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Different ways of writing and timing tunes
For better or worse, tune settings in the Kilberry book, and in the Piobaireachd Society (PS) Collection, have become known as the “usual” versions – and other versions as “alternative” settings.
Why play an alternative setting of a tune? The PS has, over the last 80 years or so, chosen their settings with care, and not all alternative settings are pleasant on the ear. To deviate from the norm, to less musical settings, would be folly. In competition, the bench of judges may appreciate the effort made to seek out an alternative setting, but (stating the obvious) you will only get a prize if you play it well. However there is more to piping than competition – and hearing a setting that is rare can be one of the pleasures that knowledge of piobaireachd will bring you.
Alternative settings will be looked at in a series of articles to be published on the PS website, of which this is the first. The aim of these articles is not to state that one version is better than another, or that the “usual” versions are not the best ones available. Instead we simply wish to state that the other settings exist, and are now easy to access, either online or in print. Another point, harder to explain, is that studying the different versions of the tune, leads in the end to more understanding of what the composer was intending.