Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson

bringing quality 'piping instruction to you for free
Intermediate Grips Exercise 1

 This exercise is designed to allow the player to control when gracenotes open and close in a grip. There are three midi files here; slow medium and fast. All of the proportions between the gracenotes and notes are exactly the same no matter what the speed. The most common mistake in piping is to think that one is playing too slowly. Typically this is only an impression and the real problem is that the proportion between the length of the gracenotes is ‘wrong’.

 In this exercise we always end on ‘E’. In piobaireachd, which is an advanced kind of pipe music, this most commonly happens, but in ‘light music’, which are marches, dances, songs etc, grips will happen between any notes.

 This is to train the fingers to play a grip ending by opening the next note of the tune ON the beat, that is, taking the time for the grip from the note before the grip, not after it. This is how grips are used in the vast majority of cases, but not all..
 This is a slow grip, to firmly establish the basics. Deciding how much time a grip will take from the surrounding notes is a matter of interpretation. Having the skill to realise one’s decisions is the object of learning technique. Intermediate Grips 2 will show you how to play a grip in half the space that this exercise will show.

(Yes, this excercise is two pages long! Print it off as it is and you should get two nice pages..)

Grips 1a 
Grips 1 b 


A beat has been added underneath the ‘virtual’ chanter sound. This is to help you play in time with the example and also to help keep an even tempo after the rhythm changes. The simple format of the exercise is chosen to test concentration as well as train the fingers.

 Please note that although the gracenotes are written the same way, they are not all the same length. This is the art of interpretation, and making good decisions as to when to lengthen and shorten gracenotes takes time, experience and learning. Why we make certain interpretation decisions depends on music theory, the theory of listening etc. Being empowered to control when gracenotes open and close is the first step in this adventure.
 The files will play with your usual media program, such as windows media player.

 Being a midi file, it is fully customisable. Please contact us if you want it at a higher or lower pitch or at different speeds, or ending on different notes.

 This kind of exercise is ideal for band purposes. Many years ago, when the art of pipe band playing was less developed than now, some bands divided responsibilities between players - experienced and stronger players played technique, whilst less experienced or weaker players played only ‘big’ notes and minimal technique. Now bands try to have everyone playing all the technique all the time. These exercises can be practiced alone at home with the certainty that all the band members are doing the same thing and aiming for the same results.

 “A good band plays together by playing the same thing at the same time using the same techniques”

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Lindsay Davidson
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