Intro. Marquis of Huntley
Strathspeys are a form of highland dancing written in Common 4/4 time with four pulses to the bar.
The Rhythm needs much lift or spring akin to the dance. This kind of snap is achieved by marked contrast between the long and short notes without being too jerky.
The longer notes (dotted eighth notes) are longer than written, and the shorter notes (sixteenth notes) much shorter, although not hacked. Where sixteenth notes follow one another a slight relaxation is necessary on the first of these to assist clarity like we had in the 2/4 marches. A similar relaxation should be considered when the short note is of a single interval and needs that touch extra clarity on such a weak interval, yet not seemingly at the expense of the long note.
The regular timing of four pulses in the bar must be maintained throughout strathspeys with a degree of accent particularly on the first pulse of each bar. Even pipers of note some times fail to maintain the controlled regular four pulses to the bar by occasionally dropping off longer notes a shade too soon on to the next pulse. That is why when beating time to keep beating four to the bar. Beating time with a spring-like, or bouncing, action akin to the dance on downbeats provides a natural element of lift and control.
AUDIO - Exercise, Marquis of Huntly
The following extract is from the first part The Marquis of Huntly a basic lighter strathspey. Apply the principles in above and in what follows in this section in all strathspeys, the lighter ones and the heavier ones. Tempos might vary.
In this extract play slowly for some time at first about 60 BPM (later tempo would be about 120 BPM or slightly less). Endeavour to maintain the strathspey rhythm, observing and playing dotted notes longer than written and the shorter notes shorter, yet clearly without being too jerky. The single quarter notes provide a natural accent when playing the full value of the pulse each time. Also attend to the value of the dotted notes as you go.
The theoretical rhythm of strathspeys is “strong, weak, medium, weak” every four pulse bar, although I tend to think that “strong, medium, medium, medium” might be more appropriate, so I will use the latter – S, M, M, M as a guide in the extract because the “medium” on the fourth pulse indicates better control, as some pipers tend to neglect that pulse. Listen to that on the audio. Follow and disregard the S, W, M, W, if you wish and replace with that above. The sign * is a reminder of slight relaxation on the “E” leading to the triplet in the fourth bar. After that triplet low “A”• good duration in that fourth bar make sure the “D”# has its full pulse value before the full strike doubling spot on the next pulsed “D”.
Audio - Triplets or triplings
All three notes of the triplet must be sounded clearly. Count of 1, 2, 3-, third note longest, “Up” enough before next pulse.