With the exception of Pibroch, the classical music of the Highland bagpipe, nearly all pipe tunes are rather simple in structure. This reflects two facts - the limited range of the notes (all 9 of them!) and the single key in which the great majority of tunes are written (though tunes can be written in the key of D); and secondly, the need for tunes to be learned by heart. You do not often see pipers playing from a musical score (in contrast to orchestral players, who seldom need to learn a piece by heart). Other reasons for the mostly simple structure of pipe tunes are that:
- many derive from folk music;
- many have been composed for military situations (usually involving marching);
- some have developed to accompany Scottish dancing (either Highland or Country) where a predictable and repetitive bar structure is essential.
Some of my favourite tunes have been in my repertoire since my mid-teens. Others have been picked up after hearing them live or in recordings or as a result of participation in the National Piping Centre summer schools.