Category Archives: Tune of the Month

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Tunes of the Month – March 2017

Howdy Ho Y’all!

Well, I’m just about done being sick since Thanksgiving. Being married to a pediatrician, having 2 kids, and teaching at a university of 35,000 students keeps one exposed and infected with every respiratory illness that goes around each year. But I’m coming back.

My original goal for Tunes of the Month was to expose people to great competition type tunes that were seldom played, e.g. Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry. However, I got into a really big Irish music kick (could you tell? polka polka polka) over the winter break and so I’ve been throwing that stuff at you instead. And…it continues! Sort of.

Willie’s Fling – Novice Tune of the Month – A great little 2 line strathspey you’re supposed to play like a reel. Don’t let the tempo catch you off guard, it sounds good slow also.

Muineira de Casu – Intermediate Tune of the Month – A great 3 part “jig” from Galicia that’s a hoot to play and will challenge your Scottish based idiomatic playing like no other. I’m playing the first of 2 versions provided in the file; the second version is more common in the folk bands I’ve heard play the tune.

Here’s some audio of me playing these tunes in a set together, though if you keep up with the blog recent posts have included these tunes for a little while.

Willie’s Fling, Teampall an Ghleanntain, and Muineira de Casu – the 2 tunes of the month with some other tune in between.

The pipes were going pretty well so I figured I’d challenge myself as I work to get my chops back from the long string of illnesses.

Jeannie Carruthers, The Cowal Gathering, Inveraray Castle, Susan MacLeod, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree, and Alick C. McGregor – an MMSSRR in the style of the Former Winners March Strathspey and Reel competition at the Northern Meeting.

The Redundancy, The Clachnacuddin Hornpipe, Rakes of Kildare, and Donella Beaton – a HHJJ because why not? The Hornpipe/Jig competition is often only HJ even at the highest levels, which I declare to be lame.

You might be wondering which pipes I’m playing. Colin Kyo with full Ezeedrone reeds and an old beat up Gilmour chanter reed in an older CK chanter.

Tunes of the Month – February 2017

Novice Level: Tom Billy’s Polka, a follow up polka to January’s novice Tune of the Month. This tune is fun, no doubt, with a great melody.

Tom Billy’s – keep your arrangement simple so you don’t get tied up in technique, polkas are meant to be played quickly!

Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – coupled with January’s novice tune, Patrick O’Connor’s Polka.


Intermediate Level: The Uist Reel, which packs a punch for being only 2 parts! The tricky thing about this tune is the back and forth between birls and C# which really gives your pinkie a work out. One source of the tune is Elizabeth Ross’ Manuscript on page 180, tune number 146.

Uist Reel – simple and embellished arrangements inspired by Iain MacInnes from his album Tryst.

Tunes of the Month – January 2017

Tunes of the Month is a series designed to engage the readers of the blog to learn a new tune (or two) each month. Come learn with us and expand your piping repertoire!

Novice Level: 2 Part Tune of the Month is Patrick O’Connor’s Polka. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “polkas are cheesy.” Well, good thing you don’t play the accordion. I like to think of polkas as easy little reels. They are great tunes that are easy to play, and easy to play quickly which is what makes them so fun. Next month we’ll have another polka (Tom Billy’s) you can pair with this one; both were obtained from Jerry O’Sullivan at the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat back in September 2016.

Patrick O’Connor’s Polka – sheet music

Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – Tom Billy’s will be the Novice Tune of the Month for February 2017

Intermediate Level: January’s 4 Part Tune of the Month is actually a 5 part reel. The Foxhunter’s Reel, usually played in the key of G in Irish sessions, actually goes beyond the highland bagpipe scale even if transposed up to the key of A. Most importantly, it requires a low E in the 2nd part which we simply don’t have. However, the tune is so cool it’s worthwhile to play on the pipes even with the modifications it takes to make it fit our scale.

