Píobaire, An, Volume 9, Issue 5, Page 23

Píobaire, An, Volume 9, Issue 5, Page 23
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
periodical Title
An Píobaire
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Píobaire, An 9 5 23 20131126 23 In fact, achieving control of a true “piper’s C- natural” is one of the most difficult techniques to master on the uilleann pipes chanter. There is more than one effective way to finger this note, depending on chanter, reed, and one’s own taste. However, one thing is sure: the full palette of possible tone colours and sounds cannot be accessed by opening the top hand index finger and bottom hand middle finger alone. It is hoped that the following very basic expla- nation will provide an entrée to the note, an in- troduction to the learning process that must be begun in order to create and to control it. This is not the only way to play C-natural, but it is one way, and an effective one. So, straight in. In one fluid motion: 1. Finger the note G. That is, chanter on the leg, all holes closed ex- cept the index and second finger of the bottom hand. 2. Without lifting it from the chanter, straighten the index finger of your top hand. The index finger must not leave the chanter. It is straightened at the knuckle away from the hole so that it partially uncovers, or ‘shades’ the C# or top hole on the face of the chanter. Again: the index finger stays in contact with the chanter at all times while pulling away from the hole. The finger should almost ‘point’ away from the chanter, while remaining at- tached to it. Upon your first few attempts, this likely will not yield perfect results! The second step is the hard part, and the one that requires the most practice in order to gain the fine motor control necessary to harness this sound. The knack is to use the index finger of your top hand to con- trol the pitch of the note. When you do this cor- rectly, you will hear a different kind of hard, even harsh edge to the tone of the C-natural. Harnessing this sound is the basis of the power and special quality of this note on the chanter. Being able to finger it at an accurate pitch is one part of the method. Remember that practi- tioners of western ‘art’ music tend to play this note sharp of what is normally desirable in pip- ing. Leave them to their glory. To take the technique one step farther, (for use in certain cases, like the playing of slow airs, or in dance music where a particularly expressive and prominent C-natural is desired) add the following two steps: 3. Lift the chanter off the leg slightly 4. Create vibrato using the second finger of the bottom hand What this should yield, with determined prac- tice, is a C-natural that is lively in tone; that possesses a vibrant edge; the pitch of which can be controlled by the degree to which the top index finger shades the C hole of the chanter; that can be swelled by lifting the chanter if desired; and that can be enhanced with the use of vibrato. This is a basic method for starting to get ac- quainted with this most ‘pipery’ of notes. Prac- tice it on its own, and as always, do it slowly at first, but with deliberation. When you feel that you are beginning to get that special charac- teristic edge to the note C-natural, see if it helps in your playing of a double jig like “Tat- ter Jack Walsh”, or perhaps in the second bar of the second part of “The Old Bush”. Or, if you are working on simpler tunes, it might be the sound you’re looking for in a tune like “The Song of the Chanter”. At any rate, listen for this sound as made by other pipers, and notice how, and how often, they use it. It is hoped that this primer will help you on the path to devel- oping your own expressive way of playing C- natural.
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An Píobaire, Volume 9, Issue 5

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