The tunes - "Highland Wedding", "Blair Drummond" and "Pretty Marion".
I first heard this tune at a contest in Bathgate in the 1970’s, played by the Dysart and Dundonald Pipe Band. I wrote it out for our own band and it proved popular with our members. Some years later the tune was published as “Unknown Retreat” , but we have elected to stay with our original choice of name ll
The 5/4 Time Signature is enough to make this composition stand out from the pack, but it is also a lovely expressive melody. We play only the first two parts of this four-parter, because long ago it was part of a contest medley with time constraints, and the tradition has stuck !!!
Cullen Bay is a beautiful area north of Grampian, between Buckie and Banff. The composer is Ian Duncan – a drummer believe it or not !!! It is worth mentioning that there is another tune by this name, composed in 1959 – a 2/4 march by Pipe Major James Robertson of The Gordon Highlanders, and named after the very same area.
Barren Rocks of Aden.
Composed by J. McKellar. This tune has four parts but the last two parts are seldom played nowadays. However, it would be hard to imagine a piper of any worth anywhere in the world who doesn’t have the first two measures in his repertoire. It does remind us that once upon a time the British Army was firmly ensconced in that hot and rocky Red Sea port.
Flower of Scotland.
Little did the popular folk duo “The Corries” realise when they penned and recorded this song that they would release such a flood of Scottish nationalistic feeling. Some people have even suggested it should be the Scottish National Anthem. Certainly it has become the popular choice of Scottish Soccer and Rugby fans at international matches. The words invoke the spirit of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314 ad) when the Scots, under Robert the Bruce, soundly thrashed “Proud Edward’s army” and firmly established Scottish independence.
An English doctor was being shown around a Scottish hospital.
At the end of an extensive tour of the operating rooms, medical,
surgical, and pediatric units, he was shown into a ward with a
number of patients who showed no obvious signs of injury. He
went to examine the first man he saw, and the man proclaimed:
"Fair fa' yer honest sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin' race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, painch tripe or thairm: Weel are
ye worthy o' a grace as lang's my arm..."
The doctor, somewhat taken aback, went to the next patient, who
immediately launched into:
"Some hae meat, and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But
we haemeat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit."
And the next patient: "Wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie, O what a
panic'sin thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, wi
bickering brattle I wad be laith to run and chase thee, wi murdering
"Well," said the Englishman to his Scottish colleague, "I see you
saved the psychiatric ward for last." "No, no, no," the Scottish
doctor corrected him, "this is the Serious Burns Unit."
It is worth noting that, at that time, the Low A was deemed to be 459 Hertz.
Summarising the McNeill/Linehan Scale
However, the bagpipe scale has shifted quite dramatically from this early standard, especially since the early 1970’s. The accepted pitch has moved upwards quite markedly to be in the “470+ Hertz” region, while D and G have been considerably flattened. We will now look specifically at the Modern Scale.
Low A to B 1.125 (9/8)
Low A to C 1.25 (5/4)
Low A to D 1.333 (4/3)
Low A to E 1.5 (3/2)
Low A to F 1.666 (5/3)
Low A to G' 1.75 (7/4)
Low A to A' 2 (2/1)
The Modern scale will therefore require the following corrections on the tuner.
(n.b. the corrections are calculated for the nominal ratios listed immediately above.)
Those notes which have audible relationships with the drones (A, C, E and HiA) are pitched identically in both the McNeill and Modern scales while D and G are significantly different.
Firstly, we need to establish how far each interval of our two scales deviates from particular intervals in the Equal Temperament or Chromatic Scale used by the normal hand-held tuner. If you intend to use your electronic tuner to set a chanter (as opposed to its normal function of tuning drones) you need to know the precise deviation that will be displayed for each chanter note on the tuner.
To fully understand the rationale behind all this, it will be necessary to digress briefly into a little more basic music theory.
a semitone = 100 cents and is an interval of 1.0595.
a tone = 200 cents and is an interval of 1.1225.
an octave = 1200 cents and is an interval of 2.
Scale intervals referred to a chosen note (in our case "Low A") can be expressed as Cents using the following formula:
Cents = (1200 x log(interval))/ log 2
= 3986 x log(interval)
To illustrate this by an example let us choose "F" on the bagpipe scale. Referred to Low A, the interval is 1.666 (as noted earlier).
Cents = 3986 x log(1.666);
= 3986 x 0.2218
= 884 cents
We will discover shortly that this is quite close (within 18 cents) to the interval between A# and G in the Equal Temperament scale.
The Low A of the Pipe chanter is closest to A# (B flat) in the chromatic scale, therefore we should look at the intervals referred to this note to see what is closest for each of the other chanter notes.
The relevant intervals for the Equal Tempered Scale referred to A# can be tabulated (in Cents) as follows:
The intervals for the Modern bagpipe scale can be tabulated (in Cents) as follows:
If you are not now totally confused then you haven't been paying attention !!!!!