To get some potential confusion out of the way first, this is NOT a reel version of the 9/8 jig that is so popular; Alasdair Gillies was well known for playing jig, reel, and waltz versions of that tune. But this month’s The Foxhunter’s Reel is not that tune at all. It is a completely different tune. Here it is, doesn’t it just sound like a party you want to be part of!?

If you search for the tune in the Pekaar Tune Encyclopedia, there’s only one result that is pertinent to the version heard above; all the other references are to the 9/8 jig and its many manifestations. The version found in Barry Shear’s Cape Breton Collection Of Bagpipe Music is the only relevant published version I could find. Handily enough, Barry gives you the sheet music as a snapshot of his collection on his website (scroll down to the green book for the pdf of the sheet music). Apparently this tune survives in the Cape Breton tradition as evidenced by its inclusion in Barry’s book.

I did not come across Barry’s version until compiling this blog entry having first heard the tune in a facebook video played by a couple fiddlers playing it together on one fiddle, one bowing the other fingering (anyone have a link to this band/video? It is super cool). Barry’s version is different than mine by how it adapts the tune to fit the highland bagpipe scale. Try arranging the tune yourself! The stripped down score can be found on in ABC format. Transpose up from G major to A major, ignore all the transient G sharps and just play our usual G naturals instead, and then adapt the rest!

The Foxhunter’s Reel – Patrick McLaurin’s version


Community Contributed Recordings: None yet!

Tunes of the Month – December 2016

Here are December 2016’s Tunes of the Month, a 2 part jig intended for novice level players and a 4 part hornpipe intended for intermediate level players.

Novice Level: Kenmure’s on and awa’ = 2 parts of 6/8 March or Jig

Kenmure’s on and awa’ is a 6/8 March that can be found in older collections in addition to Jim McGillivray’s I first heard it in Jig form off of Brian McNeill‘s fiddle on Ed Miller‘s Lyrics of Gold album, an album dedicated to songs of Robert Burns. Ed’s voice is unsurpassed, just like Brian’s fiddle. For how simple it is, it has an excellent melody.

Sheet Music: Kenmure’s on and awa’

Intermediate Level: The Inverness Gathering = 4 parts of 2/4 March, Hornpipe, or Quickstep

I mean, who hasn’t played, or at least heard, The Inverness Gathering? It’s a classic; literally, no composer is ever listed. While it is usually scored as a 2/4 March, David Glen’s version is scored as a 4/4 March (dates somewhere between 1876 – 1900, the publication dates of his Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music). Henderson’s Tutor for the Highland Bagpipe and Collection of Pipe Music, the second edition published between 1918 and 1932, presents a similar setting with a little twist in the 4th part. Page 15 of Scots Guards Volume I has a modern, 2/4 March version of Henderson’s setting. However, I find these settings lacking. Specifically, they succumb to the monotonous ending of every other 2/4 March that ends with a C doubling, low A, birl combination in the 8th bar, and in this case the 7th bar just being what it needs to be to make the C doubling in the 8th bar sound appropriate.

However, we can thank PM W. Norris in 1951 for publishing The Glendaruel Collection which provides a, I daresay, better setting. Better in that the 8th bar starts with an E doubling instead of Glen’s C doubling, all else being the same in the 8th bar. This requires a different 7th bar which is more fluid and musical, i.e. less finger twisty and less technical sounding. Judges might look at you weird, but I would personally play this setting, perhaps with Henderson’s 4th part twist added for flavor. Alasdair Gillies played his own setting with the E doubling ending on the first track of his Lochbroom album. I’ve transcribed his setting for you below.

However, I’m not inclined to actually play the tune as a 2/4 March as listed in these collections. Those familiar with Coin MacLellan’s World’s Greatest Pipers album will recognize what is listed as the Clachnacuddin Hornpipe as just a hornpipe version of The Inverness Gathering. Colin tells me it is an arrangement played by his father John MacLellan, dating back to the mid-20th century. Googling “Clachnacuddin” reveals a connection to Inverness so there’s an obvious connection intended. Hornpipes are also in 2/4 time so it’s not the hardest transition from a 2/4 March, you play it faster and round it out a bit (and much more!). The astute listener will note that Colin’s hornpipe version also utilizes the E doubling ending with the more fluid 7th and 8th bars akin to my preferred Glendaruel version. One can find another hornpipe-like version that has the E doubling ending in James Bett’s A Collection of Pipe Music published in 1899. Colin’s version is very much an average between the Bett and Glendaruel versions, though I am certainly not claiming that was the process for deriving the setting. It certainly stands on its own!

