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Donald MacLennan's Exercise

Composed by GS McLennan
Donald MacLennans Exercise

Donald MacLennan was the half brother of GS McLennan, legendary 'piper, composer and important teacher.

The tune was clearly written to exercise strikes, and this is the main, but not only, thing to work on here.
The tune has a strange effect - it is not obvious to begin with, but as you become more familiar with it, it will become ever easier to remember, and ever more interesting.

You can make satisfaction from this tune in two opposite ways, and so keep it fresh and alive every time you play it.

One way is to look for the effect of trance, by keeping the rhythm strict and the gracenotes as equal as possible.

The opposite is to mark out hidden melodies by slightly emphasising some notes over others This is achieved through pauses after notes preceding the one you want to emphaise, bigger (slower) gracenotes onto the notes to be emphasised and stretching notes that are emphasised.

Tips and practice points

Listen very carefully to the strikes in the slow versions. They are all essentially the same length and take up a quarter of the preceding note, opening on the beat or sub-beat

The doublings are also exceedingly light and fast. This is necessary to prevent the tune from becoming a big blob of gracenotes.

The scary embellishments in the fifth and sixth parts are not as bad as they seem. They are essentially the same rhythmical effect as each other and this gives us confidence in the intepretation we can select (there are many other wasy to handle this).

For the 'dare' in bar 17 the first F to be sounded is followed by an E that is cut into two parts half the length of the first F. Where is a high G gracenote before this embellishment later (bars 21 and 23) this gracenote closes on the beat, thus making the F the point of the beat.
For the 'edre' with the high G gracenote, the same rhythmical pattern as for the 'dare' should be used. Tis requires a lot of exercising to make the F finger cut the low As very lightly and precisely.

Videos to play along with

High pitch normal speed

High pitch half speed

High pitch quarter speed

Low pitch normal speed

Low pitch half speed

Low pitch quarter speed

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