OT: 6 October 1934 – An Ribean Gorm “Pipes and Drums”

The Oban Times, 6 October, 1934

Pipes and Drums

 24 September, 1934

Sir,–I take it that the S.P.B.A. Are not going by any other time but their own. There must be many readers who concur with your correspondent “Craigellachie.” Similar questions have from time to time appeared in your esteemed paper, but the S.P.B.A. intentionally or otherwise, are still unheeding. Had they a sensible answer or remedy to offer, we would have heard from them long ago.

Should this reticent attitude continue, there are bound to be some pertinent questions asked at the next general meeting. To avoid this unpleasantness, and in view of the fact that the S.P.B.A. has still to reply, may I, a humble member of a band (never yet appeared on the prize list), crave the opinions of those members other than that of the executive committee to give their views on the subjects narrated by “Craigellachie” and others; also the following: Is judging from undercover, as done at Renfrew, to be considered a success?

No doubt there is much to be said for and against, but we must bear in mind that we don’t see music; we hear it. In the event of a bass or side drummer hastening or dragging the time, otherwise erratic, from which column on the points allocation sheet will the pipe judge make his deductions? Why should he penalise pipes on what rationally should come under the perplexed drum judge? Yes “Craigellachie,” Noise is a din-inspiration!

I am, etc.,

An Ribean Gorm

OT: 27 October 1934 – Pom Pom Pom “Pipes and Drums”

 The Oban Times, 27 October, 1934

Pipes and Drums

 October 22, 1934

Sir,–I note with regret that the many letters which have appeared in your columns have been unanswered by the S.P.B.A.

“An Ribean Gorm” has evidently given up hope of getting any reply, and asks those members other than the Executive Committee to give their opinions. While I appreciate his point, why may I ask only those members other than the E. C.? Are they (the E. C.) afraid of his outspoken criticisms?

The illuminating article by A.D. Hamilton while not saying anything against the S.P.B.A., surely shows them in a poor light, when the writer of such an article is not on the panel of judges.

Perhaps some of the Executive Committee will enlighten me on what happens when a bass drummer goes off the beat. I have purposely used the word “beat,” as being a drummer I am compelled by the rules of the S.P.B.A to avoid in my phraseology the word “time” as I have nothing to do with it.

I am, etc.,

Pom Pom Pom

OT: 13 October 1934 – A.D. Hamilton “Pipes and Drums”

The Oban Times, 13 October, 1934

Pipes and Drums

 294 Hillington Road, Glasgow, 1 October, 1934

Sir,–Allow me to express my appreciation of “Craigellachie’s” letter of September 8, and also thank him for his kind compliment to me.

For years I have tried to inculcate in the minds of drummers the need for a little study of melody, because a slight knowledge of the tune is a valuable assistance in the playing of the beatings, moreover it teaches a true meaning of rhythm. I am aware that to many drummers my ideas on the subject may seem a little revolutionary and more in keeping with orchestral work than with pipe music, but surely the time is past when drummers are content to be simply an important but necessary part of the band. While my ideas may seem a departure from the orthodox methods, may I say that I am not unacquainted with the historical development of pipe bands, inasmuch as I come from a family of army pipe and drummers going back to three generations, and have, therefore, studied the subject closely.

I agree wholeheartedly with “Craigellachie” that drummers should not “dominate the whole band,” etc.; in fact I made it a strong point in my lecture to the Pipe And Association in the Highlanders’ Institute, Glasgow, last year. For years I have argued and taught that the drum (while not being subsidiary to the pipes) should follow the “Tempo of the Melody and be a Rhythmical accompaniment to the Tune.”

Let me develop this point. While the nature of the pipes makes the volume constant, expression can be given through the medium of phrasing and grace notes, etc. The drum, however, can modify volume; it can either be played soft or loud, according to the performers wish. Through this medium the drummer has a splendid opportunity of showing his musical ability and control by the sound he produces. It is obvious to the drummer, surely, that his instrument ought to be used for the purpose it was intended, and he should give a variation of light and shade throughout his beatings.

