Below are a selection of replies by Bill from questions submitted via this website. Whilst we won't publish every support request, we will publish those that we feel have beneficial content.
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Question – Bagpipe Slipping
I have been playing now for nigh on 30 years but just recently my bag has started slipping from under my arm and I can't put my finger on what is causing it. I am using a large hide⁄synthetic zipper bag and it's about 3 years old.
Any ideas or tips?
Firstly I presume that you have a bag cover on your bag because you have been playing a relatively long time.
The fabric of some covers can tend to slip a bit if it is of the knitted woollen kind. A velvet cover with its pile fabric tends to grip better. Some pipers have a type of grip material sewn on to the inside forearm part of their kilt jacket. Perhaps it is a kind of velveteen fabric, but I am not sure. If wearing an outer garment such as a knitted jersey it can tend to let the bag slide downwards, something you do not want obviously.
I suggest that you test your bag for air tightness first to make sure that there is no problem there.
Check all stocks with very firm twisting and turning to make sure no slackness there.
The description of your bag is not clear. I assume that it is a hide bag with a zipper of synthetic material. If a hide bag without a cover when playing I think it should allow a good grip normally. There might be a problem with the hide bag, depending on the type of hide and thickness of the hide.
If it is a thin hide such as thin sheepskin because these bags used to not last more than a year or two when played frequently. A tiny hole would appear under the blow stick part because of the slow reaction to saliva that made the skin thinner and thinner.
If a cattle or the like hide I feel that the bag should last a few years longer yet especially if the hide is supple and air tight.
A stitched bag can have minor leaks that are usually sealed with the bag dressing. Always test along the seem to make sure it is not leaking. Looking very close along the length of the seam when the bag is inflated tightly, air escaping from the seam can be felt on the naked eye. If unsure, dunk briefly in enough water to test.
The chanter stock is worthwhile checking by dunking in enough water to check for air bubbles leaking. Any stocks not firm enough and⁄or leaking air would need rebinding very firmly and in position properly.
Another consideration is whether or not your stature is large enough to handle a large sized bag with comfort.
Although you have 30 years experience, a good piper near you might be able to help first hand.
Please let me know how you get on, and if you have any more questions on the subject.
Question – Competition Tunes
The tunes you should play, Jonathan, in piping competitions depends on the grade of the competitions and the conditions on type of music required.
For higher grades up to Open events a 2⁄4 march event would require normally three or more 2⁄4 marches to be submitted to the judge(s) of the competition style of four parts or more from which the judge would select one to be played. Some lowest⁄lower grades might have a slow air event and 2⁄4 march event that might only need tunes of two parts at least.
Not knowing your position concerning grades, standard of playing etc., I cannot help much more. If you have details of competitions in your region you could ask the organisers⁄secretary for about detailed requirements.
Question – Grace Note Combinations
I found some statements in the Internet about playing grace note on or ahead of beat: “Individual grace notes are played on the beat, as is the first grace note of each doubling and birl. Grips are played ahead of the beat. Taorluaths have their E grace note played on the beat. The low G of a D–throw can be played on the beat or slightly ahead of the beat.”
I am wondering why grips and taorluath should be played ahead of the beat. In other words, why some grace notes are played on beat but some don't. Thirdly, if the statements are true, why the grace notes should be played ahead of the beat Is it because of some kind of expression?
In answer to your question about grace note combinations on the beat or not, it is simply that the grace note combinations are written as close as possible to the note relevant and meant to be played with that note whether on the down beat or upbeat.
Often in practise many pipers will play the taorluath etc., perhaps a very small fraction ahead of the beat, although intended to be played as near as possible on the beat. Therefore, try to play the taorluath, grip etc., as well as possible on the beat. Very good pipers normally get the combination of grace notes on the beat or so near it would be difficult to tell otherwise.
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