[Trombone-l] Bagpipes (was: A lovely Tubax solo)

Keith Marr Mail at gothicway.fsnet.co.uk
Tue Nov 1 07:32:36 CST 2005

In a sense this common dislike of bagpipes illustrates how heavily tuned our
ears are to the tempered diatonic scale. The bagpipe scale has a scale more
closely based on the ancient Greek note spacing in that C and F are more or
less halfway between their neighbouring notes. I forget which Greek set that
down - was it Pythagorus? Anybody?

To the modern ear this sounds "wrong" in the same way that note 4 of the
Pelog scale in Gamelan music sounds "wrong", and for the same reason - it's
note spacing is of non-western tuning.

I know there are many for whom the tone of the bagpipes is unpleasant (as a
Scot myself if stirs me enough to want to take up arms against somebody -
pick a target!) but I'm sure the tuning of the bagpipe scale is the problem
for many others.

Of course the reason the trombone if therefore the ideal partner to the
bagpipe is that it is the only wind instrument upon which pitch can be
finely adjusted to match a non-diatonic scale. Hooray for us!

This variation between temperaments was illustrated in a piece on this years
Prom concerts by Sofia Gubaidulina called The Light at the End. The French
Horns were given the non-standard temperament for some reason when the
trombones would have done a much better job.


Keith in Bb/F/D 

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