The present method of playing by ninety percent of drummers is likened unto a thick black line, the same monotonous shape and thickness throughout, never altering the volume, and entirely disregarding rhythm and phrasing. There is not a single phrase in pipe music that has a corresponding exercise in its counterpart, the drum.

If the drummer can imagine the pipe tunes written on one line instead of up and down the stave, he will then be able to arrive at the foundation of his beatings–a little alteration here and there introducing corresponding rhythms to kill the monotony. If he then got the pipe-major to play the tune over, he could listen for little effects that might be introduced, and he is bound to arrive at the correct musical setting for the tune. The beauty of this method is that no two drummers will arrive at the same setting, but all settings are bound to have the ultimate result of suiting the tune. This affords a splendid opportunity of showing the instructor’s knowledge of the various corresponding exercises which may suit the rhythm, but be so different in effect, and therefore giving the adjudicator a better chance of arriving at a true verdict. All drum beatings in every type of band only have their values in the tune they are meant to suit; counter rhythm can be used for effect, but should be very sparingly used.

“Craigellachie” asks my opinion as to whether the pipe judge or drum-major should handle the points for time. I am afraid that question is a bit too much for me, as time is an equal factor in the tune as well as the beating. Personally I am of the opinion that the present system of adjudicating is at fault because bands are being judged as two different units, and neither the pipe judge or drum judges paying any attention to the best ensemble of pipes and drums.

There are many more points I should like to go into, but I fear I have already taken up too much viable space.

I am, etc.,

A. D. Hamilton

OT: 25 March – 29 April 1950 – John Grant “It Was Dunvegan Castle!”

The Oban Times, 25 March, April 8, 15, 29, 1950


Part I (25 March 1950)

by John Grant, F.S.A. (Scot.)


             Eain Odhar, or Dun-Colored John, was the first of the MacCrimmons who can be traced traditionally or otherwise as having been pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan in the Isle of Skye, and that he was proficient in everything pertaining to ancient piobaireachd goes without saying, for from him has come down through the ages all that is now known about an art which has lived through the ups and downs of peace and war. But the birth of Piobaireachd goes far back into the recesses of time, because the progress of its growth and maturity must have occupied the minds of many generations of pipers prior to the birth of Eain Odhar MacCrimmon.

            Donald Mor succeeded his father Eain Odhar as hereditary piper at Dunvegan, and he became an eminent performer and instructor, as well as a diligent composer of Piobaireachd.   Patrick Mòr succeeded his father Donald Mòr as hereditary piper in Dunvegan.  Patrick Mòr was a piper of exceptional merit, both as a composer and instructor of young pipers.  His compositions were many, but unfortunately a great number of them must have been lost for want of being recorded.  It was Patrick Mòr who had eight sons, and he walked to church one Sunday with them all shoulder to shoulder, but before the end of a year hence seven of them were laid to rest in the Churchyard of Kilmuir in Skye.  Overcome with grief, under such sad circumstance, the broken-hearted father composed that most beautiful and heart-rending Piobaireachd, “Cumha na Cloinne,” i.e., “The Children’s Lament.”

            Patrick Òg succeeded his father Patrick Mòr as hereditary piper at Dunvegan.  He was greatest of all the MacCrimmon pipers, for his pupils excelled all the previous candidates of the Boreraig School.  Patrick Òg was also a composer of unprecedented merit, and spent much of his time within the precincts of his own private apartment in the creation of new compositions. Patrick Òg was twice married.  He had by his first wife a son called Malcolm, and by his second wife he had three sons named John, Donald Ban, and Farquhar.  John was piper to Seaforth, and Malcolm and Donald Ban were for a short period joint hereditary pipers at Dunvegan, but Donald Ban was killed at the rout of Moy during the Rising of ‘45.

