OT:11 December 1915 – Feadan “The Bagpipe Chanter Scale”

The Oban Times, 11 December, 1915

The Bagpipe Chanter Scale

6 December, 1915

Sir,–I have seen some of the correspondence dealing with the chanter scale, and saw some reference made to the pentatonic scale. Do any of your readers know if there is any book dealing with this scale, as I have heard vague references to it,–among others, that the psalm tune “Kilmarnock” was written therein,–but could get no definite information regarding it?

I am not a piper, but I should like to make the following suggestion regarding the upper G sharp difficulty, if it has not already appeared in your columns. Discussing the point with two friends, one a chanter player and the other a violin player, we tested a chanter with the violin (tuned to the chanter’s A) and came to the conclusion that with this particular chanter and the particular read in it, if the player increased his blowing he could raise the G natural to G sharp. This, of course, would not affect the pipes where the flow of air is regulated evenly, and we have only the one chanter to work upon. I make a suggestion for what it may be worth, and as one asking light on the matter, that in playing the practising chanter the player in performing, more or less, mournful tunes brings out the true “ta” affect, while in playing sprightly airs, he may unconsciously in his exuberance sharper his upper G by forceful blowing.

Your correspondents do not seem to have come to any definite conclusion regarding the number of keys playable on the chanter, and when experienced pipers differ, it would seem presumptuous for me to interfere. But I should like to ask Mr. Grant if he thinks that these two pipe tunes, “Lochan Side” I think the correct name is, and “The 25th’s March to Meerut” are written in A, i.e., is A the note on which the tunes seem to come to rest? I am of opinion it is D. The fact that the drones are tuned to a does not invalidate the supposition, for as one of your other correspondents pointed out, A is the dominant chord of A. Mr. Grant, of course, has a strong case in the “key of G” question as far as drones are concerned, but still, when played on the chanter, there are certain tunes which seem to be on G.–I am, etc.