Bagpipe Lesson 14

The History of Bagpipe Sound

Something to note is that the technical quality of current recordings is much higher than in the past.  
Some of this is due to technology such as computers rather than vinyl.
  • The pitch of tuning was lower in the past
  • Each note has different harmonics
  • The D was a bit sharp. Even today, top players will be a shade sharp on the D. You will never hear a flat D.

Bags were solely leather pipe bags, reeds were only cane, chanters were hand carved.

Now we have synthetic bags, synthetic reeds, machined chanters.

Also, with modern zipper bags with moisture control systems, there can be less moisture differences on the reeds today.

Plastic chanters came out in the 70’s.


Years ago the pipe band tunes were very quick compared to today.

Todays bands seem to be more about the expression of the tunes.


Apparantly the Toarluath has changed over the last 300 years: (
Toarluadhs and the like have changed considerably over the last 3 hundred years.
From; low G/d/low A /E/ A
to; low G/ D/ low G / low A/E/ A
to ; Low G/D/G/E/A
The original taorluath movement was much more rhythmically complex and open than is performed today. ( 
Today the older version is known as the “redundant A” taorluath, and few people play it. And yet,  the rhythmical expression is very pretty, the movement sounds quite dexterous, and the melody is retained.

It is worth noting that today’s taorluath movement was introduced as late as 1907 with John McLennan’s collection; thereafter the Piobaireachd Society adopted it.  

This is a grip with a E gracenote added onto it before ending on the melodic note. Therefore, all that applies to Grips applies here as well. The E gracenote is what leads to the melody note. The E gracenote is played on the beat.

The steps to play the Taorluath:

  1. Play Low G
  2. Play a D Gracenote on Low G
  3. Play E Gracenote to any other note lower than E.

Things that can go wrong:

  • Crossing noise to Low G
  • Poor D Gracenote length
  • Poor D Gracenote Timing
  • Poor E Gracenote length
  • Poor E Gracenote Timing
  • Crossing Noise to next note
  • Steps played unevenly
  • Timing such that embellishment isn’t on the beat (E Gracenote on beat).
There is a variation on the Taorluath where if you are coming off of the D, you use a B gracenote instead of a D gracenote.

The Toarluath is introduced in SCQF Level 3.

In Canntaireachd, the Taorluath is known as a darid.



The symbol for the Taorluath beat is darid, e.g.,

  • hodarid,
  • hadarid.

Taorluath to low G is darem, e.g.,

  • hiodarem.
Taorluath Breabach

the same with the addition of one note according to the scale chart.

Taorluath a Mach

is expressed

  • hiotroeo (B),
  • hodroeo (C), and
  • hiotraea (D).
Being able to play The Taorluath to Low A from each note of the scale is a requirement for SCQF Level 3
Being able to play The Taorluath to Low A from D using the B gracenote is a requirement for SCQF Level 3


C Doublings to Low A, and B Doublings to Low G with E Gracenote as used in Strathspey playing (Round movement)
In orchestral music the Tachum is known as the Scotch Snap

Now that you have the theory behind Strathspeys, lets try a tune.

Loudon’s Bonny Woods and Braes