13 September 2011

Piobaireachd Tuesday

Today's piobaireachd is Corrienessan's Salute.  I'm working on this tune to replace that quintessential, extremely boring Grade IV tune: The Company's Lament.  I'm tired of playing The Company's Lament.  I kind of never want to hear it again.  Anyway, Corrienessan's Salute has a lot more going on - plus it's a kind of celebratory tune and I like it.  More on the history can be found here.  I'm playing the setting found in the Scots Guards, volume 2, which is nominally from Book 8 from the Piobaireachd Society.  The taorluath variations are played down (heavy low A's) vs. how it's written in the PS book.  (This appears to be more acceptable - see the Set Tunes commentary on Pipes|Drums, found here.)  There is also a different rhythm in the crunluath & crunluath doubling variations, which I also like much better than the PS book - I think it flows much better.

Anyhow, here's the video:

1.  Flubbed the rodin at the end of the first line.
2.  Misremembering tune: crossing E to F in the third line.
3.  Slowed down inexplicably in the beginning of the fourth line.

Var. I:
1.  Misremembering tune: crossing noise on B in the third line.

Var. II (doubling):
1.  Too slow going into the doubling.  Forgot where I was in the tune and then picked up pace.
2.  Several instances of misremembered themal notes leading into crossing noises.  You'll hear 'em.  Middle of first line, middle of second line, beginning and middle of third line and that pesky F that my mind wants to make an E in the fourth line.

1.  Misremembered note in the first line, right at the beginning.
2.  Flubbed the rodin in the middle of the third line.
3.  Added a bizarre B strike at the end of the third line, instead of playing a clean cadence.
4.  Flubbed two taorluaths in a row in the fourth line.  UGH!

Taorluath Doubling:
1.  Misremembered themal notes throughout: end of first line, end of third line, middle of fourth line and twice in the fifth line (including the damn F).
2.  I played the end of the second line incorrectly.  It was supposed to be a themal B with a taorluath to low G.  I played it to low A.  BOO! 

1.  What the HELL was I doing at the beginning there?  I flubbed the entire first phrase of the variation.  It's horrible.
2.  Tiny crossing noises in the triplet in the middle of the second line.
3.  Flubbed cadence at the end of the second line.

Crunluath Doubling:
1.  Misremembered notes: middle of second line and middle of fourth line.
2.  Forgot where I was for a moment in the middle of the triplet towards the end of the fifth line.
3.  Played wrong notes at the end of the variation.

And not on film, but happened - the flubbing of the final triplet caused me to completely lose focus and I broke down going back into the urlar.  So I cut that part out because it's not judged anyway.

Things to work on (besides cleaning up my memory): enunciate ends of parts better on the singling variations and less on the doubling variations.  Pick up pace on the doubling variations.  Make sure the 'connecting notes' in the urlar and singling variations are held the same.

06 September 2011

Tuesday March Madness

Today, instead of working on piobaireachd, I worked on my 2/4 march.  I'm really hoping to compete next season in Grade IV Sr. solo.  Dan wanted me to try a few comps this season to get some experience, but my band had jobs during the weekends of both local contests.  I would drive to play, but not just a 2/4 march.  Hopefully the EUSPBA will get their heads out of their butts and figure out the Grade IV piobaireachd kerfluffle...meanwhile, I ain't driving no 4 hours to a competition to play a 3 minute march.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, I've been working on "Jim McBay's Welcome" (tune #49 in Scots Guards, Vol. 1) with Dan for awhile.  A LONG TIME.  Long enough that I should have all the bugs worked out...if I wasn't so damn lazy about it.  But band stuff has been taking up an increasing amount of my time and since the 2012 competition season is "so far away", I've been putting my solo stuff on the back burner.  Which is part of the reason for starting this blog...time is never so far away.

