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

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Repeating Notes on Medieval Bagpipes

Repeating notes on the medieval bagpipes is rather like on every other bagpipe....This means gracenotes - a quick lifting and replacing of one finger over a single hole. As no records exist of exactly what was done in medieval times by 'pipers (except complaints about general behaviour..) we need to use common sense and recognise what the instrument can do and derive solutions from other bagpipe practise.

On every bagpipe gracenotes are used to repeat, or cut, notes.

The gracenotes which work best on medieval bagpipes are the thumb, top index finger, top ring finger and bottom index finger, marked in bold below:

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XXXX
XXXX
XXXX
XXXX
XXXX
XXXX
Thumb gracenote
(pitch D or A depending on bagpipe key)
Top index finger gracenote
(pitch C or G depending on bagpipe key)
Top ring finger gracenote
(pitch A or E depending on bagpipe key)
Bottom index finger gracenote
(pitch G or D depending on bagpipe key)

If you have come here from highland bagpipes you will recognise these as G,D,E gracenotes and the thumb gracenote.

To reiterate, to repeat a note by ising a gracenote you simply lift and replace a single finger very quickly, making a kind  f chopping effect.

You can also repeat notes by striking a finger off the chanter, just like strikes on highland pipes. As medieval pipes have a different fingering system, you simply need to tap the highest open finger on the hole for any given note. This means if you are repeating bottom A then a gracenote will be written and sound G beneath it. Please see the diagram below:

Strikes on medieval bagpipes in G/a

Strikes on G pipes

Strikes on medieval bagpipes in C/d

strikes on C pipes


In both tunings the fingering is as below:

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XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXOXOXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXOXOOOOOOOOOOXXX
XXXXXXXXXOXOOOOOOOOOOOOOXXX
XXXXXXOXOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOXXX
XXXOXOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOXXX
OXOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
A
D
A
D
B
E
B
E
C
F
C
F
D
G
D
G
E
A
E
A
F
B
F
B
G'
C'
G'
C'
A'
D'
A'
D'
A'
D'
A'
D'
alternative
fingering


In the gaps between the note names in the table above you simply tap down the position shown very quickly.

The top name is for bagpipes in G and the bottom name is for bagpipes in C.

Obviously you can join cuts and strikes in groups of embellishments which can be rhythmically very interesting. You are free to do so.





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Lindsay Davidson
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