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3 Steps to Playing the Bagpipe Scale on a Piano

3 Steps to Playing the Bagpipe Scale on a Piano

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Piano_KeysBagpipe music is no different than any other musical instrument. We play by the same rules as everyone else.

However, there are definitely things about bagpiping that seem to separate us from the outside world of music.

For example, bagpipes don't seem to tune well with other instruments. They also seem to defy the common rules of music harmony and theory. But here's the thing - they do tune well, and they do exactly match the rules of theory. We just have to know where to begin.

Here are three key steps to translating bagpipe notes to the piano:

Step 1: Identify the Notes Bagpipers Actually Play.

Most of us have been taught that bagpipers play the following notes:

Low G, Low A, B, C, D, E, F, High G, High A

Speaking between pipers this way is easy. And, I do it all the time. However, when it comes to the real world of music, and conversing with other musicians, it's VERY important to realize that two of our scale-notes are actually NOT what we call them.

In the "real world" of music, our C and our F should actually be referred to as "C Sharp" (C#) or "F Sharp" (F#). That's because these are the actual piano notes our scale corresponds to.

So - our technically correct scale is now: Low G, Low A, B, C#, D, E, F#, High G, High A.

Step 2: Learn how to find those notes on a piano.

Now that we have our correct scale, let's find these notes on the piano.

The first thing we'll do is find "C" on the piano (because it's easy). C is located directly to the left of the set of two black keys.

middle-c-piano

 

Once we've found C, we can "calculate" all the other white (sometimes called natural) notes:

piano1

Now, find C# and F#. They're going to be the black keys directly above C and F natural. When you play the bagpipe scale on the piano, simply skip the natural C and F, and play the C# and F# in their place!

 

Step 3: Practice Playing the Bagpipe Scale (and some simple melodies) On a Piano!

Now that you know the basics of finding the bagpipe scale on the piano, it's time to practice the scale up and down. You can use "Garage Band" on any apple device, or Google a virtual keyboard to find a piano that plays. Many of us also have basic keyboards laying around - that would obviously work well also!

The next step is to peck out some basic bagpipe melodies on the piano. Can you play the main melody notes of Scotland the Brave?

Further Study

We have a "Composition Club" course at Dojo U that's devoted to making bagpipers into true creative masterminds. We teach theory, tune-writing, harmony, suite-writing, medley arrangment, advanced concepts, and MORE in a 6-month course. We hope you'll be up for checking it out!

Click Here to Check Out Our Exclusive Composition Club at Dojo U!

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Andrew Douglas Andrew is a prolific practitioner of the bagpipe, having been active at the highest level of pipe bands, solo competition, teaching, and creative endeavors for the past 20 years. He's also the founder and creator of Dojo U and of PipersDojo.com

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  1. Andrew, now, of course, it's closer to A flat, B flat C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, B flat, if you wish to actually accompany the pipes, although some modern band chanters may be even more sharp. "Back in the Day" I made a studio recording for Lola Falana, named "Hop Scotch". Digital recording wasn't around in those days and the chanter pitch was around 452 Hz. Tuning with the band in B flat was accomplished by recording the band, then slowing down the tape, dubbing in the bagpipes, then speeding the tape up for the finished recording. I searched and can't find the song today on the Internet. What was dubbed in was "Say Wha 42nd" modified with an A cadence at the end rather than B. I was in the Union playing violin and viola and listed bagpipes also, and thus, being the only bagpiper in the Union, I got the job for which I received residual payments for ten years.

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