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A bagpipe lesson for The Pretty Dirk


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The Pretty Dirk - A Very Small Piobaireachd

This very small Piobairechd consists simply of the Urlar/opening theme, followed by one variation only. Piobaireachd (means Pipe Music) or Ceol Mor (that means the Big or Great Music) can be a good a diversion from the Light Music.

The following is the story about the piece kindly provided by Ronald MacLeod OC, Vancouver BC, Canada.

Padruig Og MacCrimmon is thought to be the composer of the tune.A dirk possessed by a MacLeod Chieftain was admired very much by Padruig Og. The Chieftain told him that if he composed an appropriate tune in its praise, the dirk would be presented to him. Padruig wanted nothing more; next morning he struck up the newly composed piobaireachd which pleased MacLeod so much that he handed the dirk to MacCrimmon saying that he well deserved it for ‘so forcible an appeal, prepared in so short a space of time’.

Padruig's son Donald Ban was the family member designated to accompany his Chieftain to war against the Jacobites; he was given the dirk to carry while in service. It was probably dropped when he was killed at the Rout of Moy, 1746, or when his body was removed from the field in the dark of night. It was recovered by the leader of the Jacobites, Fraser of Gorthleck.

Ironically, Donald Ban was a secret supporter of the Jacobites and he is said to have composed a Salute to hail the arrival of Prince Charles Edward Stuart on Scottish soil. However, after some hesitation his Chieftain, MacLeod of Harris and Dunvegan, came out for the Hanovarians and Donald Ban had no choice but to stand by his laird.<.p>

Note:This shows that not all Highlanders were in favour of the rebellion.

Lesson Pointers

The structure of this Piobaireachd is classified as “Even-lined” in that the music lines are equal in length. In this case each line of four bars. (Not eight as I mention in error in the video, as can happen in some such compositions). The pause marks shown in my transcription of the music denotes subtle extra duration on the note below, yet not overdone – hardly noticed by the average listener.

As I say: “like a tiny coma occurring often at the end of a very small phrase, or a small clause in a musical sentence”. These optional pause marks only shown by me, often can happen at the end of the classification sections, and assist memorization, as described in my Piobaireachd interactive tutorials. This category of Pipe Music demands a very good steady rich sound. The audio file normally provides more detailed directions than the video.

* Video: Help with the four piobaireachd embellishments involved appears towards the end of the video.

Video error: Urlar: third line first note should be F not E as played. Please use the audio file to find as written.

Piobaireachd Music Structure

Download The Music Notation.

Listen To Bill's Audio Instruction.

The Pretty Dirk
Pipe Major Bill Robertson's audio recording of the lesson for the The Pretty Dirk

Watch Bill's Video Instruction.


If you have any questions or comments, please use Contact Form to contact Bill.

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