I find that in teaching bagpipers how to play the bagpipe, I need to remind them of what a bagpiper is.
“A bagpiper is person who can play a list of bagpipe tunes on the bagpipe by memory, who can develop their own music, and who can maintain their own bagpipe,” I tell them.
Can you do that? I think that the most important thing that a bagpiper can have is a list of tunes. This list needs to have the tunes in playing order. There are certain tunes like “Scotland the Brave” and “The Rowan Tree”, “The Green Hills of Tyrol” and “When the Battle’s Over” that are played in sets. You need to have your list in sets.
Can you learn a new tune without hearing it first? There are more than 500 tunes in the Scots Guards Volume 1 edition. Can you drop open a page and play it? That should be every bagpiper’s goal. The goal is to become an accomplished bagpipe musician. I honestly believe that a bagpiper’s life in this area is dependent on how much music they can produce. I think that a lot of bagpipers drop out when they get sick of playing the 12-tune repertoire most bands promote.
Memorizing music is the next part of this equation. I have found that if I play a tune enough times, I’ll know it by memory. I also know that if I can sing it, I can play it. When you practice, you need to play down your list on a daily basis. At some point the tunes will pop starting at the top. When they pop you will have them memorized. At that point you won't need to play them every day, however you should play them at least once per week.
The final qualification to being a bagpiper is to know how to maintain your own instrument. Do you know how to hemp, change a bag, and regulate your drone and chanter reeds? These are all necessary skills to being a successful bagpiper. Do you really want to pay someone else to do your maintenance?
All of these skills you can probably learn on your own. The question is how much time do you have? Having someone to help you with these problems will save you a lot of time and money and get you to the goal of being a bagpiper faster.
Let me know if I can help you.
Today while perusing the "Old Geezer's Bagpipe Page" someone mentioned "Orange and Blue" played as a 6/8 march. Funny thing the tune in 6/8 that they were talking about was "Hot Punch". I've played both of the tunes for years and never really thought about the fact that they were related. In looking around for a tune to arrange, I found one called "The Duke of Gordon" which I know as a Strathspey. In fooling around with it, I found that I could make this tune a better jig than a march. See what you think. Here is the picture and below is the file to download.
What are your dreams concerning your bagpipe project for this coming year? Do you want to be a better bagpiper? Would you like to be able to play more and different music?
After 21 years spent teaching bagpipers via private lessons, I have found a direct correlation between their actual bagpipe life and their ability to produce new music. I find that the average bagpiper life is about 7 years. A bagpiper comes into our hobby, learns the 10 tunes that his band plays and dies of boredom within that 7 year period.
The only thing that keeps a bagpiper from learning more tunes and a larger variety of tunes is his/her ability to read and process rhythm.
About 10 years ago, I introduced a product called “A Piper’s Christmas”. This book includes 42 Christmas hymns, songs and carols arranged to play on our Great Highland Bagpipe. I introduced this book to my students in October. I told them that they needed to define the rhythm for each selection by writing it in with pencil, practice singing each (since they already knew many or most of the songs) and then learn to play each one. When January came around and we went back to the traditional music, I found that their ability to sight read music had vastly improved, simply by carrying out those three steps with the Christmas music.
I’d like to invite you to first take my Rhythm Program (it’s free) and consider buying my book. It is the beginning of November. If you were to learn one Christmas song per day (it doesn’t have to be memorized), you may be able to play the whole book by the time Christmas Day arrives.
If you have a band that struggles to learn new music, I’ll offer the book at a discounted rate if you buy 10 or more copies. There is practice chanter audio available for each tune. The book is available in both hard copy and digital format.
To start the Rhythm Program go to: https://www.bagpipelessons.net/bagpipe-rhythm-lessons.html After taking the lessons, you can click on the link to the books and see the full description.
I hope you take advantage of my free lessons and offer. It could change your bagpipe career forever!
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".