I tested out my drone tuning against the microphone and it's much better in this recording.  There is still a bit of a beating when I get closer to the mic - I just think that's a deficiency in the recording equipment since it gets better farther away.  The crappy rainy & cold weather wasn't helping my tuning any - it seemed like every time I took a breath, the drones would go out of tune.  Anyway, enough of my excuses.  Here is "Jim McBay's Welcome":

Note: that dumbass marching looks better in a kilt.  Just so you know.  On to critique:

1.  First part, not too bad.  I could make the D gracenotes a little more noticeable. 
2.  Second part: open up the G doublings a little.  They sound a little crushed - more F.  Flubbed the G doubling in the 6th bar, first time through.
3.  Third part: Flubbed the E doubling in the 4th bar, first time through.  Open up E doubling in pick up, second time through.  Did not get a clean taorluath in the 2nd to last bar the second time through.  Could make my D gracenotes a little bigger.  Also (and Dan is always catching me on this), I need to cut back the D's in the pick up / hold the E's just a hair longer.  I'm getting better at this, but it still needs work to get that bounce up to the 2nd E.
4.  Fourth part...ouch.  Those hold-cut-cut-hold rhythms are still lousy.  I muddied them throughout the entire part!  I thought I did okay while I was playing, but in listening, I'm thinking that I just left out the C's altogether.  The F's sound flat, which makes me think I was false fingering a C there (checking the video seems to confirm this).  Altogether, leaves a bad taste in the judge's mouth for the entire performance.  I really need to put some serious time in on this part.

05 September 2011

Sunday Sight Reading

Today's sight reading pushed me more than usual.  I was poking through the Gordon Highlanders collection and thought maybe to try a hornpipe.  Dan's only taught me one hornpipe ("Tam Bain's Lum").  Granted, that ain't your kitchen-piper's hornpipe!  There is some real work in that tune.  But I'm not as familiar with the idiom as I am with other tune types like marches or reels. 

Anyway, found this one right off, tune #43 "The Colquhonnie Hotel" (don't ask me to pronounce it).  It's quite the trickster, with some 4 note birls from quick F's that really tripped me up - I kept wanting to put a G gracenote in front of all of them, and there's only a gracenote in front of a few.  Obviously, I'm playing it WAAAYYYY SLOOOOW and exaggerating the holds and hanging too long on the cuts, but for sight reading, I can do that.  I also recorded each part individually, so you may notice a slight pause at the beginning of each part.

Here it is:

1.  First off, in the second bar, I've got a nasty little crossing noise from D to F.  My only excuse is that I was expecting an E.
2.  Second time through the first part, I added a gracenote to the birl in the last bar.
3.  Third bar of the second part, I played a C strike on D instead of a low G strike.
4.  Tempo screwy in the second time through the second part - second & third bars.
5.  Both times in the second part, I choked in the second to last bar.
6.  Hesitated noticeably in the first bar of the third part.
7.  The gracenote birls in the fourth part are starting to get muddy.  (Double-thinking the tune as I'm reading it - never good.)
8.  Played wrong notes in the fourth bar of the second time through the fourth part.
9.  Oh, I am reaching for that B shake in the second time through the fourth part, aren't I?  If I were a rockclimber, that handhold would have broken off in my hand and I would have tumbled to a certain death right then.
10.  Dunno what's happened to my D throws in this tune.  They're muddy.

All in all, not a bad go-round for this tune.  I would say it's pretty advanced.  I'd love to hear someone play it up-tempo...I bet it's quite lilting.

30 August 2011

Piobaireachd Tuesday

Over the last few weeks, I've been working (independently) on a new piobaireachd called "Sheep in Buchts, Kye in Fiels" by Jeanette Montague.  You can read about it here and be sure to listen to P/M Roger Huth play it - follow the link at the bottom - the music is there too.  I really like this piece - it's not terribly difficult, but it's extremely melodic and (I think) lends itself well to interpretation.

