Home Class Archives BAEYS Tutor BAEYS Chapter 1 Tutor [Vintage] - Lesson 1-1: Practice Chanter Basics
Tutor [Vintage] - Lesson 1-1: Practice Chanter Basics

Tutor [Vintage] - Lesson 1-1: Practice Chanter Basics

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In this first lesson, we will learn about the practice chanter, how to take care of it, and how to properly hold it while playing.

1-1.1: Basic Care and Maintenance of the Practice Chanter.

The practice chanter is a quieter version of the full bagpipe chanter, designed for developing technique. It has three main parts:

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The Chanter: This is the part of the chanter where you will place and move your fingers, in all sorts of different ways, in order to execute bagpipe tunes.

The Mouthpiece: This is the “cover” for your reed, which you will use to blow air into the chanter.

The Reed: A practice chanter reed is a simple double-reed made from plastic. It is located snugly in the reed seat at the top of your chanter.

It’s really quite simple to take care of your practice chanter. Just follow these two main guidelines:

Treat your practice chanter reed with extreme care and caution. It is quite fragile, but if you’re careful it will last many years. Never let the reed touch the sides of the mouthpiece when you’re taking it apart or putting it together.

Keep your Practice Chanter Dry.  When you’re done playing, simply take the three pieces apart, and let them air-dry.

That’s it! Now we’re ready to start playing.

1-1.2: Properly Holding the Chanter, Sounding Low G


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Bagpipers do not use the tips of their fingers like other Woodwind players. This is because we will need a lot more speed and agility, due to the design of the bagpipe, and the style in which we play. Also, our holes are generally bigger than other Woodwind holes, so using our pads makes it easier to fully cover the holes.

Instead of using our fingertips, we will use the pads of our fingers.

On our Left Hand (hereby referred to as our “Top” Hand), we will use the first pads of our thumb (which covers the hole on the back of the practice chanter), index, middle, and ring fingers. The pinky is not used, and should just loosely “follow” the movements of the ring finger.

On our Right Hand (hereby referred to as our “Bottom” Hand), we will use the second pads of our pointer, middle, and ring fingers, and use the first pad of our pinky. Our thumb will rest underneath the chanter, right underneath our middle finger.

To clearly see how to properly hold the chanter, refer to the Video for this lesson.

Covering all of the holes completely will sound the lowest note of the bagpipe scale; a Low G. This can be very challenging at first. Don’t move on until you can sound a clear Low G on the first try, every time.

1-1.3: Getting a Good Sound out of your Practice Chanter


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It can be challenging to get your reed to sound good at first. You need to find the “sweet spot” that produces the best sound. Here are some quick clues to help you find the sweet spot:

If the chanter sounds rough and un-tuneful, that usually is an indication that you need to blow a bit harder.

If the chanter is squeaking or shutting off entirely, that usually means you are blowing too hard.

To explore the range of sounds that your reed makes, start at the lowest possible pressure, and gradually increase until the reed shuts off. You will experience the full range of sounds, including the sweet spot somewhere near the middle of the pressure range.

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Andrew Douglas Andrew is a prolific practitioner of the bagpipe, having been active at the highest level of pipe bands, solo competition, teaching, and creative endeavors for the past 20 years. He's also the founder and creator of Dojo U and of PipersDojo.com

Comment(6)

  1. great job andrew , just started today with my wish to be able to play bagpipe ( i'm 63y) ; i really understand everything , your English is perfect for me ( i'm french speaking belgian) , the speed how to handle is great , you've confinced me to continue with dojo ; i do believe it will be succesfull , although they (the others) claim it's impossible without a living professor in front of you ; i take the challenge , i'll tell you later on who i am and why....thank you for now ; regards from brussels belgium on a cold wet Snowy night , etienne

  2. I'm 65 and have always liked bagpipe music. I'm starting out with the Dojo course, and I am practicing daily. I sound awful, my wife and daughter have banished me to the garage to practice, but I'm determined to play. Even my dogs attack me when I play, and they're Scottish (a Westie and a Border Collie). I
    'm thankful to Andrew for providing the basics on up. When I play better, I'll get a live teacher up the road in Dunedin, Florida, but I'll always stay with the Dojo. I can't wait to play the real thing and actually make music (without being attacked).

  3. hi Andrew .your vidoes are awesome.great job.im 58 and was told by an experienced band piper,that I was to old to learn bagpipes.so Andrew and carl.im all yours and I so egar tu learn by your courses that im never to old tu learn.so im pumped up and so excited tu prove to everyone that your never to old rt.its all about heart and good attitude..my goal is to do my best because I want to be the best,amen.thanx again.

  4. Hi Mike here. just started to learn the chanter. this lesson seems good. as i am just starting out it will be good to be able to go back and review a time or two. this will help me greatly, Mike

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