The Caledonian Canal - Strathspey

For this bagpipe lesson Pipe Major Bill Robertson explains playing the tune The Caledonian Canal. Bill breaks the lesson down into sections with commentary for each section.

The tune is a strathspey and the tune was composed by J. MacLachlan.

Listen to Bill's Audio Instruction
The Caledonian Canal - Strathspey

Download the Music Notation for The Caledonian Canal

Click to download the tune notation for The Caledonian Canal

Lesson Pointers for The Caledonian Canal

For this bagpipe lesson I have chosen The Caledonian Canal, a strathspey. This tune is often used as one of the first heavier four parted or more strathspey's for the advanced beginner or intermediate piper because it is simpler than most strathspey's in the competition strathspey's category. 

The Audio MP3 file relevant I feel demonstrates well the method of playing strathspey's with the importance of attention to the dotted notes , precise four beats to the bar, and clear execution, all towards the spring or element of the dance. Played steadily and slowed down in places to explain. 

The short video helps with some technique and expression with additional visuals showing how to slow down certain things where necessary such as how to open up the first of two adjacent very short notes to get good clarity of execution; how to open up some doubling's on short Cs and good relative duration of the high As afterwards each time. 

Likewise beware of triplets having enough good duration of the rest of the value of beat on the third note, yet with clarity of all three notes. Keep the each beat full value without sometimes anticipating the next beat too early, yet maintaining good momentum. 

Tempo at this stage could be about 108 BPM give of take a second or two once one is familiar enough with the tune.

Additional Information

The Caledonian CanalThe Caledonian Canal

The Caledonian Canal in Scotland connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach near Fort William.

It runs some 62 miles (100 kilometers) from northeast to southwest. Only one third of the entire length is man-made, the rest being formed by Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. These lochs are part of the Great Glen, a geological fault in the Earth's crust. There are 29 locks (including eight at Neptune's Staircase, Banavie), four aqueducts and 10 bridges in the course of the canal. 

The canal was designed by engineer Thomas Telford, supported by William Jessop, and was built between 1803 and 1822 at a cost of £840,000.


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

Dear Bill,

I was recently over in Scotland and managed to get to 3 games - Dornoch, Aberfeldy and Perth.

I managed places at Dornoch and Aberfeldy!

I was driving down from Dornoch to Inverness on the back road through Muir of Ord and Beauly. This route take one OVER the Caledonian Canal just as you enter Inverness!! I lived up there for a wee while and every time I saw the sign I thought, "What a great tune!"

Thanks for the input!!

Dave Mason

Thanks for your lesson on The Caledonian Canal. It's a nice tune and I will include it in the 2010 repertoire for my small "Kitchen Pipe" group  . . .

. . .  Thanks again for the lessons. I find them very valuable in that 1) they give me some insight into how piping is taught overseas, and 2) they introduce tunes that are not normally heard in the States.

Terry Noonan

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