our time.
Ron Teague

The Cheesy Piobaireachd Player
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