            Malcolm, therefore, succeeded his father Patrick Òg as hereditary piper at Dunvegan.  The fame of the MacCrimmon pipers began to wane with Malcolm, of which very few particulars of his abilities as an instructor has been recorded.  So far as is known Malcolm composed only one tune, which is called “Mal Dhonn” or in other words, “MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart,” which was attuned to that passion of “Love” for Mal Dhonn was the sweetheart of Donald Ban, who lost his life at Moy Hall, and he composed his own Lament on the eve of his departure from Dunvegan to follow his master in the Rising of ’45. This tune is called “Cha Till Mhic Cruimein,” for MacCrimmon never did return.

            John Dubh succeeded his father, Malcolm, as the last of the hereditary pipers at Dunvegan.  Little has been recorded of his abilities either as a composer or an instructor of Piobaireachd, although he held the office of piper at Dunvegan for many years. John Dubh had two sons, Malcolm and Donald.  Malcolm did not follow his father’s profession, while Donald went out to the West Indies, and died on his homeward journey.

            Here ended for all time the last of the celebrated MacCrimmon pipers. John Dubh returned in spirit to his favourite Piob Mhòr, being much too feeble to play upon it. The year 1822 close the MacCrimmon era. John Dubh died at the advanced age of 91 years, and was laid to rest in the family tomb around which the zephyrs still moan “Cha till Mhic Cruimmein.”

PART II (8 April 1950)


            Rory MacKay was the first of the hereditary pipers to the MacKenzies of Gairloch, and the means by which Rory was brought to Gairloch was connected with an incident which took place at the Meikle Ferry, on the Kyle of Sutherland.  He was born about the year 1592.

            John Roy MacKenzie of Gairloch paid a visit to his step-father, the Laird of Reay, in Sutherland, about the year 1609, and on John Roy’s return from Tongue House, Lord Reay accompanied him as far as the Meikle Ferry.  On their arrival at the Ferry it was observed that there was another gentleman crossing, who was accompanied by a groom, who attempted to prevent anyone else from entering the boat except his master and his party.  The Laird of Reay had his piper Rory Mackay with him, a young handsome lad of 17 summers.  A desperate battle ensued between the piper and the groom; the former there and then drew his dirk from its sheath, which was suspended by his waist-belt, and with one mighty blow cut the groom’s hand off at the wrist.

            Realizing the seriousness of the situation in which his piper’s act had placed them, Lord Reay immediately said to his piper, “Rory! I cannot keep you with me any longer; you must at once fly the country and save your life,” whereupon John Roy MacKenzie said– “Will you come with me to Gairloch, Rory?” and the piper was only too glad to accept MacKenzie’s offer.  So Rory Mackay became the first piper to Gairloch.

            Rory married late in life at the age of 60 years, and he was piper to four successive lairds.  He had only one son, John, better known as John Dall MacKay, Gairloch’s blind piper.

            John Dall Mackay succeeded his father Rory Mackay as hereditary piper to Gairloch, and in due course he was sent to Boreraig, near Dunvegan for the purpose of receiving instruction by that famous master Patrick Og MacCrimmon.

            After a period of seven years tuition he was acknowledged to be in every way equal to is master, Patrick Og, who was very proud of him, a fact which was proved by John Dall having struck up a third part to the “Half Finished Piobaireachd,” which MacCrimmon failed after a considerable time to complete.

            John Dall left behind him a son, Angus, and it is related by one of the MacKenzies of Gairloch that the father composed twenty-four piobaireachds.

            Angus succeeded his illustrious father, John Dall MacKay, as hereditary piper to Gairloch.  He equalled his ancestors as a masterly performer of Piobaireachd.  Angus attended a competition for Piobaireachd playing at Edinburgh, when some of the other competitors, who were jealous of his piping abilities, cut a hole in the bag of his pipes, but Angus had there a fair friend called “Mary,” who found for him a sheep-skin, out of which he made a bag, and next day he carried off the coveted prize.  Shortly after, Angus composed that beautiful Piobaireachd entitled “Moladh Mairi,” i.e., “Mary’s Praise For Her Gift.”  Like his forefathers Angus lived too a ripe old age, and left behind him one son, John.

