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Competing Pipers Questions, issues, or discussions specifically related to Piping and Pipers competition.

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Old 04-30-2019, 09:56 AM   #1
Pppiper
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Default Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Hi all,

I was going to put this in Beer Tent, but really ... I'm partly pursuing this topic to gain perspectives for future competitions. So in the end, I decided that this would be the best category.

I suppose the title says it all ... if you compete, or have competed ... is/was there a tune or two that made you think to yourself "for crying out loud, if I hear XYZ, one ... more .. time ..." ???

Before people ask, I'm playing in the EUSPBA, grade 2, though I'm still very new to this competition business. In general and whenever possible, I really enjoy pursuing tunes that are seldom heard, but not so obscure as to make judging difficult.

So what of it? Piobaireachd & light music alike.

Yes, I'm in grade 2, but I'd love feedback from all levels here (or heck, even in sessions/jams) ... what tunes make you say to yourself "good God, not again(!)?"

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 04-30-2019, 09:23 PM   #2
Piping Potential
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Not sure about light music, but at one competition I must have heard the piob "Glengarry's Lament" at least a half dozen times by players in both Grade 3 and 2.
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Old 05-01-2019, 12:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Some tunes will be overplayed because they're the most musical and memorable. Susan MacLeod will probably be a most popular strathspey for a long time to come. Lily Christie will be a huge, and overplayed 6/8 because it's a great tune and accessible/memorable.
Some not-so-musical finger benders will also continue to be popularly overplayed in the hopes their technical aspect impresses the judges. There are a lot of more musical/more enjoyable 2/4 marches than The Conundrum, but you'll never see it drop off the competition hit list.
But, and since I am long out of competition I really don't know, what happens if you come up before a judge with a completely obscure, but good tune which they've never heard? Will that tune get less regard because they're unfamiliar with it?
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Old 05-01-2019, 06:05 AM   #4
Pppiper
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Quote:
Originally Posted by TwitchyFingers View Post
Some tunes will be overplayed because they're the most musical and memorable. Susan MacLeod will probably be a most popular strathspey for a long time to come. Lily Christie will be a huge, and overplayed 6/8 because it's a great tune and accessible/memorable.
Some not-so-musical finger benders will also continue to be popularly overplayed in the hopes their technical aspect impresses the judges. There are a lot of more musical/more enjoyable 2/4 marches than The Conundrum, but you'll never see it drop off the competition hit list.
But, and since I am long out of competition I really don't know, what happens if you come up before a judge with a completely obscure, but good tune which they've never heard? Will that tune get less regard because they're unfamiliar with it?
I'm partially unsure of this as well.

I've been advised that one should be ready with a copy of music for any tunes/settings that are at risk of being unknown to the judge. For example, one of the strathspeys I've been working on, Caber Feidh, has a few different settings. I researched it in several tune books, and I like the version in Capt. John A. Maclellen's book the most, and by far. But then according to recordings from various folks, it's definitely the one least played. In fact, I've yet to find a recording of someone playing precisely that setting.

I think it's likely that I'll have a copy of the music for that tune/setting in my sporran, in case I'm ever questioned on it. In the meantime, I'm still getting my fingers around that tune anyways. Funny you should mention Susan Macleod, as I'm presently playing it in place of Caber Feidh.

Susan Macleod does seem to be a tune I'm hearing a lot, so I had a sneaking suspicion that it's a tune getting a lot of play. It's proven to be a good tune for me to be able to turn to in a pinch, as my fingers seem to favor it. Caber Feidh is taking longer to get down than I'd hoped. My first competition for this season was getting a bit too close for comfort, so I "called it" .. and went with Susan Macleod instead. My other strathspey is Maggie Cameron (as I need to submit two).

Thanks as well on mentioning Lily Christie. I wondered. It really, really is a nice tune though (as is Susan Macleod) ... so sometimes I suppose it's got to be a case of "everyone loves it." I don't need a 2nd 6/8 yet, so I'm still wondering what I might go with if/when the time comes that I need one (my current is Cameron MacFadyen).

