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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 04-16-2019, 01:07 PM   #1
PiperSmith
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Default Notes in Music?

Hello everyone, this is my first post. I'm hoping the experience of the participants here might give me some insight into something important but a bit elusive to a violinist gone piper. My question involves turning a lovely set of notes, which by themselves make a nice tune, but there is that "other" element that puts on piper's signature on a tune that is different from the next piper. And I guess I'm speaking mostly of solo work here, since individual musical nuance would likely be frowned on in band performance and competition. So, take Hector the Hero, probably well known to many, but played beautifully and differently by each piper. It is a slow air that lends itself to this type of creative work within the framework of a piece of music as written. So, we have a pipe with 7 notes, drones. What turns those notes into the music that makes this piece of music different when so many pipers play it? What technique transmits the soul and grit of the piper? On a violin this can be done with the speed of the bow, vibrato, the measured setting of a finger on a string in relation to the note before and the last, the pressure of the bow--so many possibilities, but on a pipe, I'm at a bit of a loss. I've been playing pipe for 4 years--I've played violin for 40--so I consider myself a beginner in piping But I really do love it and have a good teacher--I just thought I'd reach out to the greater community of pipers to get the most information possible as I continue my piping path. Thanks all
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Old 04-16-2019, 01:30 PM   #2
BaggyMcPipes
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

A good place to start, friend, might be, "bending," notes by sliding your fingers across the holes.

Example: Pumpkin's Fancy

Vibrato can also be achieved by wavering fingers over holes that don't change your melody note, (for example, play an, "E," and wiggle your right-middle finger up and down on and off its hole. Different holes will have more and less effect on the wavering of the tone).

Example: Terror Time, as recorded by Aaron Shaw and the Wicked Tinkers

Other things to play with might be original embellishments, timing, emotive phrasing, etc.


Hopefully that is a tad helpful getting you started on, "individualizing," your solo playing.

Best of luck!
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:21 PM   #3
Kevin
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

You have likely already thought of this but, since you can't change the volume of a note on a bagpipe, the only ways to emphasize notes is to add embellishments or to play them a little longer than the time value of the note. This can be as subtle or long as you like but it is typically not enough that you would write the notes as dotted. The note length and your choice of embellishments (and how open you play them) allow you to put a personal touch on your music.

I hope this helps,
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:37 PM   #4
CalumII
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

The simple answer is to look at pipers you like, and ask what they do that the pipers you do not like do not do.



And the answer is they hold the long notes a little longer and the short notes a little shorter, and they sing the music rather than play it.
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Old 04-16-2019, 08:45 PM   #5
Ian Lawther
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

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Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
And the answer is they hold the long notes a little longer and the short notes a little shorter, and they sing the music rather than play it.

I have also seen discussion of how the top players play ornamentation. The great uilleann piper Seamus Ennis was preparing a tutorial book before he died, which was edited and published after his death. In this he laid out different ways of playing ornaments depending on the type / time signature of the tune. Consequently a cran (the nearest uilleann equivalent to a taorluath) was played differently in 4/4 than in 6/8. In highland piping most people simply lay the ornaments across the tune, but some analysis of the top players has shown a slight change in the ornaments depending on the tune in the way Ennis described for his instrument. It is not much of a change but it is enough to make the music sing.



As an aside you referenced Hector The Hero as an example. Have you heard the composer play it? this is James Scott Skinner from the archive held at Aberdeen University:-
https://www.abdn.ac.uk/scottskinner/music/cd214a.mp3

this wonderfl collection can be found at https://www.abdn.ac.uk/scottskinner/





Ian
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Old 04-17-2019, 02:21 AM   #6
Steve Law
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

Having a few friends from orchestral music backgrounds, it seems to me that they’re often glued to the notes (length, mainly) as written, while the better pipers don’t feel such an obligation. Can sometimes make their piping somewhat mechanical.

Hard to describe, but my old teacher told me to use the music to learn the tune, then use my heart and feelings to play it.
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Old 04-17-2019, 03:59 AM   #7
CalumII
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

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Originally Posted by Ian Lawther View Post
In highland piping most people simply lay the ornaments across the tune, but some analysis of the top players has shown a slight change in the ornaments depending on the tune in the way Ennis described for his instrument.

Aye, definitely. It's something I do in my own teaching: I will chip away and chip away at how someone plays even a simple tune until they play it the way I really want to hear it. And it turns out that means spending a lot of time listening and thinking about embellishments and the purposes they serve.
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Old 04-17-2019, 08:32 AM   #8
sooty piper
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

Many good hints in this thread. I'd like to add awareness of the air's lyrics, if there are some. Singing via the pipes will help you find the tune's spirit. Think Joshua Bell.
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:32 AM   #9
piper Q
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

Pipes are a demanding instrument, and one that can demand precision of finger placement.

Tunes however, have a soul, a computer can play a tune exactly as written, but not achieve the spirit of play a piper can reach. The length or holding of a held note or a slightly longer or shorter cutting of a cut note can change the feel of a tune, along with the tempo at which it is played.

Listen to a tune and if it has words, or vocalizations as in pibroch, get a feel for its quality of spirit. That is a hard way to describe what I'm trying to express. For example, A Soldiers Return, played at a quick tempo has an upbeat sounding quality, as opposed to when played as a slower march.

As said with Hector the Hero, it has a quality of sadness that is expressed on the violin when played by Mr. Skinner, the evocative quality of the sound can be difficult to replicate when first learning the tune on the pipes. That quality is reached in the way each individual piper plays his or her embellishments and the tempo of the tune if they play solo, or if in an ensemble as the pipers practice and play together.


As a soloist, aim for the spirit of the tune as well as playing it as you learned it.
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Old 04-21-2019, 05:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Notes in Music?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sooty piper View Post
Many good hints in this thread. I'd like to add awareness of the air's lyrics, if there are some. Singing via the pipes will help you find the tune's spirit. Think Joshua Bell.
If I rmember correctly in gaidhlig, the exptession is " aig seinn a'phiob" (singing on the pipe) not "aig chluig a' phiob"- playing on the pipe.
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