All instruments need a way to articulate the different notes that are played. Clarinetists and Flutists tongue their notes. Fiddle players bow their notes. Pipers? Well, we use gracenotes to articulate our notes. Gracenotes, in a nutshell, are a quick "flick" of a finger that produces a percussive sound. These little percussive sounds can divide notes, add texture to notes, and ultimately they help us construct the embellishments that we use to ornament tunes.

Produce percussive gracenotes to enhance and texturize your playing.

Gracenote Basics

How does one execute these percussive beauties? Well, it's easier shown than explained. Since articulations are such a big part of bagpiping, we have several chapters of our Tutor devoted to the concept. G gracenotes, the piper's primary gracenote that emphasises beats, is covered in Chapter 2. Supporting gracenotes are then covered in Chapter 3.

Click here to go to Chapter 2 of our Tutor. Chapter 3 further elaborates on the gracenotes we use in piping.

Achieving Excellent Gracenote Quality and Synchronization

Gracenote QualityOnce you have the hang of gracenote basics, it's time to look a little bit more deeply into the concept of a gracenote, and how to make it "crisp," and "clean." In reality, a gracenote does take a very small amount of time to play. But, our job as pipers is to make this length of time seem non-existent. Gracenotes should be a percussive sound that doesn't take away from the melody notes themselves. When they become bigger-than-non-existent, they stop being percussive and start getting in the way. In addition, we also need to make sure the gracenote is "synchronized" with the melody note it is played to.

Click here to access a great class on the two gracenote "parameters;" Gracenote size (duration) and sync (location). A must-watch for all bagpipers!

Click here to access a second great class on gracenote quality and sync.

Click here to access a different overview of improving Gracenote Quality.


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