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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.

"What Is a 4/4 March?"

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A tune with a time signature of 4/4 (also known as "common time") means that there are four beats in every bar, and a quarter note gets each beat. Thus, the upper number indicates the number of beats, and the lower number designates which note value gets each beat. Some 4/4 marches are simple and straightforward to play, but others can seem daunting with their complexity.

"How Long Does It Take to Learn to Play the Bagpipes?"

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Like many such open-ended questions, it depends! A short answer would be that the time it takes to learn the pipes depends on age, enthusiasm to learn, patience, and a willingness to spend sufficient time learning and practicing.

"What Is a 'Dotted' Note All About?"

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Do you recall the frustration, as a beginner piper, being told to play the music as it is written, but then told to “hold” certain notes longer than others? It takes some time and experience to understand and to appreciate that the music for the bagpipes is not often “played as written”, especially when the music involves “dotted and cut” notes. It's important to understand what this really means if you expect to get more musicality out of your playing.

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,

Understanding Harmonics—Part 2

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How many of us pipers have a firm grasp of the physics of sound that causes the unique and rich sound of our bagpipes? We are told that we should maintain a pressure in the pipe bag that is at the chanter reed’s “sweet spot”, that pressure that causes the reed to maximally vibrate and bring out the most “harmonics” and richness of sound of the reed. But what, really, are harmonics?

Understanding Harmonics—Part 1

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How many of us pipers have a firm grasp of the physics of sound that causes the unique and rich sound of our bagpipes? We are told that we should maintain a pressure in the pipe bag that is at the chanter reed’s “sweet spot”, that pressure that causes the reed to maximally vibrate and bring out the most “harmonics” and richness of sound of the reed. But what, really, are harmonics?

The "Sweet Spot" Explained

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Has your Pipe Major or instructor ever told you to “blow tone” or “blow steady” but never really explained what those terms mean or how to make them happen?

Why You Should Care about the "Pitch-Time" Continuum

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Do you know pipers who take their pipes out of the bag, put the drones together, and start playing without taking any time to “warm” them up? Unfortunately, the resulting sound is enough to make anyone dislike the sound of the pipes. But even if we play the pipes for a few minutes before tuning, how many of us have a deep understanding of reasons behind warming up?

How to Hemp a Joint That Will Last for Years

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Do you find yourself constantly adjusting the snugness of the joints of your drones’ tuning pins, or the joints where the drones enter the stocks, or your chanter joint? Wouldn’t it be nice to have joints and tuning pins so well hemped that little time at all is needed to make needed minor adjustments?