Moving on from our first instalment which dealt with high b, this time I’d like to talk about the chromatic capabilities of modern Border pipes. Pipemakers vary in their offerings, but most modern chanters will happily sound c natural with forked fingering as well as high g# with all fingers on except the RH pinkie and LH thumb.

missnisbetglen 1de6b

On page 15 of book 4 of David Glen’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music we find the reel “Miss Nisbet”:
Although David Glen occasionally uses accidentals in some of his settings, here he keeps to the confines of the standard 9-note scale. Apart from being over-articulated (for my taste at any rate) the setting leaves out much of the detail and the effect of Nathaniel Gow’s original, which can be found on page 3 of the Third Collection of Niel Gow’s Reels:
Miss Nisbet of Dirleton’s Reel Nathaniel Gow

missnisbetgow c6b05

Nathaniel Gow has obviously written a pipe reel here, but he uses c natural, g# and high b with abandon and to good musical effect. He is either bending ‘the rules’ or imitating piping techniques which he has actually heard, possibly even in Dirleton, East Lothian, about 20 miles from Geordie Syme’s patch in Dalkeith: I am inclined to believe the latter. This is a great reel and, as in so many cases, it is well worth learning how to play the ‘extra’ notes to do it justice.