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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.

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.

Drone Reed Calibration—Wow, What a Difference!

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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?

Throw Away Your Bagpipe Tuner!

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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?

Dealing with Competition Nerves

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Are you like me, who has a tendency to get a bit nervous before either a solo or band competition? Do you wonder how some pipers appear to be so calm in the same situation?

What is a 6/8 March?

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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.

"What Does It Mean When I Hear About 'Blowing Tone?'”

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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?