Monthly Archives: August 2012

The 3 P’s: Practice, Practice, and Practice

So, the recordings in this post are more pedagogical than for entertainment. Given that there are only 2 recordings totaling about 25 minutes of music, you might be surprised to find that I only play one tune, and no, it’s not a Piobaireachd. Bob Worrall will be judging a solo competition down in Austin in October and I would love to make it. There are only 3 competitions: Piobaireachd, MSR, and 6/8; no HJ :o( <- sad face. So, I don’t play Piobaireachd and let’s just say my 6/8 march needs a revamp. It has always been my last tune type to work on. My last competition down in San Antonio with Albert McMullin judging drove that home. I didn’t even need to see it written on the score sheet. If you listen to this blog regularly, you already know what is coming. I play them too round and while I tried to add some swing during the competition, it was inconsistently applied throughout the entire tune. I’ve also always played The Sweet Maid of Mull, which is a lovely tune I got hooked on from Hugh MacCallum’s World’s Greatest Pipers album. Of course, the words of Sandy MacPhee to me last year at the Salado competition (he wasn’t judging) have been at the back of my mind since: “that’s an easy tune.” Yup, no doubt. It’s easy. If there ever was a 6/8 march for a grade 4 band, this is it. I digress, so with a looming competition with only MSR and 6/8 events for me to be competing in I figured I needed a new 6/8 march. Donald Cameron’s Pipes it is! I first heard, and have only heard this tune, on the Controversy of Pipers album played by Duncan MacGillivray. It can be found in Duncan Johnstone’s book, volume 1.

Moving on, I have talked with someone who has trouble getting through tunes and I tried to offer some advice. What I hope to show in the recordings below is the typical process I go through when learning a tune. You have to play through the tune quite a bit. Find all the spots where your knowledge of what is coming next is weak, make a mistake, accidentally of course, fix it, keep going, and hopefully the next time you’ll make a new mistake but not the old one. You do this until you’ve made just about every mistake you could have and then you’re good to go, as long as you fixed them too. This idea of how to practice has further been on my mind because of Jim McGillivray’s blog on which in 3 consecutive posts he has addressed the issue of practicing. Here is a link to the 1st post. One of those pieces of advice is to make sure you play the tune A LOT. Recently, Bob on the Dunsire Forum posted a link to another website with a violinist talking about how to go about practicing, which contains some useful information. One key thing I think to do is record yourself playing, if for nothing else to ensure the phrasing and execution of the music is really as you hear it while playing. This blog serves me in that purpose, I upload tunes here and listen to them while I work, making mental notes of what I need to work on. The recordings below represent the first day of playing my new 6/8 along with the very next day, all without sheet music. The first recording was done with the tune fresh off the page and in my brain, so if you’re just looking for entertainment, skip to the end! :o)

Day 1 – Gellaitry’s

Day 2 – Henderson’s

Technique, Critique, and Easy Reeds

Salient point: Play reeds that are easy enough to maximize your fingering ability but still remain crisp. Playing a harder reed the other day in the Gellaitry’s (happy birthday and aggie war hymn came off okay), but my solo stuff was coming out awful. I was a bit disappointed with the playing as I hadn’t really taken that big of a break since my last bout of rehearsals/recordings. So, the fingering got a little mushy but not as bad as I thought, just need to play a reed that lets me think about the fingering in the big solo competition tunes and not about keeping the reed going.

First we have some jigs, because it’s been a while since I’ve played a few. Key things to work on here are GDEs (Paddy’s), rodins (Saut), F doublings (Paddy’s), and holding the quarter notes a little longer.

Kenneth MacDonald’s Jig, Donella Beaton, The Curlew, I Laid a Herring in Saut, Thief of Lochaber, and Paddy’s Leather Breeches

Then some strathspeys to show how sloppy all my doublings are. Reel wasn’t too bad.

Shepherd’s Crook, Dora MacLeod, Ewe Wi the Crookit Horn, Rejected Suitor

Then a R/H/J with some birls from C because I needed the ego boost, or not. One of these days I WILL get the 2nd part to Rakes down.

Lochiel’s Awa to France, Lucy Cassidy, Rakes of Kildare

Finally, we have some relaxing Irish jigs where it becomes immediately obvious, if it wasn’t already enough, that my D grace notes to C are a little lax. The first part of Kitty is inspired by the playing of the tune on fiddle and uilleann pipes on the “At First Light” album, the second part is all Terry Tully.

Kitty Lie Over, Drops of Brandy, Kesh Jig

Critique away!

Aggie War Hymn and Happy Birthday!!!

Despite the fact that I received my Ph.D. in chemistry from Texas Tech University in 2011 and that my sister and brother-in-law both obtained their bachelors degrees from Tech, and my wife got her M.D. at TTUHSC, I caved and arranged a version of the Texas A&M Aggie War Hymn for a friend upon request. It actually fits on the pipes pretty well, except for a pesky D# which is really hard to cross finger, so we fudge a couple other notes to make it sound right, and the last few bars, or ten, are missing entirely because that part of the tune requires all kinds of notes the pipes don’t have. So this is for Braxton and ALL my cousins who went through the A&M system, both on my mother and father’s side of the family. Now if Tech would pony up a give me the sheet music to ours! That’s right, no midi of the Tech fight song anywhere to be found.

Aggie War Hymn

And, I figured I’d record Happy Birthday, as I’ve always wanted to post a recording of Happy Birthday on people’s Facebook wall, for something unique other than, “Happy Birthday ______!!!” So, here is the version you can find on my main website.

Happy Birthday!!!