There is no adequate manner to depict a birl diagrammatically. Every
teacher has their own way to describe this embellishment. There are two
birls in common use - a heavy birl and a light birl, and it is
important to be competent at both.
In short, there are two actions in a birl. The heavy birl is best
described as “Tap and Across”. This means tap your little finger down
on Low ‘G’ and then pull it across the hole thus giving two strikes.
Only move you little finger, and try your best to avoid any extra
movements from other fingers (this maybe difficult). Try to feel in
your arm that you are controlling your little finger with two different
The light birl can be described as an upside down seven on the chanter
- slide your little finger down across the hole and back up
A birl can be preceded by a High ‘G’ gracenote or not - the music will
tell you this. Make both Low ‘A’s the same length. This movement
requires to be very fast.
There is quite considerable variation in the execution of birls. If
your teacher deviates from anything described above this does not
automatically mean that something is wrong. These Birls are however
used and recognised world-wide, whereas other styles may not be (yet?).
For a demonstration of the upside down seven birl, please click below: