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  1. #1
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    So You Want To Play The Bagpipes

    by the Pipers of X Marks the Scot

    So you've decided you want to play the bagpipes, eh? Well, let us help you get started. First, here's a warning: this is not an easy instrument. Many people drop out after only a few weeks or months. This takes dedication, commitment, time, energy, and money. If you cannot sacrifice one of those things, stick with the whistle.

    First, you'll need a practice chanter. What is a chanter? A chanter is the part of the bagpipe that plays the melody. A practice chanter is a chanter without the bag or any of the drones. With this you will learn how to play the tunes and embellishments. There are many good practice chanter manufacturers, Gibson and Dunbar both make wonderful chanters. You'll want to invest in one of these because you'll be using it the rest of your life. Ebay is not your friend. If you go for the cheapest chanter you can find, it will only make things difficult in the long run.

    "But why can't I just buy a bagpipe?" - This is a common question. Without knowing how to use the chanter, the bagpipes are useless. One does not learn how to play tunes on the bagpipes, they are for the performance. Learning tunes requires stopping, starting, and repeating. This is difficult on the pipes, because one cannot strike up the pipes, learn a section of a tune, then stop and put them down. Chanters are easy because they are smaller, quieter, and when you stop blowing, the sound stops.

    To learn tunes, you'll either join a band, buy a book, or both. It is extremely recommended that you join a band or receive formal training through a tutor or pipe major. There is no true substitute to having a live person there giving you immediate feedback and demonstrating how to play. Joining a band also helps you standardize your playing, and playing with other people will help you learn faster. If a live teacher is unavailable and a book is the only option, the almost universally-used book is the College of Piping Tutor. This is available for about $35 and almost every instructor recommends it as the best book. But BE CAREFUL. Self-taught pipers almost always develop bad habits which must be untaught by pipe majors when joining a band. This takes time and will slow your development considerably.

    Tips while leanring:
    -The first few months of scales and embellishments are boring and difficult, pay attention and work hard on them, if you don't you will be very sorry later on.
    -Be able to set aside prioritized time for practice. A good regimen is four days a week (minimum) for roughly an hour. But, everyone has to develop their own schedule. If you have to go more than a week without practice, then you may not have the schedule or the self-discipline to stick with it.
    -Go slow! This doesn't come over night. It takes a long time to learn a tune properly, so take the time necessary.
    -Metronomes are essential. Even if you believe you have a good internal beat, this will only help and even improve your sense of rhythm.
    -Be sure not to grip the chanter too hard. Your hands will become sore and your fingers won't be as nimble. It doesn't take a tight grip, just a firm grip.
    -Listening to good piping can only help, and there are plenty of piping CD's out there. Buy a few and train your ear to know what good piping sounds like.

    After years of practicing on the chanter, you may be ready to move onto pipes. Begin by talking to your pipe major. See what the band uses and what reeds and drones the rest of the people use. EBAY IS DANGEROUS. There are a lot of tempting offers, almost all of which are too good to be true. It is usually advisable to get a set of kitchen or practice pipes. These are bagpipe from none to 3 drones, but require less air than the Great Highland Bagpipes. This provides a gradual step up to the great pipes.

    So that's it. If you have any other questions, just ask. Some other good resources are the Bob Dunsire Forums, the Bagpipe Forum, and Bagpipe Talk.
    Last edited by beloitpiper; 14th October 08 at 02:47 PM.

  2. #2
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    What a great thread! I can read it without getting chewed out. Maybe some of my questions will eventually get answered, without me having to ask. That invariable receives a response of "Ask your instructor."
    "Two things are infinite- the universe, and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein.

  3. #3
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    An excellent thread gentlemen! Thank you!
    [SIZE="2"][FONT="Georgia"][COLOR="DarkGreen"][B][I]T. E. ("TERRY") HOLMES[/I][/B][/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE]
    [SIZE="1"][FONT="Georgia"][COLOR="DarkGreen"][B][I]proud descendant of the McReynolds/MacRanalds of Ulster & Keppoch, Somerled & Robert the Bruce.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE="1"]"Ah, here comes the Bold Highlander. No @rse in his breeks but too proud to tug his forelock..." Rob Roy (1995)[/I][/B][/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE]

  4. #4
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    Perfect timing!! My husband and I attended our first chanter lesson last week. Thank you for taking the time to post that thread.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by vmac3205 View Post
    Perfect timing!! My husband and I attended our first chanter lesson last week. Thank you for taking the time to post that thread.
    I've been going for almost two months. It's starting to get fun. It was tough and tedious at first (and still is at times) but has become very enjoyable.
    "Two things are infinite- the universe, and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein.

  6. #6
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    I already know that I'm getting a chanter for Christmas.
    Hoping I'm up to this
    It don't mean a thing, if you aint got that swing!!
    'S Rioghal Mo Dhream - a child of the mist

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloitpiper
    After years of practicing on the chanter, you may be ready to move onto pipes.
    Years? Well....maybe a few folks might take years. Usually, most intructors recommend 6 months to a year before touching any GHB.

    I do however agree that 4-5 days of practice a week (15min-1hr at a time) is a good discipline to start with. It is very beneficial to give yourself (and brain) a break to "process" the data. And it has been proven (somewhat) that mental practice during these breaks also helps in learning. In other words, picture yourself in your mind playing the tune or practicing while humming or whistling to yourself). I use this method when learning a new tune on a Practice Chanter (PC) before I attempt it on GHB.

    Another great learning tool is to invest in a decent tape/digital recorder. Record yourself. You would be surprised in what you DON'T hear while playing versus just listening. Metronomes as stated above are, in my opinion, essential. Get the kinds that can be set by time signature: 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 time. I use a Yamaha electronic piano that has a built-in metronome that can be set for different time signatures and beat (speed).

    These are just a few suggestions that will help down the road. Pretty much everthing was covered at the beginning of this thread. Remember...practice as much as you can without "burning out", get into a band or get an instructor if you can.....and have FUN!!
    [FONT="Century Gothic"]Kyp Crawford[/FONT]
    ([I]will play bagpipes for whisky[/I])

  8. #8
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    highlander_Daz is offline Oops, it seems this member needs to update their email address
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    to be honest I like to get people on a set of GHBs fairly rapid, blowing steady low A and one drone for a few minutes , normally after 3-6 months chanter practice, the i encourage them to hit the scale on the GHB changing from Blow to Squeeze whilst changing note, it suprising how it re-motivates students after 3-6 months drilling scale and doublings when the blow one note on a set of pipes it can really give fresh motivation at the 3-6 month stage where many students are hacked off with chater practice

  9. #9
    JS Sanders's Avatar
    JS Sanders is offline Oops, it seems this member needs to update their email address
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    Geez - "...years on the practice chanter, you may be ready to move onto pipes"?

    Perhaps what was meant to be written was months and was overlooked during proofreading.

    Few people are gonna hang around for years.

    Slan,
    steve


  10. #10
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    For those who don't know, bobdunshire.com is a lot like xmarks for bagpipers.
    Airman. Piper. Scholar. - Avatar: MacGregor Tartan
    “KILT, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and Americans in Scotland.” - Ambrose Gwinett Bierce
    www.melbournepipesanddrums.com

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