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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 6:49 pm 
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Are there any cases of pipers spontaneously coming up with a new tune while playing?


Have any of you done such a thing?

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 11:21 pm 
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Non-piper here, but just wanna say... Is there something special about the instrument that would prevent it? People improvise new songs all the time on every instrument under the sun.

-edit... sorry to say that like a butthead, I'd be thrilled to hear anyone writing a new song live, it's not an easy thing to do.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:20 pm 
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Stev0 wrote:
Non-piper here, but just wanna say... Is there something special about the instrument that would prevent it? People improvise new songs all the time on every instrument under the sun.

-edit... sorry to say that like a butthead, I'd be thrilled to hear anyone writing a new song live, it's not an easy thing to do.


There isn't anything about the operation of the instrument that would preclude improvisation. But In the idiom of Irish traditional music it simply is not commonplace to improvise melody lines on the spot, as you find so much in free-form jazz or blues jams.
In a trad session with other musicians, you play pieces that the group knows. There is room for expression in the ornamentation and phrasing, but this is to enhance and embellish the basic melody rather than alter it. Alterations would throw off the other players.

If performing solo, there may be a bit more opportunity to noodle around. But straying too far from the structure and melody line of an actual tune could leave the audience scratching their heads.

Anyway, in this video Chris McMullan starts with some slow improvisation. He doesn't dwell on it too long, but soon leads into the slip jig "The Choice Wife": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2v2uvjxC3w


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:00 pm 
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Once. In a very odd circumstance.
I was called upon to play at an acquaintances wedding. The man wanted both Uilleann pipes and Great Pipes.
I only play the Uilleann pipes. An ace Great Piper was engaged for the other bit.
The Great Piper wasn´t so great. . .he got drunk and jailed just before the wedding.
I was called upon to do part of his bit. The groom´s love of all things Celtic was triggered by a recently deceased Aunt.
The Groom wanted a Lament or Caoineadh during part of the ceremony to commemorate this aunt. . . !!!!
I knew no Caoineadh so I used the melody from some Emin tune and played it as slowly and emotively as I could. Once!

I must have done OK, as the man said he liked it but complained about the brevity.
So, yes, once! And never again!

Bob

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:44 am 
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In the Highland pipe world, one tune is sometimes seen with this quirky and probably unique byline:

Dancing Feet. Reel.

Accidentally composed by Pipe Major G. S. McLennan


It was invented on the fly while he was piping for dancers at a party.

One version of the story is that he was playing a common reel but got off the tune so badly that he couldn't jump back in, so instead he began improvising.

I actually heard that same thing happen once, a piper playing for Highland dancers get off the tune but keep the tempo going, improvising more or less random phrases. McLennan's improvising was obviously at a much higher level, and the resulting reel has itself become standard.

The only time I've improvised tunes during a performance was playing Highland pipes at a golf course. There's a peak in the centre of that particular course from which a piper can be heard from all 18 holes. I was up there playing what amounted to background music, and after playing a couple airs I began improvising a long meandering air.

I also once composed a march a few minutes before performing it. I had to march out the Bards of the Gorsedh Kernow on the Cornish pipes, and no existing tune seemed quite right for the moment so I made one up.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2020 9:08 am 
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I don't know if it's quite the same thing, but oftentimes when I play with my brother (a guitarist) I'll have him lay down an interesting chord progression and we'll just work something out together; sometimes another brother with a fiddle will join in. We've come up with a few really good ones that way. We've even done it while playing for small groups, who were surprised to hear we'd never played the piece before. I chalk it up to good family chemistry.


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