Bagpipe Lessons for Struan Robertson
The Strathspey, Struan Robertson, is unusual being on our “B”, has good rhythm and good melody. It is of the competition four parted category and popular for some time in competition performances. I like it for being a bit different and appealing, not just because of its title. There is also a popular Piobaireachd “Struan Robertson´s Salute”.
The Robertsons are one of the most ancient of Scottish clans. They merged with the Clan Duncan (Donnachaidh) about the Middle Ages, hence the Clan Donnachaidh name for the Robertson clan. The clan supported and helped Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn 1314 that helped re-established Scotland´s independence.
Some Lesson Pointers
Some points to note in playing the Strathspey are:
Pointing, that is attention to relatively longer dotted notes against shorter cut notes, is necessary in strathspeys to impart the rhythm or element of the dance. The dotted notes could be written with two dots, and the related short notes an extra hook to show the kind of expression and spring of the dance, yet clarity of the short notes without severe clipping. Think of the longer notes primarily.
There are four beats to the bar in simple Common Time. Some pipers are unaware of that and tend to lose controlled rhythm when they only beat two beats to the bar. The controlled timing of every four beats to the bar is very important in helping to keep to the proper beats and rhythm without losing control. Every beat counts. It is customary to subtly feel or accent the first beat in each bar, yet maintaining the regular rhythm and flow of the music. See below Fig:1. The optional high G grace note on birls is shown.
When encountering beats that have a short note (sixteenth note) leading immediately into the next downbeat´s short note as below and above, relax slightly on the first of these two short notes to assist clarity of the second short note and its embellishment. See *, Fig:1 above and Fig:2 below.
Doublings on the lower hand shorter notes such as on B, C, and D (throw) in strathspeys are executed in a slightly more open fashion than that usually played in most other categories of the Light Music, although there are instances when more open doublings are used in other forms such as some reels and hornpipes. The video clip on “Common Strathspey Movements“ demonstrates. The joined dotted note following these lower hand doublings must have the full remaining beat duration that is sometimes neglected as marked in Fig:1 above + and Fig:2 below +.
Triplings must have clarity of all three notes with enough control on the third note. However the tripling of C, E low A in the third part should have a touch more relaxation on the E although still with the low A longest within the beat as below #. The optional doubling on high A is shown.
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