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Old 02-12-2004, 09:56 AM   #1
Bob
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Default Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

One of the coolest things for me about maintaining the Bagpipe Web Directory is that I get to see so many new piping related sites - some are just examples of ideas and never see the light-of-day (if you know what I mean ), and some are just great (!), and I want everyone to check 'em out..

At the top of my 'How Cool' list is this new site - from Jim Harrington (not the one I went to school with in California) , and Don Thomson (who did the programming)

Jim graded 800 (!) four-parted pipe tunes by difficulty - and Don programmed a query engine to make searches simple. What a neat tool this is (!)..

Clearly many people will have different views about the relative ranking of tunes, but that is small stuff I think.. The idea is so great..

Quote:
A fellow band member and I have created a unique Web page that I hope will help many solo players, PMs, and instructors:

http://www.madisonpipesanddrums.org/bin/tunes.cgi
Title: Tune Search by Difficulty
Description: Find quality 4-part MSRs of appropriate difficulty level in books you own
My name: Jim Harrington

I have graded about 800 4-part marches, strathspeys, and reels into 6 difficulty levels from novice to open. The list includes every tune I recall ever having heard played by a band or soloist in MSR competition or on recording (not that I've heard everything!), except for only two or three I don't have music for, as well as hundreds of published pipe tunes I have never heard played but which are well-constructed, melodic, and in my humble opinion deserving of more public exposure. (In most books, about 30% of the 4-part MSRs wind up being graded and included in the database.) The database search is very fast and I hope useful in many situations. Additional tunes will be added as I purchase more books published in the last 15 years - currently it's about 90% older books (which still seem to contain 99% of all the tunes one hears played in competitions).

The grading may prove controversial, I suppose, but I did it all myself and I feel it is relatively consistent. I am a high level player and feel I know what is technically difficult and what isn't
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Old 02-12-2004, 10:48 AM   #2
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Great idea!! So many questions arise on the Forum as to appropriate tunes for X grade level and difficulties in playing tunes at X level. This would be really beneficial for those of us getting into competition and those wanting to evaluate their choice of competition tunes. I hope you have included a link to this in the Directory?!

Thanks for sharing. I wouldn't mind hearing more of these little gems you find.

Bryan
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Old 02-12-2004, 10:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

"How Cool", indeed. Thanks, Bob.

I hope people don't get too bent out of shape over their classification; for, as you point out, that's not the important feature. This is a great guide. Thanks again. Cheers, Michael

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Old 02-12-2004, 11:42 AM   #4
Scott McClellan
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Jim was one of my instructors during my "formative years", and I had the chance to test drive this database a few months ago.

Very cool!

I'm glad it's now out in the open for all to enjoy... an enormous amount of work went into this, and I find I agree with Jim's assessment of difficulty in almost every instance. An invaluable tool!
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Old 02-15-2004, 05:24 PM   #5
Kevin J. Auld
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Great! I just asked one of my students to help me go through all my music and arrange them by difficulty level. This will make things muuuuuch easier.

Cheers,
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Old 02-15-2004, 11:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Thanks Bob
This has gone straight onto my favourite bagpipe sites list.
This will save a lot of head scratching.
Cheers
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Old 02-16-2004, 10:00 AM   #7
Matt Willis Bagpiper
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

This is a great list! But... Lord Alexander Kennedy a Grade 3 march? The Conundrum? Interesting.... I would have ranked these as more difficult. Many of the marches seem a little heavy duty for the lower grades (grade 3 in particular)
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Old 02-16-2004, 01:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Hi Matt

Just out of interest, why do you think 'Lord Alexander' should rate a higher difficulty level.
I don't quite see it.

Thanks
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Old 02-16-2004, 10:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Quote:
Originally posted by Roger Huth:
Hi Matt

Just out of interest, why do you think 'Lord Alexander' should rate a higher difficulty level.
I don't quite see it.

Thanks
I've heard pipers and pipe bands compete with this tune at higher level. I have never heard a grade 3 piper handle this tune properly--and I will include myself in that! When I get this tune going as well as it deserves (since it is a damn fine 2/4), I'll know I'm ready for grade 2.
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Old 02-17-2004, 01:56 AM   #10
Roger Huth
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Default Re: Tunes Graded by DIfficulty

Hi Matt

In the words of 'Q' when 007 short a dart into the but of his priceless painting of a horse "Oh. Thank you Bond"

Well, let's take a look at these two tunes then shall we? Straight off I would say that Charles Edward has a higher difficulty level than Lord Alexander, but let's see if I can prove myself wrong

Lord Alexander. This is a great tune. Full of character and instantly recognised by us pipers the world over. It is a superb Pipe Band tune as proved by Muirhead & Sons back in the '60s when they played it for us on their great LP. It is also a favourite piece of the living legend and World Class Piper John D Burgess.
This tune by J. Honeyman starts well for the soloist does it not? Strong and forceful. Low A taorluath and birl without hardly a pause in between. We have to remember the tachum change in the repeat of bar three. Bar seven could tie your fingers into knots and catches all over the place if you are not proficient.
The only change to all this in the second part is the first phrase and first bar of the repeat. Okay.
Same detail the third part.
Fourth part is a weak theme of the first and not an awful lot in it.
Fifth part is all over the place. Pentatonics of A repeated throughout with a sudden departure to G in bar four. Pretty weak.
Plenty of tachum practice in the sixth part and that is about all. It is just a repetitive series of pentatonics.
Having said all that does not mean I don't like the tune. I do like it and if I was running a pipe band would like the band to play it. It is a great tune. For solo work though I would put it in the same bracket as 'Donald Cameron'. Great for band. Not for solo.

Pipe Major H Mackay's 'Charles Edward Hope De Vere'. It appears to have a gentle start but how many pipers mess up that first beat without even noticing. Same detail the second beat. The piper has lost the competition already and he hasn't even started yet. What a trap that is. Second bar the catch from C to high A will fell some more. The music is subtle and care has to be taken to produce it.
Second part. How many pipers will get the music of that opening bar and first phrase to perfection. If they don't, the delight of the tune will have gone.
If you have made it to the third part without kidding yourself we find the G graced birl with tachum on the second pulse but on the second beat the pulse is broken by a subtle inclusion of a cut low A and just check the music of the second bar complimenting the first. Music. Music. Music.
And what a marvellous opening and surprise when we reach the first bar of part four. Mackay deliberately uses a major D then continues in the key of A. Brilliant.
There is some repetition of certain phrases throught the tune and I agree that it is a little too weak for a higher grade.
It is in a different class to Lord Alexander though by a mile I would say.

That is me 'umble opinion Squire
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