            John succeeded his father, Angus MacKay, as hereditary paper to Gairloch.  He was equal in merit to his ancestors in the art of Piobaireachd playing.  As a young man he returned to the Reay country, the land of his fathers, for the purpose of receiving instruction and practice in the art of piping, and he excelled in his profession.

            John lived in the latter part of his career at Scatadale, where he married, and had a large family, for whose advancement he emigrated to America with all his children.  His master Sir Hector MacKenzie, said–“John was a distinguished piper,” and when he left his service he would never have another piper, so like the MacCrimmons. Mackay left Gairloch “never to return.”

PART III (15 April  1950)


             Roderick Mackay was the first of the pipers to the MacLeods of Raasay.  He also came from the Reay country, and received his instruction from his namesake and kinsman, John Dall Mackay, Gairloch’s blind piper.  In fact, it is stated that Roderick Mackay and John Dall were related to each other.

            Roderick was a distinguished piper, and author of a number of fine Piobaireachd.  He died at a very early age, and left one son, called John, who was then only a boy.

            John succeeded his father as hereditary piper to the MacLeods of Raasay.  The MacLeod of Raasay’s brother, Malcolm, was himself a piper of merit, and he was so impressed with the young piper’s apparent abilities that he superintended his instruction in piping as far as he could, and ultimately sent him to the MacCrimmon School in Skye to complete his studies there, at the expiration of which, as already stated, John was then appointed piper to Macleod of Raasay.  Increasing misfortune overtook the Raasay family, and John MacKay then became piper to Lord Willoughby d’Eresby in Perthshire, and settled down finally at Kyleakin in Skye.

            John Mackay was probably the most famous of all the Mackay pipers.  He had four sons – Donald, Roderick, Angus, and John, all of whom were their father’s pupils, and distinguished pipers together with John Ban MacKenzie, who was of the same age as Mackay’s four sons, and was also taught along with them.

            Of John’s sons, Donald was piper to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.

            Roderick was piper to James Moray of Abercairney, near Crieff. Abercairny house is the only residence in the Highlands of Scotland which was ever built for the convenience of a piper.  It has a corridor about 30 yards in length, where the piper marches to and fro in a dignified manner, which becomes the piper as well as the great Highland bagpipe.

            John Mackay, the youngest of the four brothers, was piper to Lord Gwydys, but little more is known of him.

            Angus Mackay, who was born at Kyleakin in Skye, about the year 1812, was piper to Davidson of Tulloch; then to Campbell of Islay, and finally he was appointed piper to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.  Angus Mackay’s father never even dreamed that his son should ever become piper to the great Queen, for Angus was the first Royal piper to hold this exalted position in the household of Queen Victoria, the highest position that any piper has ever held in the piping world.

            Angus Mackay distinguished himself as a boy competitor in the Highland Society of London’s competitions which were held at Falkirk and Edinburgh.  He collected over 240 of the 300 ancient Piobaireachd, which we now possess, and in the year 1838 published 60 of them in one volume, giving their interesting historic notes.

            It has been said that were it not for the MacCrimmons, Angus Mackay would never have been heard of.  Be that as it may, it is the truth to say that had it not been for Angus Mackay the MacCrimmon Piobaireachd would have been lost forever.  He collected and preserved them.  He wrote Piobaireachd in perfect form as the MacCrimmons created them, and gave them to the piping world in staff notation for the first time, which can be understood by every piper of ordinary intelligence. He did this without any assistance whatever.

            Angus Mackay was a composer of Piobaireachd as well as some of [the] finest Marches, now extant, and the finest performer of the classical music of the Highland bagpipe that ever lived. He died in the year 1859.  He is dead, in the body, yes, but his spirit still lives, enshrined in the inheritance which he has given to us, his successors, and his memory is engraved in the hearts of those who know his value.        

