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John Holcombe

John Holcombe
John began piping at the ripe old age of 55 years. Always liking the sound of the bagpipes, John grew up in Oklahoma, where he never had a chance early on to experience firsthand this amazing instrument. But after moving to Indianapolis, he had the great fortune in 2004 to begin lessons with Craig Waugh, and Open Grade piper originally from Manitoba, Canada. Through that outstanding instruction, along with annual attendance at Jack Lee’s Piping Hot Summer Drummer and being a founding and continuing premium member of Dojo University, John has continued through hard work and determination to advance his knowledge and technical skills. As a retired research physician, John now enjoys immersing himself in piping, and he is proud to have won several first place medals in Grade 4 competitions in EUSPBA-sanctioned events. John’s current goal is to achieve the Grade 3 level of competence.

Uncovering the Dangerous Psychological Pitfall in Steady Blowing

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Blowing steadily and consistently at the chanter reed’s sweet spot is a learned task. Involves mastering a “trifecta” of skills: Identifying the exact pressure we want to blow steadily at, well-coordinated physical blowing skills, and the ability to avoid mental blowing anomalies caused by our brains as we try to navigate the difficult fingerwork of

The Hidden Fact about Steady Blowing That is Holding You Back

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How often have we pipers been told to “blow steady” or that our chanter notes or drones are “wavering” in and out of tune while we’re playing? “Steady blowing” is a learned skill, and for most of us pipers it does not come naturally. As a matter of fact, most of the world’s population of

How to Use a Water Manometer to Find the Chanter Reed’s Sweet Spot

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A water manometer is an extremely useful tool that can help us to achieve several fundamental goals in piping, including blowing at the correct pressure for our chanter reed with calibrated drone reeds, and with steady blowing. This article will focus only on the first goal, blowing at the correct pressure. Subsequent articles will cover

Why a Learning Bagpiper Should NOT Aim for Steady Blowing

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Many who are reading this may consider that the title above is pure heresy, because, after all, we pipers have been consistently admonished to "blow steady"! Of course a bagpipe has to be blown steadily—it’s the essence of the instrument, right? Why would we not believe that blowing steady should be our primary objective when

How to Build Your Own Water Manometer

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If you are a member of Dojo University, or have visited the site, you have no doubt heard about a water manometer. You will also understand what a worthwhile tool it is that can help us to achieve several essential goals in piping, including blowing at the chanter reed’s sweet spot, calibrating our drone reeds,

Learn a New Tune the Dojo Way

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When first looking at a new tune, how many of us get out our practice chanter, take a few deep breaths, and start plowing our way through the entire first part, or goodness knows, the entire tune? It’s a new tune, so it must be OK to sound a bit sloppy at first, right? Those embellishments will come around over time, I’m sure, after I’ve played the tune a few hundred times. And besides, I’m so good already that I don’t need to use a metronome! Unfortunately, these statements describe too many novice and intermediate level pipers. So, let’s take a look at a logical, proven, and reliable way to approach a new tune.

Tuning Logic—“The Blow Trick”

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How often does a note on our chanter sound out of tune with our drones, but we can’t figure out if it’s sharp or flat? And if we can’t define which way it’s out of tune, how do we even begin to fix it? One simple approach is to use a really nifty technique known as the “blow trick” to answer these questions.

Using Science to Describe Playing “On the Beat”

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We pipers know that playing “on the beat” is critical, not only for unison in a group, but also to attain total musicality in the music we’re playing. However, as an individual how many of us have been told that we play “consistently ahead of the beat”, or that we are “sometimes on the beat, but not always”?

How to Thread a Drone Reed Seat

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One of the biggest fears some pipers have is that one of their drone reeds will suddenly come out of its reed seat and fall into the pipebag, leaving you with no ability to play. If this ever happens, trust me here, it will occur during one of your most important performances. But there is a way to totally eliminate the possibility of a drone reed becoming dislodged, and that is to “thread” the reed seat using a commonly found tool.