Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 26

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 26
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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26Clancy (among many others) is usuallyachieved by raising the two top fingers of thebottom hand in tandem with a straightening ofthe index finger of the top hand away from itsvent, and possibly supplemented with vibrato.But for those who have progressed beyondthe playing of scales and simple tunes, thereis far more work for this digit to do.Swelled Notes, Pops, Barks, SlidesAlthough it isn’t widely appreciated, the uil-leann pipe chanter is indeed capable of pro-ducing dynamics in tone and, albeit in a lim-ited sense, in volume. To this end, the indexfinger of the bottom hand is sometimes leftopen when playing the notes A and B in thetop hand. This produces a swelled, fuller toneand commensurate increase in volume. Whendone in addition to the raising of the chanteroff the knee, this effect is even more pro-nounced. Common in the playing of many pipers is theutilization of a technique variously called apop or a bark, upon the notes E’, F#’, and G’.Our friend the index finger is called upon inthis case to rise off the chanter, cleanly, orwith a slide off its vent, just as the chanter israised from the knee and then replaced by thetime the note’s duration is over. (This last bitis essential, by the way: if the chanter remainsoff the knee at the end of the note so orna-mented, the ear of the listener will perceivethe chanter to be out of tune, and rightly so).This movement causes the note to change inpitch and increase in volume, thereby accent-ing it.Using the index finger to slide into the G orG’ is also extremely common and useful, inslow airs as well as in faster music.VibratoOne of the most characteristic traits of manygreat pipers’ styles is how they color the noteD’ (the ‘back D’). Liam O’Flynn’s vibrato onthis note, used in dance music as well as inslower pieces, for example, is unmistakable,as is that of Gay McKeon. In the latter case,this sound is created by the rapid movementof the top two fingers of the bottom hand onand off the chanter. Many chanters will rendera lovely tone with vibrato on the back D’ pro-duced in this manner, or with the index fingerof the bottom hand alone. Also, vibrato onA/A’ and especially B/B’ is usefully createdwith this finger.Grace NotesThe subject finger is used to play the ‘tap’, orlower grace note in rolls upon the note G. Butit is in its use for ‘cuts’, grace notes above amelody note, that this finger’s work becomesmost interesting.The ability to grace E and F# in both octaveswith the index finger of the lower hand is dif-ficult to develop for many aspiring pipers. Itis, however, essential to duplicating an effectutilised by many great pipers living and gone.This technique presents physical challenges.One’s bottom hand must be relaxed enoughfor independent finger motion, as the G gra-cenote is played with one finger, followedimmediately by the note E or F#. But therewards are great: that ‘economy of effort’, somemorably described in The Piping of PatsyTouhey by Pat Mitchell and Jackie Small in adifferent but related context, is achieved, giv-ing the learning piper access to moreadvanced techniques. This technique is, ineffect, a ‘gateway drug’ to the following orna-mental devices.CransWhereas good cranning is a hallmark of goodpiping, sloppy cranning is a musical shibbo-leth whereby immature or under-practicedpipers can be identified. Effective playing ofcrans is very dependent upon the piper’s abil-
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44

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