Bagpiper Gerald Muirhead

Gerald Muirhead was born and raised in Edinburgh and completed his study of piping under the late Pipe-Major Angus MacDonald M. B. E..

He was a piper with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and learned much of his piping there. The world-wide million seller Amazing Grace was performed by this pipe band and the recording is still available on CD.

After leaving the pipe band he has been in great demand as a solo piper. He has played on top of the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle during the Edinburgh International Festival and was filmed by the BBC.

He has played at many music festivals in Europe, and he has had the honour of performing for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

He is very interested in Japanese history and came to Japan in 1992. He has been active as a piper and teacher. He has won several top prizes in International bagpipe contests in Asia since 1993.

He is a member of The Japan Scotland Association contributing friendship, culture and education between Scotland and Japan. He also teaches British culture and life style at university.

Gerald often plays bagpipes at the British Embassy for various occasions.


A brief explanation of the different types of bagpipe tunes and their time signatures

There are two main groups (categories of tunes): Ceol Beag and Ceol Mor or Piobaireachd.

Ceol Beag

This music consists of light and middle music – i.e. marches, dancing tunes, slow airs and folk tunes. These tunes rely on their melodic value. They can be played up tempo (fast) with a minimum of embellishments i.e. grace notes etc. and they are still pleasant to listen too. Other more complex tunes require a certain amount of execution and pointing which makes them attractive. Their tempos are restricted to that which will give the best presentation of the music.

  • a 2/4 – Slow March, Quick March, Hornpipe, Lament.
  • b 3/4 – Retreat March, Walz.
  • c 4/4 – Slow + Quick March, Lament.
  • d 6/8 – Slow + Quick March, Jig, Lament.
  • e 9/8 – Retreat March, Slow March, Jig.
  • f C 4/4 Strathspey – This is a dance tune with a strong – weak – medium – weak although in quadruple rhythm.
  • g C 4/4 Reel – This is also a dance tune which a strong – weak – strong – weak rhythm. This is also the oldest form of dance music organized in Scotland.

However there are also competition strathspey and reels which are not for dancers but are written for their musical excellence. This is also the case for some hornpipes and jigs.

Jigs are played rounder with a 1-2-3, 4-5-6 rhythm with the accent on 1st & 4th beat. Hornpipes are played in a 1-2, 1-2 rhythm quickly.

Ceol Mor or Piobaireachd

This is the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. It starts with a slow theme and then becomes more complex with variations of the theme, and finally returns to the ground-work called the Urlar. Various types of Ceol Mor are Salutes, Laments and Gatherings.