About Grace Notes

I should discuss the execution of grace notes for the less advanced piper, for those who wish to check some elements of technique, and for teachers.

The height of the fingers concerned in grace notes would normally be about one centimetre or half inch. If lifted too high the grace note might be too sluggish. If lifted too little of about a millimetre or two the grace note might be too crushed and unclear.

The brisk rapid return of the grace note finger/s is most important. There should be no lingering in the air when executing grace notes, except perhaps when first learning how to play them. The sound of a grace note is akin to a clear peed-like sound. The movement of the finger is like a return spring action without straining. The strikes are similar in bouncing back off the hole smartly. Execution must be spot on the relevant note, not a moment late.

Doublings must have the rapid double sound without being crushed /unclear. Think of most doublings commencing with a high “G” grace note cleanly on the relevant melody note before following rapidly with the next grace note. Avoid running grace notes into each other without the middle grace note sounding. i.e. a doubling on “E” from low “A” should have the “G” grace note on “E” then the “F” grace note still on “E”. It is good practice even for advanced pipers to practise doublings often enough methodically (slightly opened/separated) from various notes and as they appear in certain bars of one’s music. The clear smart double sound must prevail.

For a full explanation of grips (leamluath) and taorluath refer to these in the Piobaireachd section of this book. Meanwhile some of these are demonstrated on the link of Scotland the Brave.

Other grace note forms and technique are discussed as they appear in tunes and their extracts.

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