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.
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.
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”?
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.
Have you ever felt that you were struggling with your pipes, or that they were too hard to blow, or that you just couldn’t blow enough air into the bag to maintain the correct pressure? Can you play for no more than 10-15 minutes, even with an “easy” chanter reed? Have you answered "yes" to any of these questions?
Are you like many pipers who think that using an electronic tuner is the only way to get a great sound out of their bagpipe? Have ever told yourself that you simply don’t have “an ear” that is trained well enough to tune your own pipes?
A 6/8 march is a lively tune written in compound time that is played with a palpable and definite “swing” rhythm. Picture a pipe band marching down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, playing a sprightly 6/8 march, with their kilts swinging to and fro. That’s what we’ll be shooting for as we discuss 6/8’s.
Most pipers have heard their pipe major or piping instructor, sometimes quite forcefully, urge you to “blow tone”! But how many PMs can fully describe what the term means, or how to achieve it?