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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.

Fusing Dot-Cut Rhythms to Embellishments

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Musical “expression” can be defined as the element of a musical performance that goes beyond simply playing different notes. Expression allows a performer to put feeling or emotion into the music.

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?

"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.

What Is the Graduated Tuning Effect?

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Your chanter seems to sound a bit flat in pitch. Or your Pipe Major says your chanter is “too sharp.” What is the first thing that many pipers will do?

How to Deal With Roadblocks in Your Piping

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Many consider the Great Highland Bagpipe to be one of the most, if not the most, difficult of instruments in the world to master.

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