The structure of piobaireachd, 3


By Capt. John A. MacLellan MBE

The next phrase patterns to be discussed are those which incorporate the TERTIARY grouping. This title just signifies a third classification.

The main characteristic is, that each of the three lines are of equal length, (remember both “Primary” and ‘’Secondary” had a metre of 6. 6. 4.) In the case of the “Tertiary’’ grouping, the basic metre is 4. 4. 4. with the first line repeated to make up a main musical division of 16 bars. This is usually shown as 4: 4, 4, the double dots after the first 4 indicating that line 1 is to be repeated.

The ‘Tertiary’ grouping is split into two types, TERTIARY ‘A’ and TERTIARY ‘B’, both of which are set in the basic metre of 4: 4, 4.

TERTIARY ‘A’ type has the main characteristic that the musical phrases are seldom repeated within each main division — Urlar or Variation. Lament for the Children is a TERTIARY A’ tune and its phrases are laid out as:

AB B Cc D:

Only phrases B and D are repeated.

(Stuart Liddell plays Lament for the Children at the 2016 Glenfiddich):

As each phrase is two bars in length the actual metre in this case is: 8: 8, 8.

A good many of the classic tunes have been set in this ‘free phrasing’ category which afford the composer the greatest latitude, for he is not confined to any particular pattern. For instance in ‘Secondary’ types, having composed a musical line 1 formed by phrases A, B, C, D, it is often the case, that when these phrases are re-set as C B A D in line 2, the melody is no longer satisfactory which means that more work has to be completed on line 1, so that the phrases will then fit melodically in line 2.

Tunes in category TERTIARY ‘B’ are often in direct contrast to those in type ‘A’. The tunes in this type are much simpler and contain a number of tunes suitable for beginners.

In common with the TERTIARY ‘A’ type the lines are of equal length, with the first line repeated. The pattern of the phrases is set out as:

A. B. A. CG:
D. B. D. c.
D. B. A. C.

It should be noted that the third line consists of the first two phrases of line 2 and the concluding two phrases of line 1.

The Supplementary classifications of ‘A’ ands ‘B’ also have certain characteristics in common. Both have the line 1 supplemented by an extra phrase to form line 2.

SUPPLEMENTARY Type A is set in the metre of 6. 6. 4. with a phrase pattern set out as —

Line 1 – A B A – 6 bars
Line 2 – Cc B A – 6 bars
Line 3 – B A

Line 3 can also be set as B, D or even D.E.

The supplementing phrase is C and it can clearly be seen that the main construction is formed from phrases A and B.

SUPPLEMENTARY Type B is set out in the metre of 4. 6. 4. with the final line being ‘finished’ with one or two bars of the little finger movements: HIHARIN —

The formation of line 2 is completed by adding phrase C between phrases A and B of line 1, making a pattern as follows:

Line 1 – A B – 4 bars
Line 2 – A C B – 6 bars
Line 3 – A B or D – 4 bars

with the addition of extra ‘HIHARIN’ bars.

Many good piobaireachds are set in this Supplementary structure. In type ‘A’ there is Lament for MacSwan of Roaig and A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick. Whereas in the B Type, two examples would be: The Stewart’s White Banner and Lachlan MacNeill of Kintarbert’s Fancy.

The final category comprises the IRREGULAR types which do. Not conform to any pattern whatsoever. Line lengths can be irregular and at times such irregularity is not maintained in the Variations, yet despite that apparent lack of convential regularity, the tunes within this structure are entirely satisfactory to the piobaireachd enthusiast. Two examples are: Lament for Donald of Laggan and Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay.

*From The International Piper, February 1981.

• The notation of piobaireachd
• The structure of piobaireachd, 1
• The structure of piobaireachd, 2
• The structure of piobaireachd, 4