Colin MacLellan has graciously allowed me to share my transcription of his setting of the tune here. Thank you Colin!

Colin MacLellan’s setting sheet music (and the Tune of the Month): Clachnacuddin Hornpipe

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe – 1950 Henderson drones, X-TREME tenors, Rocket bass, Murray Henderson straight cut reed, Prototype chanter, Colin’s setting, Fingers that haven’t played in 3 weeks due to illness.

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe – Same as above but different prototype chanter and different Murray Henderson reed (how consistent), last two notes in the 4th bar of the 4th part a wee bit different

Alasdair Gillies’ setting: The Inverness Gathering

Tune of the Month – November 2016

I love new tunes. The Tune of the Month for November 2016 is Murdo MacGill(i)vray of Eoligarry (I’m told pronounced Yoligarry). This is a 4 part reel that’s pretty easy overall, with a beefy 3rd part that incorporates 2 low A taorluaths and 1 bubbly note from C to B. For Grade IV players, I’ve got a 2 part reel for you: Kate Dalrymple.

Why don’t you learn either of these two tunes with me this month and once you get it down, record it and I can post it to the blog (either with attribution or anonymously)? You can be sure I’ll be posting my progress. I would like to see other people take on the challenge of learning a new tune each month along with me. I think, too often, we get bogged down in perfecting 1 tune for competition, that we forget to get better by playing other tunes. I find my playing gets better the more different music I try to play, not more of the same. Part of this probably has to do with not getting bored with the same old thing over and over again. And, if you don’t finish it within the month, that’s cool; keep at it or not, and I can always add your rendition at a later date. No critique will be made of any recording, it’s just to share. I can link to YouTube videos as well.

Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry can be found in Donald MacLeod’s book 3, which you should buy if you haven’t already, or can buy it from Jim McGillivray’s Here’s a link with all the details of where the tune can be found.

Here’s an “instructional” video of the tune on practice chanter:

Kate Dalrymple is a great little 2 part reel that reinforces common reel basics. Here’s my sheet music, although there are many variations available:

Kate Dalrymple -pdf of sheet music

Here’s an “instructional” video of the tune on practice chanter:

Submit your recordings to me via email. Just take my website,, and stick a @yahoo before the .com.

Happy Piping!

My Progress (I’m only going to critique myself, ABC notation has a scale of GABcdefga and anything in {} are grace notes):

Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry 2016-11-06 – need to hold the C note in the “{g}c{d}A{e}A” phrase at the end of lines, need to clean up “A{d}c” movements and watch for crossing noises.

Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry – 2016-11-08 – 7:16 and 10.5 MB of me fine tuning the tune; trying to hold the 2nd low A in “A<{d}A” in the 1st and 3rd bars of the 1st and 2nd parts; trying to hold high As in the 2nd part; trying to hold F and E in the 4th part; still trying to hold the Cs at the end of lines; need to not come off the end of the line so quick; bubbly note a bit mushy; grip in the 2nd part a bit labored

Jeannie Carruthers, Susan MacLeod, Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry – 2016-11-21 – Need to omit the pickup into Eoligarry and break right into it.

Kate Dalrymple – Patrick

Kate Dalrymple – David Glen – don’t let those taorluaths sneak up on you, haha!

Kate Dalrymple – JR Glen – this version is AWESOME, I think there’s a typo in the music = the 1st ending of the 2nd part should be “d2 fd” instead of “d2 fe”, it sticks out in the recording something awful.

Contributed Recordings:

None so far!