Watch the The Heights of Cassino online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman
So, a lot to chew on in this tune....so let’s start. It’s a 6/8 march and as you’ll have heard throughout the course that time signature is associated with jig rhythm. This is not a jig thought. The difference is not just tempo, the march being somewhat slower, it’s about the “feel”. Hopefully playing the tune in these different rhythms will give you an idea for the feel I’m talking about. The march is a more “dotted” rhythm.
So, we start on a suspended chord and then move up the neck using the open top string- choices! There’s lots of scope in this tune for all the ornamentation ideas we’ve been discussing. Here in the first part we are using the little finger to tap the note on the second string.
The next phrase is a little motif that occurs throughout the tune. This is a common feature in Celtic music where a phrase will occur at different points throughout a tune. I call it “data compression” as you only have to learn it once! Each of the four parts of the tune repeats and on the repeat of the 1st part I vary the bass line. But remember to let the melody sit on top and not crowd it out.
Here we can see a distinction between Scottish and Irish music. In Scottish music, in a sense, the variations are often built into the tune. An Irish musician would play Out On the Ocean three or four times with differing twists each time. A tune like this has four parts which are similar but not the same. I think of them as variations on the “theme” of the tune
The second part starts with the phrase I think is key to the part. The rest is similar to the first. The motif from part one occurs exactly as before. The part also involves the triplet on the second string so review the exercise from part one on that.
The third part again has a little twist- a strand of melody that I separate out. One way of playing would be to walk up in the bass and again, we come to the motif from part one. Going down in the bass is also an option. Another harmonic idea is to play an E on the 4th string at the end of the part which gives us the suspended chord to start the repeat of the third part.
Now we are into the fourth and final part and again it’s defined by a little melody line. Again we have the motif from part one but instead of a straight repeat of the fourth part we borrow the ending from part three- a common feature in 4 part pipe tunes.
So there’s a lot going on for a seemingly simple melody written for an instrument with only nine notes. The highland pipe scale is very limited. The key to leaning the tune is to internalise the four first lines from each part, the “hook lines”, and then all should fall into place.