Sackpipa Blog: Sackpipa Melodies

At the end of May I will be going to the Bagpipe Society “Blowout” with my sackpipa, also I am returning to the “Gagnef (Sackpipa) Meeting” this year at the end of June. I have been going to the Gagnef meeting for 4 years (I skipped last year due to financial difficulties), but this year I will be returning with my own sackpipa to join in with the other musicians.

Because of these events I have decided to keep a blog, leading up to the Blowout and Gagnef meetings. I want to document the progress I have/will make regarding the learning of sackpipa melodies and playing techniques (from an UK perspective!).

The recent acquisition of my sackpipa chanter from Bors Anders (instrument maker from Nykoping, Sweden.you can view his web site at http://www.borsljudet.com ) has enabled me to begin working on Swedish bagpipe melodies. I have had the sackpipa for 2 years but was unable to play it due to a difference in reed/chanter compatibility.

The chanter was made and designed for cane reeds; whereas a synthetic reed from Seth Hammond had been used when I got it. I was finding the top note to be out of tune with the rest of the chanter when set against the drone. Bors Anders very kindly changed the chanter which had been adapted to fit Seth’s reeds (as well as supplying me with Swedish cane for my original chanter).

The result was a tuneful sackpipa chanter. So now I could work on the melodies.

The only notation I had was a book given to me by Bors Anders of his original compositions for sackpipa entitled “Lat Och Olat for Sackpipa” (Swedish characters are not used in the typing), and an A4 size sheet with 5 tunes printed on it. I do not remember where I got this sheet of music from but I did recognize some of the melodies from the titles and I knew them to be traditional… a good place to start learning.

These tunes are: Langdans fran Solleron; Visa fran Venjan; Vals fran Enviken; Ljugaren; Jag Blaste I min pipa.

A few days ago I had visited a piping friend who also is learning the sackpipa, he told me he was learning a few melodies and I thought to give them a try too.

These melodies are: Sackpipa polska; Steklat fran Sarna; Bjorskottens Polska/Polska efter Nedergards Lars.

My first few practices are proving to be fruitful. I have decided to play with completely ‘closed fingering’ (like I play my Northumbrian Small pipes), I did try ‘open’ and ‘semi-open’ fingering, but it felt “natural” to play it this way. 2 years ago at the Gagnef Meeting (2013) in conversation with Olle, he mentioned that there is no “traditional” fingering for the sackpipa, and why not try it fully closed. I can play other pipes, semi and fully open styles, but I like the idea of playing the sackpipa fully closed, especially as I like the staccato style of playing.

I made a recording of the first practice, the tune “Ljugaren” the recording tells of “unsteady bag pressure and‘stiffness’ of style from reading of notation” but early days yet…

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