The Bagpiper Blog
When you progress from the practice chanter to the pipes, players face quite a transition, simply because the pipe chanter is larger and feels different. Over the course of time, I have had students complain that they weren't happy with their bagpipe technique. To which I ask them, have you practiced technique on the pipes? There response is something like: "What do you mean?". In my book I have quite a few pages devoted to developing technique; however, one of the first things that I would do is practice playing and holding the positions so that your fingers are properly closing the holes all of the way. I would then practice playing the scale with each of the grace notes. I would also march while doing any and all of this. If you are going to practice doublings, the doublings are actually played in sixteen note time. If you are counting "1 e & uh" for sixteenth notes, the doublings are played 1 e at walking pace. When you start practicing you should march in place. Your feet going left-right-left-right are in quarter note time. Take the doublings apart and play the G gracenote on the left foot and the D gracenote on the right. The rhythm is 1 2 1 2 1 2 etc. When you can do that well, then you will change the rhythm pattern to "1 & 1 &" holding the second note over the 2nd beat. Finally you do it at sixteenth note time. Practicing in this manner will help you develop your doublings evenly. Better yet, you could order James McGilvray's "Rhythmic Fingering" from my website: (Order here) and play every page on the pipes.
I would encourage you to warm up each "practice session" with some technique. I would also practice "Big, Slow & Open" while marching in place. The important thing is to get your feet moving! Bagpipers march and play at the same time. Just playing the pipes with no plan is not practicing!
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".