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