Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tuning the Pipers

In one of my many reference books and letters I came across a tale from P/Major Angus MacDonald MBE, Scots Guards, It reads;


Once whilst on tour, in a country which shall remain anonymous, I was approached by a fellow who played in a pipe band. He asked me how I tuned my band and I explained that the pipers blew individually for five minutes and then blew collectively for another five or ten minutes. I would then make minor adjustments to drones and chanters after which we would play again collectively, re-tuning once more before a performance.

The fellow replied, "That sounds a complicated system of tuning to me". So I asked him how his band was tuned up - to which he replied, "We just congregate in the band hut and drink until we sound good".


Electronics have made many a band sound good but when pipers rely on the magic box, the age-long skill of pitch and tone that the ear produces may become only a memory. The Box is only an instrument and good for collective tuning, but the piper must not lose the skill of the ear.

A good reference/history book that all pipers should read is, "The Piper in Peace and War" by C.A. Malcolm. It's an excellent book and it will stir your very soul.



Anonymous said...

Judging by what I hear around the traps there are still bands following the "drinking until they sound good" culture.

Perhaps they should rather be dishing out the grog to the audience to make the performance more tolerable !!!

Tanundapiper said...

Yes, we still have a few drinking bands.

Bill, Thanks for mentioning this book. I now have it on order.
Isn't it interesting that of all the names you could give a book, we have two books on piping with almost identical names:

The Piper in Peace and War - CA Malcolm 1927
The Professional Piper in Pace and War - John Wilson 1978