Bagpipes, Leaps in V (new activity)

Goal: Process and transcribe leaps within the dominant triad.
Smaller goal: Some students are bored; the content is too easy for the skills they already have. This music has lots of extra nuance that they can work towards processing, but I have to set it up in such a way that students with weaker skills don’t try to do too much. The set-up I do will end up introducing the idea of skeletal melody (one with no embellishments).

Musical example: Queen of the Rushes (Irish jig, played on the uilleann pipes by Máire Ní Ghráda)


  • Listen with the goal of identifying tonic.  Sing and contour tonic and dominant triads throughout the entire vocal range they think they’ll need (this jig has a wide range).
  • Map out the number of measures, where leading tones are heard, general contour, and main notes for each measure (one or two notes per measure).
  • Circle where the dominant triad leaps are and notate those.  People can work ahead if they want.


This activity was not as well-executed (well-planned?) as previous ones.  My first section could not do the preliminary work (singing V chords and processing V-leaps within a seven-note melody) well enough to progress to this activity.  My second two sections did, but I had to focus their energy on specific places to make sure that we address the point (leaps in the V chord).  We also only dealt with the first phrase of three. By the third section, I liked my format.  Here it is (10 minutes):

  • Tell them it is eight bars long and moves at a quick tempo.  Map the eight bars on the board, leaving the contents of each bar empty.
  • Provide them the first two scale degrees, which occur out of tempo (^5 and ^4).
  • Listen twice, then strategize about how to deal with music that moves this quickly
    • Identify the first scale degree of every bar
    • Feel and identify the harmonic changes (I and V7, in this case).
  • Circle the bars that had V7 leaps, asking students to complete those bars first (bars 2, 4, 6, and 7).
  • Encourage them to finish the remaining bars with their left-over time
  • Explore notations for communicating embellishments and ways of delaying the downbeats (often a slide up to the “structural” note).

While it took three tries to use the excerpt in the most efficient way for today’s class, I like it.  The easiness of the leaps is balanced by the difficulty of processing at this tempo. We also were able to discuss why ^5 works for a drone note, explored music with implied harmonic change rather than explicit harmonic change, worked within a compound meter, and noted differences in the performance on the repeat.

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