1. Introduction
  2. Why is singing more important than the written music
  3. How do teachers know what to sing to their pupils
  4. What is the Campbell Canntaireachd
  5. Other forms of Canntaireachd
  6. An example of a tune

Other forms of Canntaireachd

The short answer is yes – there are as many forms of sung canntaireachd, as there are pipers to sing it. Pipers use their own individual forms of sung canntaireachd to rehearse and to teach. These are usually not consistent and stylised forms; rather, different vocables are commonly sung to indicate the same note, even in the same tune, to achieve the desired effect.

Inconsistency is of no consequence nowadays, as recourse can be had to the printed scores in any case of doubt about an embellishment or the pitch of a note. (If the singer/piper knows the tune thoroughly, it will be only rarely that the book will be resorted to). The pupil will be encouraged to use the written score only as an aide memoire and to put it aside as soon as the "song" of the tune has been well learned.

Pipers usually learn piobaireachd with a teacher singing to them – though most teachers don't use the exact Campbell Canntaireachd words when they sing. While it is not necessary to learn the different sounds in detail, pipers will frequently come across the common Canntaireachd terms. Examples include the common movement called "hiharin", which is a long E followed by a birl with a D gracenote in between. Also the Nameless tunes are described by the Canntaireachd version of their first phrase – e.g. the frequently heard (and very beautiful) tune called simply "Hiharin Dro o Dro"

A teacher of piobaireachd would tell you which terms are in common usage, and you may wish to learn the whole system – it is not as difficult as it appears. However it is important to note that you do not need to learn it – it is better to sing the music using any words that you are comfortable with.

The history of the Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript, and how it was lost and then found again, can be found here. There is a theory that the Campbell Canntaireachd was probably not sung at the time (1797) – i.e. the method was one of writing or recording the tunes on paper, rather than singing. There are other forms of "written canntaireachd". A second form of written canntaireachd is well known, namely that used by a writer called Neil MacLeod of Gesto. This can be seen here if you are interested.