A couple of technical questions

On a string "touch 4" harmonic on G flat, would the diamond note be best as C flat or B natural?

Also I have a bagpipe melody to be played with an A cantor (range g to a). What notes will the drones play?  How do you make the drones fit the melodic contours of the melody, or do you at all?


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  • Well if you have say a Gb key signature then it would be Cb.  A sharp key sig up to C# major could use a B.  Different context would determine it I guess.

    From Wikipedia:

    "The Great Highland bagpipe actually has four reeds: the chanter reed (double), two tenor drone reeds (single), and one bass drone reed (single).

    A modern set has a bag, a chanter, a blowpipe, two tenor drones, and one bass drone.

    The scale of the chanter is in Mixolydian mode, which has a flattened seventh scale degree. It has a range from one whole tone lower than the tonic to one octave above it. The drones are tuned to this tonic note, called A (specifically A4). The nine notes of the chanter scale are "low G, low A, B, C (sounds as a C), D, E, F (sounds as a F), high G, and high A". However, the A pitch of most pipers and pipe bands currently is somewhere around 470-480 Hz,[9] which is actually sharper than standard pitch B4 at 466.16 Hz. So the scale sounds actually as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and can be considered a transposing instrument in E-flat major. Historically it was indeed flatter, as evidenced by recordings, and extant instruments.

    Highland bagpipe music is written in the key of D major, where the C and F are sharp (despite the key-signature usually being omitted from scores). Due to the lack of chromatic notes, to change key is also to change modes; tunes are in A Mixolydian, D major, B Aeolian, or occasionally E Dorian. In concert pitch (notes on the piano) it will be B Mixolydian, E major, C Aeolian, or occasionally F Dorian."

    So with the drone you only have one note that you have to harmonize with, so any series of note produced on the chanter will work with the drones, it's like the blues, there are no wrong notes.

    BUT, there's this:

    "Bagpipes are rarely played with other instruments due to their tuning. Most other instruments tune at standard concert pitch which is 440 Hz whilst a bagpipe tunes between around 475 HZ and 485 Hz depending on humidity levels. It is possible to change the pitch by using different chanters and reeds, which is why bagpipes are sometimes used with other instruments however, the pipes sound sweeter when played at the pitch they are supposed to be played at"

    Scale (music)
    In music theory, a scale is any set of musical notes ordered by fundamental frequency or pitch. A scale ordered by increasing pitch is an ascending s…
  • Thanks for all this.  The question about the "touch 4 harmonic" is a playability question really.  This is a contemporary piece with no key signature.

  • I'm not a violinist so perhaps someone else might explain this better.

    You might want to maintain scoring consistency by using all sharps or all flats since there is no 'key' per se.

    You might want to consider the underlying harmony, if there is any.

    While Cb and B are enharmonic equivalents on tempered instruments they can be different with just tuning.

  • Convention in atonal music is "sharps going up and flats going down", but as you say it must be tempered with the implied harmonies.  For the harmonic, the string player will know where to touch - a perfect fourth above the G flat.  The question is how he/she would prefer the "touch" note to be notated.

  • You could post your question here.


    Violinist.com Discussion Forum
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