Correction to This Article
This column misspelled the name of the Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant in Fairfax County.

Three Wise Guys: Bagpipes, How to Propose, Four Stupid Dots, a Stench Near Fort Belvoir

(Danny Hellman - For The Washington Post)
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dear Wise Guys:

I am Scotch Irish, and after a couple of drinks I can listen to the sound of bagpipes. However, a number of my acquaintances don't like the sound at all. I know what the melody pipe does, but what exactly is the purpose of the drone pipes? At times, they all but drown out the melody. They must be uniquely Scottish, like haggis, which also goes down better with a couple of drinks.

A Beamin' Scotty

Dan: You're not alone. Other people have a problem with the drone pipes. (There are three of them, all sounding an A.) Professional bagpiper Robert Mitchell has been asked by clients to cut out the droning sound. But the principled piper has done so only twice in his 40-year career (when recording tracks with other instruments). The drone pipes, you see, supply harmony, Mitchell says. They give the melody depth and breadth.

"When you put harmonies on overtones, it makes the music more interesting," says Mitchell, on the phone from his home in West Virginia. "We don't have many keys on the pipe. We have A and D. There's also a B minor. The whole effect of a tune is going to be enhanced by the sound of a drone. We don't have any volume control on the pipes. It can turn very monotonous."

Hence the drone pipes, whose self-contained monotony stops the entire bagpipe sound from being monotonous. Get it? No? Have a couple of drinks then.

Joe: Wow, even reading about bagpipes is annoying.

Dear Wise Guys:

Could you please give me some pointers on how to propose to a most eligible bachelor?


Joe: How about this? Cut out this column and hand it to the person you're proposing to. If you've been handed a clipping of this column, that means the person who gave it to you wants to marry you. That or the person's just messing with you. Assuming the former, what's your answer?

Dan: If your answer is yes, then say yes. If your answer is no, then continue reading. Pretend your cellphone is vibrating. Take out your phone, look at the screen and casually say, "Oh, it's my parole officer."

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