It's almost timeFall is fast approaching. I find that this is the time of year when most people start their new projects, coinciding with the school year. I've decided that I am going back to the pipe band world, this time as a player. My bucket list includes playing in the Pipe Band World Championships as a goal. I went to a band practice that wasn't mine for the first time in a few years and felt some extreme relief to know that they only thing that I am responsible for is learning the music.
Goals?What’s your goal this year? This is a subject that I have been talking to a lot of my students about lately. The problem is this: Most bagpipe students start lessons because they are curious about the process of learning to play the pipes. The tunes become the goals and the building blocks to make that happen. In 6 to 12 months, my students are ready for pipes. The pipes then become the goal. They start out playing the chanter only and adding a drone as a sub goal to the initial goal of playing the pipes.
After a couple years spent developing a lot of music, I have found that a lot of students then decide to “hang it up”. The problem stems from the fact that they do not have a bigger dream than simply playing the pipes.
Solution!I think one of the biggest tools that probably isn’t used by the majority of bagpipers is the bagpipe band. The bagpipe is a social instrument. If you look at piano players, for example, there isn’t a whole lot of places where a piano player can go to play with other pianists. The bagpipe, being what it is, allows that to happen. If you’re in the “bagpipe doldrums” then maybe you need to think about playing in a band. You might also think about competing. Competition isn’t about “beating the kilt off the next piper”, it’s a reason to practice, learn new tunes and conquer fear. The Pipe Band Associations judges aren’t there to tell you that you stink as a player; they are there to give you an evaluation that you can take home, digest and use to work out the problems. Over a period of time, you will start placing, winning and moving to the next level. What a great system. It almost reminds me of Capitalism. Oh, well, that’s a subject for another post.
If you have the “bagpipe doldrums” then it is time to make a decision. I know mine scared the “begeezus” out of me this last week; however. I realized that I was prepared and ready to move forward. You’re next!
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".