            Until the last chanter be broken, and the last reed is silenced, Angus Mackay’s name shall outlive them all, for there will always be some of his admirers left who will chant the ceanntaireachd of the MacCrimmons, the “Coronach” of the “Immortal Royal Pipe[r].”

Part IV (29 April 1950)


            John Ban MacKenzie was one of the most distinguished and best known pipers of his day.  He was born near Dingwall in the year 1789, and received his tuition from John Mackay, piper to the MacLeods of Raasay, along with Mackay’s four sons, Donald, Roderick, Angus, and John.

            John Ban was not only a performer of Piobaireachd, but also a bagpipe maker of merit.  He was a composer of the classical music of the Highland bagpipe and a distinguished instructor, having imparted his art to many young pupils who came from far and near to acquire a perfect knowledge of bagpipe music in theory and practice.

            John Ban lived in the time when Piobaireachd playing was in the process of decay, and for that reason, the art of performing Ceol Mòr was revived by means of the Highland Society of London’s competitions which were held at the Falkirk Tryst and the Theater Royal, Edinburgh.

            He took prizes in all the grades of those competitions, and ultimately became what was known as “Champion of Champions,” the highest award then going, and to crown that distinction he was selected to play at the Theater Royal,  Edinburgh the opening “Salute” to greet the great Gathering of Highland noblemen, and the most eminent pipers of that period.  John Ban was piper to MacKenzie of Allangrange, Davidson of Tulloch, and finally to the Marquis of Breadalbane, at Taymouth Castle, Perthshire.

            John married a lady of rank, Miss MacKenzie of Applecross, and Lord Breadalbane built for them a house near the castle. Breadalbane often teased John Ban about his piping, and one day asked him to take an oar when out fishing, but John said– “I cannot, my lord, it would spoil my fingers for piping.” Breadalbane said–“Other men work and pipe also, John,” to which John replied, “Yes, my lord, these men are labourers, but I am your lordship’s piper.”

            John Ban remained at Taymouth Castle until he became unable to play upon his beloved instrument, when he returned to his native country, where he died in the year 1864, at the age of 75 years.  There and there [then] one of the finest pipers Scotland ever knew was laid to rest among the mountains, lochs and glens which he loved so dearly.


            Ronald MacKenzie was born at Fodderty, in Ross-shire in the year 1842, and was brought up by his uncle, John Ban MacKenzie, at Taymouth Castle, where he was educated in the art of Piobaireachd playing.  Ronald joined the Army at the Castle, Edinburgh, in the year 1860, for [four] years before the death of his beloved uncle, and at that time he could not play a March , Strathspey or Reel.

            Piobaireachd was the playing [piping] art in John Ban MacKenzie’s time, so Ronald was steeped in the throws and charms of the classical music of the Piob Mòr.  He was not long in the army, however, when he mastered the playing of Marches, Strathspeys and Reels, the lighter music of the Highland Bagpipe.

            Ronald was soon promoted to Pipe-Major in his regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders, having adopted the army as a profession.  He won all the premier prizes in competition for the playing of Piobaireachd, his beloved music, and taught many fine pipers to play the “Great Music,” of which John McColl, Oban, was one of the most distinguished.

            Ronald MacKenzie’s name was a household word in every Highland laird and nobleman’s residence in the Highlands of Scotland, and he was for a considerable time the sole judge at all the Piobaireachd competitions, which were held at Inverness, Oban, Portree, and Stamford Bridge, London.  On retiring from the army he was appointed “Family Piper” to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon at Gordon Castle, in Morayshire, a post which he held until his death, which took place in the year 1916 at the age of 74 years, the last of a long line of genuine pupils of the MacCrimmon school. In the year of imagination I can still hear him play that set lament, “Cha till Mhic Cruimein.”

(The End.)

 [Editor’s note: 18 June 2012.  The previous serialized essay was completed by John Grant on 1 April 1947 and the manuscript bound in booklet form.  The original is housed among the Grant Papers at the Houghton Library, Harvard. fMs Mus. 120.6, Box 3, fol. 37.]

