Greetings! If you’re reading this, then I hope your holiday(s) was restful and full of piping or drumming! Actually, like most pipers, I took a little bit of time off, but not too much. Coming up next week I have a competition in Kansas City, Missouri, so no slacking off! Having recently commenced teaching bagpipes for the new year, I had a couple of ideas to pass along that some might find helpful, if only just starting on the pipes, or practice chanter.
1. Write out the letters. If you, or you’re student, are having some trouble learning to read the scale on sheet music, or in some cases re-learning reading the scale, I highly suggest writing the letter of the note underneath the corresponding note on the scale (as in the feature picture for this posting!). I have found this to be helpful for students with poor eyesight, or who just don’t have a knack for quick sight-reading.
2. Re-assess hand positioning on the chanter. I find that beginner bagpipers struggle with learning the correct hand and finger positioning on the chanter. Making sure that the top and bottom hands are positioned correctly, with the proper finger pad touching the chanter, will drastically reduce stress and discomfort while playing the chanter or bagpipes, for any amount of time. Additionally, it is important that the bottom hand thumb be located directly behind the “C” finger, or really, your middle finger (!).
3. Don’t be afraid of corks. Unless you are a full time professional piper, or are extremely addicted to piping, then chances are, you took a little time off around the holidays (as I mentioned above). This is perfectly normal, especially because this time of the year is the bagpipe competition “off-season” in North America. There’s nothing wrong in my opinion, for the amateur player to use drone or stock corks to make a bagpipe “goose.” This will ensure a much easier instrument on which to rebuild stamina, blow in a new reed, or learn new solo or band music.
I hope these tips help and all the best in 2017!