Was Mr. Fenwick right?

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Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby Barry Say » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:00 pm

This is a repost of something I sent to Dartmouth some time ago. Ant comments

In the instruction book published by the Northumbrian Smallpipes Society in 1896,
Mr Fenwick wrote,

'The note G is sounded by lifting the fourth finger off the bottom hole. To produce A, replace the fourth finger on the hole, and raise the third finger. The other notes are produced by closing and opening one hole at a time as given in the scale.'

It seems to me that there are some deficiencies in this description. If we follow the instruction in the first sentence, we are left with a G sounding. This will go on until we decide to play another note. In order to play that other note we have to move two fingers in a coordinated fashion.

I would suggest a better description as

A note of G is sounded by lifting the fourth finger off the bottom hole for the length of time appropriate to the note and then replacing it. Other notes are played in the same fashion either by lifting a finger or thumb to open a tone-hole for the required duration and then replacing the finger or thumb or by depressing a key for the appropriate length of time and then releasing it.

The major difference is that every note has a length as well as a pitch, the player is aware of the length of the note when he starts to play it, and the note isn't complete until it has been stopped.

Mr Fenwick's description seems to me to owe a lot to the style of playing appropriate to open ended pipes such as GHB. Once the pipes are started, a stream of sound emanates from the chanter and the player is engaged in directing this to various pitches. It is a bit like operating a garden hose with no access to the tap. You can direct where the water goes but you cannot stop it.

Conversely, with a closed end chanter NSP can produce distinct notes, and I think this is the way the instrument is best approached. Once we know how to play a G quaver, we can decide to play a G quaver without worrying about where the note will end. Our training will kick in and the fourth finger will descend at the appropriate time. we should imagine the whole of the note in our head before playing it.

We can decide to follow that G with an A and to do that we lift the third finger at the appropriate time. and the fourth finger has already closed the G hole. Initially the gaps between the notes will be large, but with practise they *will* come down to an appropriate length.

This description is my own but it owes much to detailed listening to recordings of Chris Ormston, to practice methods described by Inky-Adrian and discussions with other pipers who shall for now remain nameless. I feel that there are parallels with the methods used by Sports psychologists and coaches who encourage those they are teaching to break down the actions they require into well defined segments, and to have a clear vision of the outcome they wish to achieve before they start the action - we should 'think' the note before we play it.

Does this make any sort of sense?

Barry
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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby John Gibbons » Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:21 pm

Perhaps Fenwick thought 'To stop playing a G, put the 4th finger back again' was insulting to his readers' intelligence?
At least he did tell them it needed to be put back, so you don't get open-fingered pipers if they follow his instructions literally.

John
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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby Francis Wood » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:06 pm

I believe he was a solicitor so he would want to have the instruction comprehensively expressed.

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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby adrian » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:48 pm

"replace the fourth finger on the hole, and raise the third finger" If one does it when reading the phrase, as to doing it after reading it, a nice gap will have happened between the 2 notes.
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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby John Gibbons » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:15 pm

A very nice gap, if you read it out loud....
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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby adrian » Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:51 am

Take it as it reads and not as read?
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Re: Was Mr. Fenwick right?

Postby adrian » Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:02 am

I like Mr Fenwick, he stands up to what the the pipes stand for: tight players, slack readers and old bags.
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