OT: 4 December 1915 – John Grant “The Bagpipe Chanter Scale”

The Oban Times, 4 December, 1915

The Bagpipe Chanter Scale

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 29 November, 1915

Sir,–I agree with your correspondent of last week as regards the views of the Highland bagpipe makers. Mr. David Glen, bagpipe maker, Edinburgh, is the only one who has given several key signatures to his pipe music, but he says nothing as to how the arising difficulties are to be overcome.

Donald MacDonald makes the key signatures in his published book of piobaireachd quite clear, so I do not wish anyone to waste time and quoting it.

All other pipe makers must be having a good time of amusement over your correspondents:–J. P. M., Mr. MacPharlain, Mr. MacRae, Mr. Cameron. I may say to them all, and perhaps more particularly to Mr. MacRae, that I have defined the Highland bagpipe scale in my book just published on “Pipe Music,” and it is quite unnecessary for me to do so here as your space seems to be taxed to the utmost as it is.

Mr. MacRae may refuse my proof as he cares regarding my statement about the MacCrimmons and a fixed scale as they had it, but because he imagines that he finds different scales (3 or 4) on his chanter that is no proof that the MacCrimmons did. The proof is the other way. The MacCrimmon scale and fingering of the chanter has been handed down personally by them from generation to generation as a fixed scale, and so it now is and will remain.

Is it not sufficient proof to settle this question once and for all when I say that Mr. Peter Henderson, Glasgow, makes his chanters with a fixed scale and publishes his music accordingly? I speak unsolicitedly of a man who has a decided say in the matter. If Mr. Henderson’s chanter could play all the scales which Mr. MacRae imagines his music would be signature to meet such scales. But Mr. Henderson gives his music with a fixed scale and a chanter to play that fixed scale, being “A major” so far as the octave from A to A is concerned, and excepting those “acute” ears who find someone’s high G a semi-tone flat, while when you hear them play their own pipes they are a tone and a half sharp. This is a good example. I would not have Mr. MacRae or any of your correspondents think for one moment that it is because they disagree with me that I write against them. I say again they are attempting to destroy and deteriorate our “Ancient Highland Pipe Music.”–I am, etc.

John Grant