I presently have a lot of students who have come to the point in this process where they are starting on their pipes. “”Blowing and squeezing”” is a relatively difficult concept to achieve properly.
The first thing that needs to happen is for the student to discover what a full bag feels like. Most people believe that full is 100% and they squeeze down to 75%. I think that belief makes for a very tired piper after only a few minutes of playing.
Consider this idea: if a tire is full at 100% capacity, it won’t support the weight of the car. PSI (pounds per square inch) is achieved after 100%, right? The first thing that the new bagpiper should do is cork their chanter stock and 2 of the drones. The goal is to be able to blow enough air into the pipes to shut down the 1 existing drone. Let’s say that that happens at 130%. Where they should be blowing is up to 125% and squeezing down to 120%. If they “”work the psi”” in this manner, they will have to blow and squeeze very little to keep the pipes sounding. This results in long playing times. A Receiving Line at a wedding can sometimes be up to 45 minutes long!
After they can blow out the first drone, the goal is to remove the corks one by one and continue the process until they can blow out all three drones at the same time. Again, this establishes to them what a full bag feels like. I would then cork all of the drones and install the chanter and practice playing a steady tone on that and even go back to some basic fingering exercises just to get my hands used to the pipe chanter fingering. All the while, the arm needs to be firm on the bag. You might practice squeezing in long durations to build some muscle in that arm.
This is a process that will take longer than a week to develop, it might even take a month. You need to be patient and listen to your teacher. Believe it or not, we can save the new student a lot of time, money and aggravation provided that they listen and do what we need them to do. I tell my students that my job is to teach them how to practice FOR THIS WEEK. Strong lungs and strong arms create a very enjoyable experience for everyone.”