Thanks for weighing in.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 05-01-2019, 06:10 AM   #5
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Piping Potential View Post
Not sure about light music, but at one competition I must have heard the piob "Glengarry's Lament" at least a half dozen times by players in both Grade 3 and 2.
Righto. That does seem to be a frequent one. I also seem to hear Struan Robertson's Salute and the Company's Lament quite a lot. A bit less, but still often, Wee Spree.

And let me stress this (for anyone reading) ... nothing against any of the tunes mentioned. I'm simply curious as to what's being played most often.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 05-01-2019, 06:24 AM   #6
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Quote:
Originally Posted by TwitchyFingers View Post
... what happens if you come up before a judge with a completely obscure, but good tune which they've never heard? Will that tune get less regard because they're unfamiliar with it?
I carry copies of the settings of tunes and offer them to the judges. I had a judge fuss at me that I was playing a tune wrong. His band played the tune and it was different than my setting and he insisted I was wrong. My setting was from John MacFayden's Bagpipe Music...

I played Chris Armstrong's strathspey "Peter Hunt" for a judge who happens to be a moderator here. I asked him if he'd like the sheet music and he said "No, I know what a strathspey should sound like." And that's the point, right? Great, or poor, playing will be evident no matter the tune.
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Old 05-01-2019, 06:37 AM   #7
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

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Originally Posted by John McCain View Post
I carry copies of the settings of tunes and offer them to the judges. I had a judge fuss at me that I was playing a tune wrong. His band played the tune and it was different than my setting and he insisted I was wrong. My setting was from John MacFayden's Bagpipe Music...

I played Chris Armstrong's strathspey "Peter Hunt" for a judge who happens to be a moderator here. I asked him if he'd like the sheet music and he said "No, I know what a strathspey should sound like." And that's the point, right? Great, or poor, playing will be evident no matter the tune.
Precisely ... one would hope anyway.

As you mentioned though, settings can vary, so sometimes you may be at risk of a judge assuming that you're simply playing it "wrong." If I'm even slightly unsure of a the wide acceptance of a setting or tune, I do plan to have and offer music. If they say "no thank you" I'm certainly not going to worry about it.

All-in-all, I would think that many/most will either be able to hear what you're intending to do, or ask out of interest when you're finished. If they don't, then whatever ... the world isn't going to fly into the sun simply because that particular competition outing didn't go your way.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 05-01-2019 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 05-01-2019, 07:09 AM   #8
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

An aside:

According to William Donaldson in his book "Pipers", hearing the same tunes in competition over and over is what lead to the Piobreached Society. Made up of regular gents (not pipers), they didn't understand in competition you hear a lot of the same tune and thought the music was dwindling and needed to 'save' all the piob tunes..

-Matthew
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:27 PM   #9
bob864
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pppiper View Post
I'm partially unsure of this as well.

I've been advised that one should be ready with a copy of music for any tunes/settings that are at risk of being unknown to the judge.
I've been told by an EUSPBA judge that for light music you should never need to provide music. The judge should be able to hear you play the music and follow the parts in his/her head in real time and evaluate your musical performance. It's a musical contest.

I've definitely played tunes for judges that they weren't familiar with.

Piobaireachd is different and it's good to have your music, especially if you're playing something obscure or different. Once or twice I've had judges ask me if my Piobaireachd was anything other than the standard PS setting.

Regarding the original question, in grade 4 some frequently played marches include Muir of Ord and King George V's Army. To me, playing a well played tune is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it's something that's been heard over and over. On the other hand, if the person before you plays it, and you play it a lot better, then that will stand out.
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Old 05-02-2019, 12:09 AM   #10
TwitchyFingers
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Default Re: Most frequent/overplayed tunes for solo competitions

Quote:
Originally Posted by John McCain View Post
I carry copies of the settings of tunes and offer them to the judges.
This is something I'd like to see become standard practice...and have the tunes put in plastic sleeves, along with giving the judge a dry erase marker so they can put a check or a nick on parts they like or dislike instead of missing half a part being played while they write a comment during the competitor's performance.
It could be like a shorthand to make sure the judge gives full attention to every part of the tune.
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