The Great Highland Bagpipe can only produce nine notes, that’s right – just over one octave! Furthermore, the volume is constant; it’s just not possible to emphasise a pieces of music using changes in volume. This is why the finger technique is so important – to make the most of those nine notes.

While the tunes are made up of the 9 theme notes; the notes that form the basic melody, there are also grace notes played over them, to place varying amounts of emphasis to make the tune interesting. The single grace notes that are short sharp pips, which can then be arrange together to form numerous doublings and embellishments; far too many to mention.

Playing these embellishments quickly and clearly requires years of practice and a degree of dexterity in the piper’s fingers. This is why learning the pipes is so suited to the younger student. However, many adult learners manage successfully to get their fingers around these tricky movements too!


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