OT: 10 September 1927 – J. Cameron – “Chanter ‘Notes’ and Fingering”



The Oban Times, 10 September, 1927

Chanter “Notes” and Fingering

 Beverley, 31 August, 1927

Sir,–The interesting article in the “Oban Times” of the 27th August, on Joseph McDonald’s “Compleat Theory of the Highland Bagpipe” prompts me to enquire into a Chanter “Mystery.”

Joseph McDonald’s fingering for high G and A is given as second finger of upper hand “on” (sometimes sounding G, with the little finger–presumably of lower hand–” on” also); also the C is fingered with lower little finger “on.” Bagpipes are now manufactured and no ordinary buyer knows what notes he is getting with any particular fingering.

In the “natural” method of playing a fingered “wood wind” instrument, such as the Oboe, the “open” scale is used, the fingers being lifted successively from bottom to top, and thus a practically accurate scale of any agreed “temperament” may with proper blowing be obtained. When un-tutored learners take to the pipes, and I have seen several of such, often in the Army; where there were no pipers, they strike out with this open scale and play ordinary “airs.” If a player at games, etc., should play in this “natural” fashion, he would be debarred, as several were last year for false fingering.

When the manufacturer bores and “holes” his chanters, does he do it to agree with an “open” scale for each note, or does he make his scale correct for notes with “bagpipe fingering,” say that given in David Glen? With the little finger of lower hand “on,” as in Pibroch playing, C is made most flat and this is Joseph McDonald’s fingering. A late well-known bagpipe maker told me he had “improved” the scale by sharpening two of the notes–I forget which. It would thus seem that until we know how the chanter is manufactured, whether in tune for “open” or “bagpipe fingering” all the bother about “false” or “correct” fingering is ridiculous. I wonder if Mr. Alexander MacDonald can enlighten enquirers on the above point.–I am, etc.,

J. Cameron

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