Merry Christmas and welcome to the first post in our composition series. Our first contributor is Bob Worrall - one of the worlds most recognisable piping identities. Could you think of a better Xmas present than some advice from Bob?
Bob Worrall (Photo Credit: PPBSO)
Bob has published three books through his "International Collection of Bagpipe Music", with the third being released with reprints of the first two books at this years World Pipe Band Championships, with Bob's compositions being played by numerous Grade 1 bands. Bob's influences from the likes of Donald McLeod and John Wilson (2 of my favorite composers) certainly shine through in his compositions with great musicality, yet retaining uniqueness and originality. Bob's understanding of music is exemplified through being a world proponent of the ensemble judging concept, judging at the highest level of both light music and piobaireachd, and being the expert voice behind the worlds.
1. What was your first composition and what did you learn from it?
The first tune I composed was the jig, 'St. Ninian's Parish Centre Ceilidh'. I actually had the third and fourth parts before settling on the first two parts. I know, not all that logical in terms of the development of a tune, but it was what worked for this tune. I had the two parts for quite some time. The Barra MacNeils were playing the annual ceilidh at the conclusion of the Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. One of their instrumental numbers gave me a bit of an inspiration to help sort out an introductory theme for the tune. So what I learned from this is patience when composing. Never try to 'force' a composition.
2. What sparks a tune, and how do you turn that into a whole part or tune?
The 'spark' for a tune can come from a number of sources. It may be an introductory or concluding phrase that starts to float around in my head. It may come from listening and exposure to a wide variety of music. I know that many trips to Brittany and exposure to bagad music have had a significant influence. Several of my compositions have a definite Breton flavour ('Salute to Cap Caval').
3. How long does it take to compose a tune ready for playing in public?
I have found that the compositions I have been most happy with have come together fairly quickly. I like to bounce the tunes off fellow composers and players to get an initial reaction and verify that I haven't inadvertently plagiarized key phrases from another tune. After that, I like to play the tune for a few weeks to see if I want to make any technical or melodic changes.
4. What are your 3 top tips for budding composers?
A. Ensure that there is a strong melodic line throughout the tune.
B. Work at a definite Question/Answer structure to the phrases in the tune.
C. Don't overload the tune with excessive embellishments. Ensure that the embellishments compliment what you're trying to achieve musically.
D. Don't force a composition. Set it down and come back to it later if it isn't coming naturally.
E. Strive to be original.
F. Listen to a wide variety of music, within and outside the piping genre.
Note from Bob: Couldn't keep it to top three tips...lol.....impossible!
Thank you to Bob for providing some great insight into his composition techniques.
Next in our series we will be taking things from a different aspect, and looking at composition advice from the back end of the band, from an experienced Grade 1 former Drum Sergeant, to be released on 25th January, so be sure to keep following our Facebook and Instagram pages. Can you guess who? Be sure to let us know who you want to hear from and what questions you want answered by our panel of famous composers.