Scoring it right in 2/4 marches

Published: October 31, 2006

I was reading an annotation of a pipe tune in another piping publication recently and thought it time to point out a deficiency that has long existed in the way we notate pipe tunes . . .

 This content is for 1 Year Subscription and 2 Year Subscription members only. Please Subscribe or Login to read the article.
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0

Scoring it right in 2/4 marches

Published: September 30, 2006
(Page 1 of 1)

by Jim McGillivray

I was reading an annotation of a pipe tune in another piping publication recently and thought it time to point out a deficiency that has long existed in the way we notate pipe tunes.

In a recent issue of the EUSPBA’s magazine, Chris Hamilton discusses the rarely heard 2/4 march, “The Dundee Military Tattoo.” In his comments on the first bar, Chris states, “The post-taorluath low A is also a key note. A quarter note can be considered an eternity in a 2/4 march. That being the case, a dotted eighth note can be considered almost an eternity. Make it so. Don’t be afraid to stretch it out into an essentially double-dotted eighth note. The next note, C, in effect, becomes more of a thirty-second note.” The bar Chris describes is the first complete bar in this passage:

Chris’s suggestion for pointing the dotted eighth like a “double-dotted eighth” is apt, but should be taken one step further: this note should in fact be written as a double-dotted eighth, and the following sixteenth as a thirty-second, like this:

This is to say that we have perhaps been writing out this note pattern incorrectly in 2/4 marches for – well, a century or more.

This became clear to me as I was typesetting marches using the high-end “Sibelius” orchestral engraving program with a very accurate playback. Whenever I came across this couplet in any march, it played back much rounder than anyone would actually play it. It clearly wasn’t right. The only way I could make the playback accurate was to double-dot the eighth and add a cut to the sixteenth, as above.

The pattern can be considered a variant of a very common three-note march pattern that consists of: eighth note/dotted sixteenth/thirty-second. The first bar above might more accurately be written as:

In typesetting more than 50 2/4 marches in recent months I’ve encountered this quirk over and over again. Here, for example, are the first three bars of the popular “Scotland is My Ain Hame.” The pattern appears in bar 1 and bar 2, and here is how it has traditionally been written:

Here is a more accurate way of writing this passage. I’ve used two notational methods for comparison:

Of course there are countless other examples, notably the first two notes in the first complete bars of “Road to the Isles” and “The Earl of Mansfield.” Below are three examples. The first is the traditional way we usually see the first complete bar of “Road to the Isles” scored. The second two examples are more correct notations:

Traditional

Method 1

Method 2

Similarly, here is the traditional way of writing the opening of “The Earl of Mansfield” followed by two more valid methods. Again, note the first complete bar of the tune:

Traditional

Method 1

Method 2

Writing these bars out as such is quite a departure from tradition. But the times they are a-changing, and the best modern music-writing programs demand a greater level of accuracy if they are to play back accurately. These programs point out the error of our ways. Let’s hope we can learn from them.

Jim McGillivray has won both Gold Medals and the Clasp at Inverness. Active in performing, judging and piping education, and owner of McGillivray Piping, he lives in Aurora, Ontario.

p|d

What do you think? We always want to hear from our readers, so please use our comment system to provide your thoughts!

Do you have an idea for a feature story that you would like to read or write? Be sure to send your concept to the pipes|drums. We can’t report what we don’t know about! Please remember to support the businesses that advertise and make the not-for-profit p|d possible.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0

GET THE MOBILE APP!
The new pipes|drums app offers the same publication with a streamlined experience. Get the latest news optimized for your smartphone.
Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play
THIS DAY IN HISTORY:
May 28, 1958Borreraig gifted by General I.S. Martin to College of Piping, Glasgow, for fee of 1 penny per annum.
TOP STORIES
Articles from the last three months with the highest overall ratings by readers.
  1. “Pipers Meeting” makes oldest tunes new again
  2. The 1987 Iain McLeod p|d Interview
MOST RECENT POST
  • What judges want
    Tue, 18 Apr 2017
    Sitting adjudicating an amateur solo piping competition the other day, I got to thinking again about the competitors, so many of them so anxious and apprehensive. Playing before a judge who’s going to judge your music is a weird t …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS June 9, 2017Georgetown Highland GamesGeorgetown Fairgrounds

June 10, 2017UK Pipe Band ChampionshipsBelfast

June 15, 2017Cobourg Highland Games & FestivalVictoria Park, Cobourg

June 16, 2017Chicago Highland Games

June 17, 2017The National Piping Centre Virginia Piping & Drumming School 2017Shenandoah University, Winchester VA

TIP OF THE DAY
On a cold, dry winter’s day, sometimes all you need is a little lick, and a gentle rub to get it going . . . chanter reeds can dry out easily!
Sean McKeown, Toronto