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PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 10:34 am 
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Hokay, so my understanding is that GHB's play in Bb Mixolydian, a single scale, with an addition b7 below the root as their lowest tone.

HOWEVER.

I'm arranging some music for an upcoming church event, and the irish instruments I'm working with, including my own, are posing me no issues. It's when I looked up some highland piping sheets to make sure I was putting things in a readable format for the piper that'll be playing with us, that I seem to have discovered a discrepancy.

On, say, a Bb trumpet, the concert pitch Bb (as heard on a Piano) is written as a C, though the tone is still a true Bb. Similarly, it appears that on GHB's, the true Bb, which is their tonic (and lowest finger lifted) pitch, is written as an 'A' on the staff (as seen HERE). In essence, what I'm seeing is that the whole shebang is written in A mix, but sounds in Bb mix....

Is this correct, or did I just find a shoddy resource for sample sheets? Need to clear this up before I wind up writing pipe parts that are a half-step off. Enough people don't trust pipes already...don't need to be adding to the list.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 11:10 am 
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Yes, that's right, except that your Highland piper may actually be playing somewhere between Bb and B, so check that he/she's OK with concert Bb before writing anything.

Also not so much a discrepancy as a completely different way of referring to pitch. And flutes/whistles are yet another, where a 'trad' D flute plays as written and a Bb flute would be Ab in 'classical' terms!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 11:17 am 
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Yes...the ever-present pitch creep (from too much hole dremeling) is something I'm very familiar with. Tuning my old tenor drum to band pitch was a nightmare. Thanks for the info!


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:10 pm 
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GHB notation is written in A mix. For brevity, the C# is written as C, but played C# and the F# is noted as F but played as F#. Many modern GHB chanters are pitched closer to B than Bb. Many, but not all pipers have a chanter which can be played in Bbmix. They will have to use drone reeds capable of being tuned to Bb. When writing a part for a GHB piper, write it in Amix and do not add the sharps into the music, but they will be played as a matter of course. Confusing, yes, but that is the norm. Just make sure the piper is able to play in Bb mix, based on A=440 Hz although the chart will be written in Amix.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:10 pm 
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Here are the actual notes a Highland bagpipe plays, followed by the name pipers call the notes

sounding pitch > piper's name

A flat > "low G"
B flat > "low A"
C > "B"
D > "C"
E flat > "D"
F > "E"
G > "F"
A flat > "high G"
B flat > "high A"

Pipe music should have a key signature of two sharps, but it's common to leave this off, and pipers read C and F as sharp whether or not the key signature is there.

I've played many church gigs over the years, many pieces arranged by people like yourself who aren't all that familiar with the instrument. Writing the music correctly is only one of many aspects you should be aware of. Some of the other things are:

-Highland pipes are loud. When the piper starts playing he often can no longer hear the choir or organ. It's best when the organ is inherently loud and the organist pulls out more stops than they're accustomed to. Few are the organists who play loud enough to balance with the pipes. Since the piper can't hear anything but himself complex arrangements can be a train-wreck. Many pipers have never followed a conductor. So, what works best is if the piper can play a straightforward melody or part which isn't interdependent on what the other musicians are doing.

-The standard pitch of Highland pipes is a quartertone between B flat and B natural. For playing with the organ (unless it's electronic and can pitch-shift) you need to find a piper who owns a chanter which plays at Concert Pitch. Different makers call these different things such as "466 chanter" "B flat chanter" "orchestral chanter" etc. Only a very small percentage of pipers have the know-how and equipment to play in tune at Concert Pitch. Most pipers don't know what "concert pitch" is.

-Pipers have to first 'strike in' the drones, then bring in the chanter. If your arrangement requires the chanter to suddenly start and stop you might be in for trouble. Musically astute and skilled pipers can 'cut' the chanter in and out at will, but most pipers are used to the normal strike-in, and playing continuously until the end of the piece. You can have the piper plug off his drones, but most pipers have a hard time controlling the chanter without the drones. So, the best arrangement is one that allows the piper time to strike in the drones, and then play the chanter continuously until the end of the piece.

It's quite frustrating to try to perform a piece that's arranged by someone who doesn't understand how pipes work and what pipes do.

Here's the popular piece Highland Cathedral. This pipe band maintains a set of concert pitch chanters and is accustomed to doing church gigs. Still, their chanters aren't nearly as settled as they would be if they were playing at the normal Highland Pipe pitch (around A=452).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_vdM5YF6Tc

BTW my avatar was taken when I was playing this piece along with a large professional brass ensemble. My pipes were going well in concert pitch; I do loads of these gigs.

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