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EMBELLISHMENTS ON THE HIGHLAND BAGPIPE
The Highland Bagpipe is a legato instrument, that is, it produces a continuous, even, sound without stops or breaks or variation of intensity, unlike other instruments. This could result in a monotonous drone where musical expression might seem to be impossible. However, this defect, if it were thought to be so, is overcome through the clever use of embellishments, making it a very technical instrument to conquer.
Basically, embellishments are simply a means of decorating the melody, but in music for the Highland Bagpipe they have other important functions. They are used to separate notes of the same pitch since the chanter cannot be stopped but are also essential in order to express certain notes or phrases differently from one another by subtle variation in time or stress.
Embellishments can be divided into three distinct types, namely, single grace notes played immediately before the theme note, doublings, where the theme note is doubled by adding gracenotes and more complicated groupings of gracenotes. Different groups of gracenotes are given different names and serve different purposes in the music.
For example, a group of gracenotes known as “grip” or “leumlath” (pronounced “lame-lua”), is used to leap from one note to another and in fact, the name is accepted as meaning “leaping”. On the other hand, the “taorluath” (“tour-lua”) is a falling movement. The “cruanluath” with its accompanying variations, is the “crowning” movement and is the pinnacle of technique in pipe music.
Embellishments, in all of their variations, take their time off the following theme note and not the preceding one.
Snare drumming too, has its groups of beats. Basically, all drumming is developed from a singles stroke, but beats can be combined to form a roll, where single beats cannot be differentiated by the ear. Other groupings, such as a “flam” may be compared to single gracenotes in piping, where a short stroke is played before the actual stroke. A “paradiddle” is a group of four strokes played from hand to hand in a particular way and in which any stroke of the group may be accented. This technique gives a wide variation in intensity and expression.
In addition, drumming may accompany the music by closely following the melodic rhythm or in being in opposition to it, adding extra drive and excitement.
The NIPDS is an
Associate College of The College of Piping, Glasgow
Funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland