Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson - Intermediate Finger Exercises and RSPBA MAP Tunes

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Exercise 13  

Birl exercise

About this exercise

This exercise is intended to help you develop control over birls. Birls mostly appear in two ways in tunes (piobaireachd is diferent); after long notes where there is an impression of the beat coming before the tap and across (or upside 7). This is very common in strathspeys. The other form is common in marches, where the effect is of the beat happening essentially after the birl.
It helps in this by giving you these two patterns next to each other from every note in the scale. Please be aware there are many internal rhythmical decisions you can make in interpreting tunes; this is just one way of many rhythms to apply for birls.

You can vary this by using both birl methods (upside down 7, or tap and across - see the birls explanation page) for the whole exercise, and also alternating between them, once tap and across and the next action as the upside down 7. So in effect you have four exercises in one here.

How to practise

Solid bagpipe technique is not about being able to squeeze more wiggly bits into an ever smaller space of time. Solid bagpipe technique means that you can choose how long or short every finger movement will be (and why, according to your physical situation and musical interpretation), and the actions come out as exactly you want. These exercises are designed to make this happen, to give you total awareness and control over your embellishment rhythm.

The Magic Maxim:

"If you can play slowly you can play quickly, but the converse isn't necessarily true..."

This means exactly what it says - the better you become the more exactly you should be able to control what you are doing, and so to test ourselves, we shouldn't practise more quickly, but more slowly.

To think like computers - a sampling rate for a recording is a measure of how many times a second the computer will measure what is happening in the sound. A higher sampling rate makes for a higher quality of recording, up to a point beyond which it doesn't make much difference. It is the same with piping - the more times in a beat you can say exactly what is happening, the better your piping, up to a point..

Playing exactly with the midi files at a quarter speed is a fairly good test for a group, and this extra secret can dramatically affect the strength of playing within a band, and the confidence. It is true that using this approach, you can bring about a positive revolution in your band's playing and attitude.

So to repeat, as you get better and your finger and rhythmical control become more exact, you should go from the fastest videos...to the slowest.
Low pitch normal speed

Low pitch half speed

High pitch normal speed

High pitch half speed

About this project
Lindsay Davidson
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