OT: 2 July 1927 – A. MacPherson “Piobaireachd Pipe Music”

The Oban Times, 2 July, 1927

Piobaireachd Pipe Music

 Inveran Hotel, Invershin, Sutherland, 23 June, 1927

Sir,–In your issue of 18th June, the Piobaireachd Society make an announcement, three months after the tunes for this year’s competition had been issued, that they find there are mistakes in the publication and are going to prepare revised copies. To a student of piobaireachd three minutes were sufficient to see that there were mistakes, but I suppose that had it been pointed out by any other person than a member of the Piobaireachd Society, it would, as formerly, have fallen upon deaf ears. This is not the first time that the Piobaireachd Society has issued tunes containing mistakes, and they were allowed to pass on and to be handed down to posterity. Had the same course been followed on this occasion it would, I think, have been more creditable than the belated announcement now made, as no doubt pipers of piobaireachd ability would avail themselves of the option to play other and correct settings.

I think that the announcement now made should substantiate a suggestion I put forward some time ago in your columns that a small number of traditionally taught pipers (and alas, their number is now getting very small, indeed), be appointed to act in conjunction with the Piobaireachd Society Music Committee, in preparing the tunes to be annually published.

In this way they would avoid adding to the already too many misleading interpretations of the music which, in its correct form, has no equal. I am, etc.,

A.. MacPherson

OT: 24 November 1928 – A.K. Cameron “‘Finger Lock’ and ‘Prince’s Salute'”

The Oban Times, 24 November, 1928

“Finger Lock” and “Prince’s Salute”

 Sir,–It would be well if your correspondent, Mr. Malcolm MacInnes, turned back to parts II and III of Angus Mackay’s Piobroch book and learn, “A Cheud Phort Sa Piobaireachd,” before expounding Pibroch further to the public. It looks as if he knows little about Pibroch’s intricate notes. If he should turn to page 11 of “Joseph MacDonalds Compleat Theory” and follow his text, there he will find the notes “as MacCrimmon played them,” and taught them to Donald Cameron.

On the other hand, we have the same notes as Cameron’s from Mr. Simon Fraser, Melbourne, Australia, who was taught by Peter Bruce. Moreover, Simon is the greatest living authority on the subject.

All the old pipers that were trained by traditional players of Pibroch, play its intricate notes as they are written in the two books alluded to above. Therefore we can easily see that Mr. McInnis was never trained by a “traditional player!”

Where did he get his notes? Thy is he unable to pr ove to us that they are “McCrimmon notes”[?] Will Mr. McInnis answer these questions?

Mr. McInnis claims that the Taorluath (A, A, A.) “as McCrimmon played it,” puts a tune out of joint and those that play it are “book students only.” Is Low G, A, A, in the “Taorluath movement” wrong?

He also claims that each of the four beats in the theme of the “Finger Lock” consists of three syllables.

First bar.–Hio-dro dro hio-dro dro;

Four beats and six syllables! Where are the other six?

The corresponding bar in the Taorluath movement is:–

(1) Hio-drin-in. (2) Ho-drin-in. (3) Ho-drin-in. (4) Ho-drin-in. Four beats and twelve syllables! but Mr. McInnis finds six syllables only! What did he do with the other six?

As for his next remark–”The same equivalence is seen in the Taorluath Movement of the ‘Prince’s Salute’.” Where? I wonder! The theme of the “Prince’s Salute” is not correctly timed in any book! And some of the notes are not within the right bars! The Second Low A in the First and Third bar should be omitted! The First E Note in the Fourth bar should be on the other side of the Third bar and a low A Note used instead, to complete the Taorluath (A, A, A.) and to fill the bar, so it will correspond to bar two!

When these alterations are made throughout the theme, it contains the same number of beats as the theme of the “Finger Lock.” See “McDonald’s Pibroch Book,” as his setting is closer to Fraser’s.

No wonder young pipers are miss led by what your correspondent expounds. We of the “Old School” play “The Lament for the Great Music.”