I don't play it exactly the way P/M Huth does.  I play it a bit up-tempo, as I think of it as a 'calling tune'...P/M Huth plays it a bit more pastoral.  The difference in my mind is between the shepherd calling in the sheep and cows versus sitting in the fields with them watching them munch on grass and stuff.  (What do I know about cows and sheep anyway?  Don't listen to me!)  Besides that, I think the biggest difference is that he holds onto the cut note in the 3rd beat of each phrase, where I cut them a little shorter (Dan calls them the "and" notes and he was always telling me to not overlook them), but instead I accentuate the cheredes in the first beats.  And my edres and dares need GOBS more work.  And I want to go back and review both the rhythms of the cadences on C & B as well as the hiharin as I'm playing both movements quite differently.

I debated with myself whether I was going to upload the video of myself playing the tune.  I got a little too close and overwhelmed the mic just a bit with the chanter.  And my drones are out of tune.  It wasn't so noticeable to me (and I have a pretty decent ear for my drones), but on the recording, it's awful.  But I thought to present an honest picture of self-critique, I had to post it and acknowledge its awfulness.  So, here it is...watch at your own risk:

Things to work on:
1.  Rhythms of cadences to C & B.
2.  Rhythm of hiharins.
3.  Tighten up edres and dares.
4.  Stand farther from mic & make sure drones are in better tune!

29 August 2011

Monday March Work

Today I worked on "Jim McBay's Welcome", the 2/4 march I'm working on for solo competition next season.  Lately, I've gotten really sloppy on the last part, and I figured I'd spend this practice trying to figure out what exactly I was doing wrong and how to fix it. 

There is a very tricky hold-cut-cut-hold rhythm in the second bar that goes: (g gracenote) D, F, (g gracenote) C, E  that my brain just can't seem to wrap my fingers around.  I can play it just fine if I omit the g gracenote before the C, but I'd get docked for that, so somehow I have to figure out how to get it in there.  I've tried my tricks of slowing it way down and building it backwards from the problem spot...still, no dice. 

After about 40 minutes of working on just this part, I think I finally figured out what I'm doing wrong.  I think that I was still false-fingering the C a little bit when I lift to finger the E.  My bottom hand was just not coming down fast enough.  So I slowed it down AGAIN - so much so that the taorluaths are starting to interrupt the flow - and I think I might have worked it out.  Here's the video:

Bagpipes are a humbling mistress.  If you're not paying attention to them on a regular basis, they'll make sure you know they're feeling neglected.  I'll let this percolate overnight and maybe tomorrow I'll put it up on pipes to see if it stuck.

28 August 2011

Sunday Sight Reading

On Sundays, I like to go through my music book and find a good tune to practice and hone my sight reading skills.  I'll go for any kind of tune, as long as it's catchy.  Generally, these tunes do not become part of my permanent repertoire - they are one day stands.  Rarely do I even put them up on pipes.
For this Sunday's sight reading practice, I chose "Balkan Hills", a 2/4 march (#215 in Scots Guards Vol. I).  I like this tune a lot.  It has a great bounce and some interesting (and tricky) rhythms, not to mention the rodins from D down to low A.  I love it when piobaireachd movements make it into the light music.  I may work on getting this one polished up and getting it up on pipes.  Who knows - it may replace "Jim McBay's Welcome" as my 2/4 march of choice...

Anyway, here's the video:
Few things to note:
1.  The first D throw is muddy and needs to be better articulated.
2.  I missed the high A doubling in the 3rd bar of the second part BOTH TIMES!
3.  I missed the E doubling in the run on the 3rd bar of the second part BOTH TIMES!
4.  I missed the E doubling in the run on the 3rd bar of the third part BOTH TIMES!
5.  I added a high G doubling in the run on the 3rd bar of the third part the second time through instead of playing the high A gracenote.
6.  I muddied the grip on high A in the 3rd bar of the fourth part the second time through.
7.  I missed a few high A gracenotes throughout.

All in all, it's not bad.