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ALAP/ASAP - Dynamics on a Small Scale

Bend the general rules of dot-cut figures to simulate increases in volume.

Once Melody, Rhythm, and Articulation are mastered (or well on the way to being mastered), it is important to consider the last big musical component; Dynamics. Pipers are in a bit of a pickle with dynamics, because bagpipes only have one volume to work with. So, we can't alternate between loud, soft, and in-between. ALAP/ASAP is the first major technique that pipers use to simulate volume changes in their playing.


ALAP ASAP DiagramThis idea deals specifically with the "dot-cut" rhythm that we frequently find in bagpipe music. According to basic music theory, a dot will add half the length to a note. Then, the following "cut" note (usually a 16th note or a 32nd) will make up for the time added by the dot. Bagpipers, however, will not proportionally divide a dot-cut rhythm like this. Instead, a good piper will stretch the dotted note as long as musically possible, and resultantly the cut note will be played as short as musically possible. That, of course, is where the acronyms of "ALAP" and "ASAP" come from ("as long as possible" and "as short as possible"). This stretching of the rules simulates an increased volume on the dotted note, thus providing an increased dynamic range to the rhythm.

Click here to go to our class on ALAP/ASAP Basics.

Fusing ASAP Notes to Embellishments

ALAP/ASAP is an extremely important skill to master for pipers. Especially when you consider that, when you look closely, the "ASAP" concept is also important in playing good embellishments. A good embellishment will contain a certain set of steps played accurately and evenly. But, in order for the embellishment to fit into the tune that you're playing, these even steps will have to be played quickly and efficiently. Just how quick should the steps be? You guessed it. In the vast majority of embellishments, the steps should be played as short as musically possible.

So, let's say we have a cut (ASAP) note leading into a doubling. That will mean that the cut note and the steps of the embellishment will all be the same length, and they will generate a "fused" effect. It's an easy enough concept to talk about, but can you do this in your playing? It's tricky - that's where the class below comes in.

Click Here to learn the basics of Short Note Fusion.

Further Investigation

In our archive, we have tons of classes that talk about ALAP/ASAP and the idea of fusing ASAP notes to embellishments. You should spend a lot of time and energy on this topic, because it's one of the major fundamentals that, if you master the concept, is really going to allow you to express yourself freely.

Click Here to see all of the classes in our archive that discuss ALAP/ASAP.

Click Here to see all of the classes in our archive that discuss Short Note Fusion.

These topics, and many, many more can also be found by visiting the "Search the Archives" page, which is located under the "Archive" tab above.