In my last blog post I told you about my student (the flight attendant) who was having a problem trying to find time to practice her bagpipe. We went back and forth on that for some time, trying to find her a solution. Just to recap: My flight attendant student travels 4 days a week in her job. Her practice chanter playing is excellent. However, because she is away for long stretches, she doesn’t get the benefit of blowing and squeezing her bagpipe. We talked about using a drone valve, but then something hit me that I thought would be better.
When you buy a maintenance kit for your bagpipe, you usually get stock corks, drone corks, hemp, a mandril and some other tools to help maintain your bagpipe. I always thought that it was funny that you got 5 stock corks in the set. You probably would never use more than 4 in one sitting. Anyway, I told her to take one of those stock corks and drill a small hole in it. When she travels, I suggested she take the bag and blow stick only with corks in the drone stocks. In the chanter stock she can insert the cork with the hole in it. The idea is that when she is in her hotel room on her trips, she can blow and squeeze the bagpipe and her neighbors won’t hear a peep. The hole creates enough resistance as the air escapes, similar in force to blowing all of the reeds.
Another student from way back came around again after 10 years. She complained that although she started her bagpipe project 12 years ago, she still isn’t able to blow her pipes for any length of time. I asked her how often she blows her pipes. She said maybe twice a week. I told her that we would both be dead by the time she is able to play for any length of time at that rate. This situation might be perfect for her also, and anyone like her. You can blow and squeeze while watching TV or any time you want as it will be quiet practicing.
The question is this: Does your lifestyle inhibit your bagpipe career? If so, this might be for you.
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".