OT: 18 May 1907 – Charles Bannatyne

The Oban Times, 18 May, 1907

Salsburgh, by Holytown,

13 May, 1907

Sir,–The report of the meeting convened by General Thomason to consider the bagpipe scale, in your issue of 4th inst., gives an incomplete account of what I said at that conference. Here is what I said regarding the late Mr. Colin Brown and his researches:

The late Colin Brown, Euing Lecture on music in Anderson’s College, Glasgow, a thoroughly trained scientific musician and a Highlander reared in the Highlands, invented a sort of harmonium which is absolutely correct in its method of ascertaining the exact number of vibrations in any note; it is impossible for it to err. Mr. Brown tested innumerable chanters, and from the data so gained, and from his inimitable knowledge of Highland music he concluded that the correct scale was F to G in the key of C. He was not a piper, but had the assistance of the late Donald MacPhee. When a musician like Colin Brown adopted F to G in the key of C, which is the same as G to A in the key of D, I do not think we need to go further in judging what the correct scale is. The majority of pipers think it is G to A in the key of D. Approximately, it is f, s, l, t, d, r, m, f, s. As I understand the pipe scale it is a work of genius. It is made so as to play in three keys, G, A, and D, with a minimum of error. Its C is neither the major nor the minor seventh but a compromise. This little difference between te and ta turns the scale into an original work of genius. In plain words it is a tempered scale, tempered too, by a people who had no knowledge of music as we understand.

I further stated that any defect it had was due to faulty tuning.

I may state that Mr. MacNeil of Langholm in his chapter on vibrations in Manson’s “History of the Highland Bagpipe,” from which General Thomason says he learned so much, does not differ from what I here state, and have often before stated in your columns. He thinks and proves what I think and have often proved, that the correct chanter scale is practically G to A in the key of D. Thanking you for the insertion of this correction,–I am, etc.,

Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.