Learning to play Single Intervals is the first step one takes when learning to play the Bagpipes. Once you have
mastered these basic notes you can start playing other notes. Essentially all the other notes
that you will learn to play are a combination of two or more of these notes.
You may attempt each single interval a few times without blowing/sounding to become familiar
with the movement.
Practice correctly regularly and daily to progress well. It also impresses upon the brain
When blowing make the sound clear (not croaking). Over-blowing or placing your tongue on the top of the
mouthpiece causes the sound to stop.
Maintain a constant sound when repeating each movement and in future exercises.
Repeat each single interval many times correctly, listening for clean/clear sound each time.
Learn to recognize the name of notes on the stave (a series of five lines and four intermediate
spaces showing the height and depth of musical sounds). You will notice as we progress upwards that
we name notes in alphabetical order from low “A” up to high “G” with the eighth sound (octave)
being the repeat of low “A”, but higher and called high “A”. Our lowest note is called low “G”, and
is the extra note.
Adopt the position of low “A” when picking up the chanter each time before commencing to play.
The height of fingers when lifted would be about 2½ to 3½ cm., or 1 to 1½ inches above the hole/s.
The video clips show fingering motions for the single intervals with sound, and relevant stills.
Always think primarily of the lifting of fingers to avoid unwanted extra sounds. See below “B” to “C”.
Lower Hand Single Intervals
Single Intervals and Scale
(Note: If you are using Internet Explorer click twice on the triangle.)
Lower Hand Single Intervals
Low “G” to Low “A”:
Place the lower hand little finger on the bottom hole to start on low “G”. Hold for about 2 or 3
seconds then lift the little finger smartly (no lazy fingering) above the hole for the low “A”
held for 2 to 3 seconds. Replace the finger smartly to low “G”. After a few repeats without blowing,
recommence, with constant steady blowing, repeating the exercise many times
correctly and listening all the time for the two clean sounds each in even/equal duration as
you should apply to all the other interval exercises.
Low “A” to “B”:
Sound low “A” for those few seconds then lift smartly the next third finger to sound the “B”
and hold it equally for those few seconds. Repeat much as before many times to gain
“B” to “C”:
From “B” lift the next second finger, then replace the little finger almost at the same time to
sound “C”. Return to the “B” after a few seconds by lifting the little finger and replacing the
second finger. Repeat often enough correctly. Hint — when an interval has more than one
finger in the movement such as this one, think initially of the lifting motion first with the
replacement action a fraction later until able to accomplish cleanly together at the same time.
Early replacement causes unwanted crossing sounds.
“C” to “D”:
Simply play “D” from “C” by lifting the forefinger smartly while keeping the little finger on its
hole. Return to “C” and repeat steadily with equal time on each note of 2 or 3 seconds.
Reminder - The right hand thumb should still be in its correct position behind the second
Low “G”, “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” sequence.
Return to low “A”. Sound low “G” to commence this sequence of each note from low “G”
through to “D” steadily with each note of equal duration. Concentrate and remember —
Each note should sound clean and clear without any hint of crossing sounds. Any weak
or uncertainty intervals should be analyzed, corrected and practised more often correctly.
Upper Hand Single Intervals
Play with basic smart fingering similar to that of the lower hand and in steady even time.
When playing upper hand notes remember to always keep the lower hand fingers on
as for the position of low “A”, little finger off.
The “D” to “E” will be left for a little later because of extra difficulty.
“E” to “F”
With fingers in the starting position of low “A” lift the third “E” finger of the upper hand to
sound “E” a few seconds. Lift the next second finger smartly to sound “F”. Repeat often enough.
“F” to High “G”
Sound “F” then lift the next forefinger to sound high “G”. All three fingers should now be evenly
and quite straight, not stiff, above their three holes. Repeat as before.
High “G” to High “A”
From high “G” position lift the left thumb the recommended distance from the hole at the
back while the left third finger is replaced on its hole to produce high “A” our top note. Return
by lifting the “E” finger and replacing the thumb on its hole cleanly. Repeat as usual. Hint —
think of the initial lifting motion — the thumb going up to high “A”, and the third finger lifting
going back to high “G”.
“E”, “F”, high “G”, and high “A” sequence, with high “A” low “A” test.
Return to the position of “E” then play steadily the sequence from “E” through to high
“A”. Play from high “A” with the reverse sequence down to &“E”. Repeat. When on high
“A” hold it a few seconds then close the chanter from high “A” to low “A” to test that all
fingers especially on the lower hand have remained covering their holes. Repeat. Hint — listen
carefully for clean change each time without any extra sounds. When going to high “A” make
sure the thumb lifts first if anything.
Playing “D” to “E”
Playing “D” to “E” Open
This, like the “B” to “C”, the high “G” to high “A”, and high “A” to low “A”, needs much
practice. Play “D” for a few seconds, and lift the third (“E”) finger of the upper hand together with the
little finger of the lower hand above their holes. Then replace as soon as possible the remaining three
fingers (first, second, and third) of the lower hand together on their holes to correctly sound “E”.
Remember that these three lower hand fingers remain on these holes when playing top hand notes. This is
necessary to have the correct sound on the top hand notes.
Return from “E” to “D”
The reverse procedure applies. After sounding “E” long enough to think, lift the three lower hand fingers
together, especially the “D” forefinger, then as soon as possible replace the “E” finger and lower hand
little finger to sound “D”. Hint — With each change the lifting motion should be uppermost in your mind
to make clean changes without any unwanted crossing sounds. From “D” to “E” if the lower hand fingers are
replaced too soon a crossing sound/s will occur. Likewise, when playing “E” to “D” if any lower hand fingers
are late or not all lifted together cleanly, crossing sounds are heard. It is often the “D” forefinger
which is late in lifting, so make sure it lifts well with the other fingers with no hint of a slur or drag.
Open False “D” and “E”
Playing the scale from low “A” through to high “A” sequentially.
Before commencing the single interval scale, play a number of times low “G” to low “A” back and forth to maintain confidence
in playing the low “G” when required. Play the scale steadily, low “A” through to high “A”, giving each
interval/note equal value of say about two seconds each for some time, then about one second each when ready to advance. Remember correct and clean
fingering with each interval. Play downwards from high “A” sequentially to low “A”. Repeat as necessary.