Crossing Noises

Crossing Noises

Crossing Noises are unintentional notes (usually sounds like a blip) between the notes you are trying to play.

Crossing noises are caused by the closing of the fingers of the note you are playing before the opening of the fingers for the note you are going to play.

For example, if you are moving from an E to a C, you want to lift the middle and ring fingers of your right hand before closing the ring finger of your left hand. Similarly, going from C to E, you want to open the left ring finger before you close your right hand’s ring and middle fingers.

These mainly occur when you are going from the high hand to the low hand, or the low hand to the high hand though there are a couple of places where moving between notes on the same hand can cause a crossing noise.

3 Types of Crossing Noises

With just 9 notes on the scale, there are 36 note pairings. Of these, only 4 of the pairings involve moving only 1 finger. Therefore the other 32 pairings can have one or more of the following Crossing noises:

Lift Drop Crossing Noise

One cause of crossing noise is your hands being out of sync (lift/drop crossing noise). These occur when your dropping fingers close the chanter before the fingers you are lifting opens.

Rolling Crossing Noise

Another cause is if the shape of your hand is such that moving multiple fingers to close the next note results in the fingers hitting the chanter at different times, you end up with a rolling crossing noise (sounds like a mini-run) (E to High G and back, Low G to any high hand note, B to low G, low G to B, etc).

Phantom Crossing Noise

There are also Phantom crossing noises (false notes) where the lifting fingers lead the dropping notes, so you end up with a false fingering, which results in a pitch and tone change in the middle of the movement. From a technical perspective this is the inverse of the lift/drop crossing noise.

The following exercise will assist you in eliminating the crossing noises. Note these were generated by a computer script and have not been validated for playability.

Tips for learning to play tunes



Tips for learning a new tune

When you sit down with a new piece of music, it might look scary depending on how complex the rhythm is, the number and type of embellishments, etc.

Never fear, you can learn any new piece. But it does take a methodical approach.

When learning a new tune, you need to simultaneously consider:

  1. Rhythm (timing)
  2. Expression (Feel/style)
  3. Embellishments
  4. Fingering (proper fingering for a note, no crossing noises)

Mark up the tune

On a 2nd copy of the tune (1st copy is your master and is left clean) mark up any phrases of music that is repeated throughout the tune. A prime example is in Marches the last 2 bars of each part is typically repeated through out the tune, and often the last 2 bars of the first line of each part is also repeated throughout the tune in the first line of each part..

Similarly, the first 2 bars of each line are repeated on each line WITHIN THE SAME PART.

There may also be shorter phrases/runs of notes that appear throughout the tune.

Identify phrases within the first part

Looking at the music, try to identify the phrases within the music.

  • There will usually be a longer note (compared to the rest) that ends the phrase.
    • for example – 1/8 1/8 1/8 1/8 1/8 1/8 1/4
  • Other logical phrasing points will have a run of music going either up or down, and then the melody changes direction.
    • for example = up up down up up up down up up down down down down …
  • Most phrases will last slightly less than 2 bars in length, but the rare case might go 4 bars.

Learn a phrase

When you start to learn the phrases, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. play slowly and deliberately. Resist the temptation to play beyond your capabilities.
  2. when sight reading music, it was important to execute the piece correctly the first time through.
  3. When working through exercises for embellishments, pay attention to the cardinal rules:
    1. Play each step accurately
    2. Play each step evenly

Take the first phrase, and learn it.

  1. Start slow. If you can’t play it well slow, you won’t be able to play it well quickly.
  2. Try to incorporate the correct time and feel right from the start.
  3. Play the correct embellishments.

You need to play the phrase more than once. It will take around 10 times before it starts to enter “muscle memory”. Because of this, you can make an error or two, but don’t practice the error enough that it becomes the muscle memory!

Learn the next phrase

Once you’ve repeated the first phrase 10 or so times, move onto the second phrase. Repeat the same steps.

Tie the 2 phrases together

Once you’ve played the second phrase around 10 times, now you want to incorporate the 2 phrases. Chances are this will put you right to the end of the first line of the tune.

Play the 2 phrases together about 10 times. Once again you are building muscle memory (really long term memory neural pathways).

Rinse, Lather, Repeat

Phrase three is probably a repeat of phrase one (due to the nature of pipe music). If so, you can just tack this phrase onto your previous 2 phrase line and repeat. Then add the 4th phrase, and so on until you have learned the part. At this point it is probably memorized or nearly so.

Repeat these steps for the remaining parts of the tune.


Another name for this method (or another way to look at it) is called the snowball. Like a snowball, or snowman, you start small and add to it. So:

  • you learn the first bar
  • You learn the second bar.
  • You then play bar 1 and 2 together.
  • You learn bar 3
  • You learn bar 4
  • You play bars 3 and 4 together
  • You play bars 1, 2, 3 and 4 together
  • Continue this method for the rest of the tune.

Remember that most pipe music has a large amount of repetition. From entire lines becoming second endings for other parts, to the last 2 bars of each line repeating through all parts, or the first 2 bars of the part being bars 5 and 6 as well.

Basic Tune structure  (: represents the repeat sign)
:A A B B
A A C C:
D D C C:
:E E B B
E E C C:
:F F B B
F F C C:


Repeated second endings (1 means 1st ending, 2 means second ending)
:A A B B
A A C C:
1D D C C: 
2A A C C 
:E E B B
E E C C:
:F F B B
1F F C C:
2E E C C