Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson

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Playing for Dancing

Playing for dancing is a very interesting thing to do. It is a good way to get more people interested in 'piping, and it can also be very challenging for the 'piper, depending on the situation.

There is playing for Highland Dancing...

Highland dancing is a type of dancing which takes place either as a solo dance, or in small groups. It is very common at Highland Games (indeed a Highland Games with a Highland Dancing competition is a village sports day!).

In Scotland, huge numbers of young children go to highland dance lessons instead of other sports activities, and in every village, providing someone lives there, you can pretty well find at least one school of highland dancing.

The dances have names, and have a very clearly defined set of tunes that go with each dance - sometimes even having the same name.

You need to play an introduction (mutually agreed/dictated by the dancer), and make sure that you match the beat with the dancers' feet (except for Sean Truibhas, which is filled with complex syncopations and you are better to close your eyes).

Some dances have a change in tempo - the dancer will tell you how many 'bars' of slow and fast they want. Be aware that the dancers' bars are not musical bars, never go on stage without a rehearsal. Some dancers will talk musical bars to help you (and thus cause confusion) and if you assume they are talking dance  bars, for sure that is the time they are being musicians!).
When dancers change tempo, they give a big clap to show they want to.

Dancers have a lot to think about when doing their dance and you should remember you are accompanying them. You follow their lead.
As a general rule, the better the dancer...the slower they dance (the higher they jump).

Forming some kind of a partnership or understanding with highland dancers can be a good way to generate interest in Scottish arts and a fine way to tour the world.

Playing for highland dancing is largely a separate world from competitive piping, but it goes well with concert 'piping.

This section will be expanded in 2022 with a list of dances and tunes.

There is playing for Country Dancing or Ceilidh Dancing

Scottish Country Dance is a stylised version of sqaure dances that took place in the past.

Country Dancers typically dance to a band consisting of accordian, fiddle and drumkit (three or four pieces).

Traditionally, particularly in Scotland, there has been consdierable hostility from the country dance movement towards 'pipers. The likely cause of this is the nature of bagpipe music - with no loud or quiet, or easy way to show a beat, for some people (espeically if they are focused on something else, to be fair) a bagpipe just sounds like a big long noise and they can't figure out how to dance to the instrument.
There are thousands of country dances and they all have names and fixed tunes which should beplayed for them.

There is a set of very common and essentially universally known (with variations) country dances that were taught in Scottish schools as Physical Education lessons.

This led to a new movement  - Ceilidh dancing.

Long ago Ceilidh meant party and everybody did a party trick. There would be breaks for dancing and stroy telling and other fine things that happen at parties.
But in the 1990s in Scotland the party piece thing disappeared and ceildhs became a new type of urban disco, and the dances that were danced were the common country dances that everyone knew.

This is a great kind of event for all generations to get together.

The music was provided intially by traditional bands that played for country dancing, but as time went on (very quickly in fact) the 'celtic rock' type bands that were appearing at the same time also played for dances and this led to a movememnt where people would go and dance to their favourite band. This has remained and ceildih bands are a varied line up (with drumkits, sometimes big ones, keyboards, electric guitars and very sophisticated musical arrangements). As celtic rock often featured 'pipes, 'piping has found a place in this movement. The musical choices are not so fixed as country dancing, and indeed it is expected that the piper will be able to do someting unusual and exciting.

This section will be expanded in 2022 with a list of these most popular  dances and tunes that are suitable for them.

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