Well, does it? I have spent the last 22 years teaching (mostly) adults how to play the bagpipe. Most of my adult students work 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday. The students who succeed are the students who blow their pipes regularly (at least 3 to 4 time per week). If you only blow your pipes once a week, you and I will both have given up by the time you get any results. That’s the truth!
I have been teaching a woman who is a flight attendant for a major airline. She flies on the average of 4 days a week, all around the globe. It’s a challenge for her to find time to blow her pipes.
The biggest challenge that we all have playing the bagpipe is building the strength to play the instrument. We need to be blowing and squeezing that bagpipe regularly to develop our lungs, lip and arm. The question is: What do you do with someone like this who is often either in the air or at a hotel?
She and I have gone back and forth with a lot of ideas. Using the fitting from a split stock that connects to the blow stick to the tube, we have found that she can blow up balloons with that. This gives her the resistance needed when blowing to develop her lips and lungs. But what about the blowing and squeezing?
Years ago someone was starting to think about the moisture problem created by blowing into the bagpipe. This is when we played “wet”: hide bags and seasoning, and cane reeds. I remember seeing a stock cork with a copper tube in it. That was supposed to mount to the inside of the blow stick stock, trapping the water in the stock. Maybe it was the older version of the Moose Valve. What if she took her bag and blow stick only, all stocks corked with that feature in the chanter stock on the outside? She could be sitting inside her hotel room, watching TV while blowing and squeezing. She would get the needed exercise and wouldn’t be keeping her hotel neighbors awake.
I then realized that when I put her bagpipe together the first time that I had installed a drone valve in the bass drone. We can adjust the tension by inserting a screwdriver down the bass drone stock from the top. What if we used that instead to regulate the air? I called her back and asked to have her husband close that valve a little tighter to create resistance while corking the tenor and chanter stocks. I did this experiment here and it worked!
Does your job affect your bagpipe habit? If it does, this might be a way for you to continue building your strength to become a bagpiper. What do you have to lose? Give it a try!
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".