P.S.–” Patric Mor McCrimmon vocables” are used.–I am, etc.,

A. K. Cameron

OT: 11 May 1929 – J.C. “The Bottom (G-A) Interval of the Chanter”

The Oban Times, 11 May, 1929

The Bottom (G-A) Interval of the Chanter
Its Bearing on the Construction of the Chanter Gamut

 Sir,–Mr. W. D. Anderson, in the “The Oban Times” lately, inquires if the interval between the bottom notes of the chanter (that is G and A in staff notation, but any others might be put in a chanter) is the “small” tone 10/9, as it is between G and A where these occur in the major diatonic scale of C (see tables of scales and “intervals” in any book.)

The answer is “No.” The above interval in chanter is a full or “great” tone of 9/8. This can be proved by the ear, as is often done by pipers who alternately sound “low” G and A (here a local Doh-Ray).

Lately I have tested it by an improvised monochord with a string length of 360 millimetres of second string of violin. I find the interval 9/8 and not 10/9 to be in agreement with the chanter. Mr. Anderson’s suggestion of an 8/7 interval (the seventh harmonic in scale of A) I find much to flat.

The chanter notes are founded on this great (G-A) tone interval. They were got by taking doh, mi, soh for the lowest note (here G in staff) getting G, B, D, and and again doh, me, soh from the next note (here A), giving A C# E, while F# is got as the fifth (soh) from B, while high A and G, (the latter an unsteady note) are the octaves of the lower notes. A careful study of the above series of notes shows that we get the following intervals as a result:

G 9/8    A 10/9    B 9/8    C 16/15    D 9/8    E 10/9    F # 16/15    G 9/8    A

which actually coincides with the major diatonic scale intervals if we start with D the middle chanter note from below upwards, and follow high A by B in the lower hand.

The fact that the interval 16/15 lies between C# and D further proves this, as we have D as the upper note of the ascending octave where the interval is D2 over C # 1 7/8 equals 16/15. The same has been arrived at by actually measuring the intervals and they agree with the results of the above production of chanter notes obtained from tuning up from the lower to “great tone interval” notes, G and A, in alternate triads (doh, mi, soh). Further examination shows that the above arrangement is accurately equal to or identical with what is known in staff language as Key of D, the doh, that is D, here being the middle note of the chanter.

The above arrangement, which is common in the chanter “family,” yields the so-called “parallel” scales of G and A, where in former C is sharp and must be avoided and where E is not quite true, and in the latter where G has flat seventh and where the interval A B is only 10/9 (small tone) and not 9/8 great tone as it ought to be. The attempt by some to make the chanter a Key A instrument will end in confusion as it makes the G A interval too small, viz., 10/9 or even 16/15.

To make, therefore, a “bagpipe” scale or gamut, whether on the violin, a chanter, or to put chanter “notes” on a flageolet, only requires attention to the above which has been preached for many years by Mr. Calum MacPharlain, and is shown with tables of scales in Jno. McNeil’s [i.e. John MacNeill] article in Manson’s Book on the Bagpipe. [See Manson’s book, p. 369.] Like others, I have wasted a lot of time and experiment trying to collate the Greek scales with the chanter gamut by starting from the lowest note, e.g., Pythagorean, whose second interval is a great tone 9/8, not a small tone 10/9 as in the chanter between A in B. This false start is the cause of some musicians being confused. Of course on the piano, which is meant for “equal temperament,” the scale of D is the same as A with flat seventh and as G if C #is aborted in the latter.

In the above connection it is not necessary to bring into the argument anything about vibrations as measured on sirens or monochord, the only requisite being as with the old makers of pipes, a good ear and the great tone between the two bottom notes, as the foundation of the pipe gamut, singing G and A here as doh, ray.

Of course pipe music is another thing. It is performed on an instrument which suits it musically in some cases, and others not, and where a chromatic scale would be serviceable.

For reference–Great tone, 9/8; small tone, 10/9; semi-tone, 16/15. I am, etc.,

J. C.

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