Musical & Technical Tips

Download Tools

All of the sheet music on this site is in the form of a pdf file. You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to open it. In the off-chance you don’t already have it on your device, you can download it for free at Adobe Acrobat.

All of the recorded downloads on this site are in the form of an MP3 file. You will need an MP3 player like Windows Media Player (you probably already have this as it comes with Windows) or RealPlayer. In the off-chance you don’t have a media player on your device, you can download Real Player for free at RealPlayer

How the Pipetunes Sound Files Were Recorded

Notes From History: World's Pipe Band Championship, Meadowbank, Edinburgh, August 13, 1949. City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band--The Winners. Photo courtesy of "News of the World"
Notes From History: World’s Pipe Band Championship, Meadowbank, Edinburgh, August 13, 1949. City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band–The Winners. Photo courtesy of “News of the World”

I have tried to include MP3 demonstrations of as many tunes as I possibly could. I have made most of them myself, but I would like to thank the many composer/arrangers who agreed to provide recordings of themselves playing their own tunes. While we charged for complete mp3 downloads when the site started, I now believe that site users need to be able to hear entire tunes before they decide if they want to purchase the sheet music, so the mp3 files can now be heard in their entirety as you browse, and then downloaded for free.

While I asked no more than that they record the tunes on a practice chanter, some have decided to use pipes or small pipes. No matter how they are done, these recordings are meant to be demonstrations of the tunes only. They are not ‘performances,’ and I have not been concerned about squeaks, breathing noises, foot-tapping or breaks for breath. These MP3s are meant give you an idea how the tunes can be played.

All of the public domain tunes, and many of the copyright pieces, have been recorded by myself. At the beginning of the project I used a practice chanter. Later, when I grew tired of figuring out where to take breaths, I stuck the practice chanter into a pipe bag. Later still, when I grew tired of blowing altogether, I began using a Deger electronic chanter, and have continued in this direction because of ease of use and recording and the quite pleasant sound it makes.

While I have tried to play the tunes to tempo where possible, many of them are slightly slower that I would play them in performance. This is largely because not all of the hundreds of tunes on the site are in my personal repertoire! Many I haven’t played for years, and many more I recorded only a few minutes after sight-reading them for the first time. I haven’t been too concerned about slower tempos because, again, these are demonstration recordings, not performanances.

Levels of Difficulty

All tunes here will have a “Level of Difficulty” assigned to them. These levels are not absolute; they are relative to the time signatures they are describing. If this was an absolute list, then every slow air would be listed as “easy” and every hornpipe as “very difficult.”

So, if a 4-parted hornpipe is described as “easy” this does not mean it will be easy like a slow air. It means that, as hornpipes go, this is an easy hornpipe. But if you’ve never been able to play hornpipes, it will still be a difficult tune for you.

Settings

Braemarms Gathering, notes on sheet musicOne of the great benefits of pipetunes.ca is to be found in the settings (the physical way an author wrote the sheet music, which results in a “version” of a song) of the tunes. Some of the great books of pipe music contain settings that are antiquated, unwisely gracenoted, or are pointed in ways that may simply reflect one piper’s idiosyncracies 75 years ago.

I have paid acute attention to gracenoting and pointing in all of these tunes. I have used published settings as a guideline, making carefully considered alterations according to modern gracenoting or pointing practices. Frequently I have combined the best characteristics of more than one setting to arrive at a setting that reflects current gracenoting and pointing styles while remaining true to the tradition of the tune.

In many cases, a pipetunes.ca setting may not be the same setting I play, because my personal settings reflect my personal idiosyncracies.

In some cases – examples are the tunes of Donald MacLeod and John Wilson, Edinburgh – I have agreed to publish the tunes exactly as they originally appeared in print in the composers’ published books or manuscripts. Sometimes this entailed using pointing or gracenoting styles that don’t reflect how the tunes are played today. However, I have promised the estates involved to be true to the composers’ original intentions, and I think in these cases that’s a good thing.

Pointing

Related to settings is the issue of how pointed a tune should be played, or whether it should be pointed at all. “Pointing” refers to how long a (dotted) note should be played: “pointing” a note means playing it for a longer time, while “rounding” the note means to play it for less time–eliding or smoothing it to some degree. There is more than one way to play a pipe tune, and particularly in the reel and hornpipe idioms one piper might choose to point a tune that is written round, or round a tune that is written with lots of dots and cuts. It can be confusing to less experienced pipers to find music to a tune they heard and liked only to see that it’s not written the way they heard it. So, welcome to traditional music, where we are frequently heard to say, “The music is just a guide.”

1st and 2nd endings

Notes From History: A recruiting parade. Kitchener's army marching down Union Street, Aberdeen. McLennan Family reference: "GS058 Band"
Notes From History: A recruiting parade. Kitchener’s army marching down Union Street, Aberdeen. McLennan Family reference: “GS058 Band”

Less experienced pipers are sometimes confused by the brackets above lines of music that say things like “1 of 2” or “2 of 2” or “2 of 4.” Sometimes they may just say “1” or “2.” These are commonly known as second endings, and they are a way of saying, for example, that line 2 of the first part is also line 2 of the second time through the second part.

If you see a bracket over the second line of the first part of a march, and at the start of the bracket it says “2 of 2,” that is an abbreviated way of saying, “We’re going to use this particularly lovely 2nd line of the first part again later in the tune. Play it again as line 2 of the second time through part 2.” When you arrive at part 2, you’ll see a bracket over the 2nd line of that part that says “1 of 2.” Play that line the first time through the part, and the bracketed line from the first part when you play the second time through the 2nd part. We do this so that we can write out a 10-line tune in just 8 lines, or a 5-line tune in just 4.

While this system may look confusing at first, it’s not all that hard. Just remember that the first number refers to the first or second time through the part, and the second number refers to the actual part.

If this is still unclear, the MP3 recording will set you straight.