So, when it comes to bagpipe music, it’s “all technique all the time”. With nine notes, no rests, no sharps, no flats, no dynamics, technique is pretty much all we have to create rhythm. We’re not so big on understated embellishments.
OK. So the secret to reliable technique: first, it’s a given that you practice hard.
Here, though, is the super-lucky-hyper-magnetic secret: the ’d’ gracenote. Yep, that lowly mid-chanter blip, the ‘d’ gracenote.
Consider the bedrock of Highland bagpipe technique: ‘b’ and ‘c’ doublings, tachums, leumluaths, taorluaths, crunluaths, ‘gde’ triplets, what’s the common thread? There’s no question: the ‘d’ gracenote.
When we “miss” technique, or under-execute a ’d’ gracenoted embellishment it’s more often than not the ‘d’ gracenote that has under-performed or misfired.
It makes good sense to me that we isolate this gracenote and really work the muscles that create the sound. I’ve always done this. It seems to work for me.
So what to do?
Sound large, oversized ‘d’ gracenotes on every bottom hand note that you can (not floppy, but exaggerated versions of the gracenote with a healthy degree of tension, or crispness – never tight, by the way).
Start with a chunky ‘d’ gracenote on ’c', follow with ’b', and on to low ‘a’ and low ‘g’.
Repeat back up to ‘c’. Repeat this up-down sequence slowly and correctly a dozen times.
Once you have mastered this mix it up a bit by increasing tempo and, if you really get ambitious, different sequences of the sub ‘d’ notes.
Follow this approach as a regular part of your practice schedule and it’ll be a cold day at Glenfinnan when you ever chance missing technique again. Guaranteed.
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