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Mark Olson

Mark Olson
Mark Olson is a software engineer in Omaha, NE. Over the years, he has played numerous musical instruments including the bagpipes, guitar, piano, flute, and saxophone. As a young man, Mark competed as a solo piper. Due to the demands of raising a family, Mark had to forgo his musical pursuits. While he regrets the fact he gave up the bagpipes, he is proud of the fact that both of his sons have grown to be fine young men. With the nest now empty, he has picked up the pipes once again. If he gets his chops, and his groove, back, he plans to compete again as a solo piper.

Future Proof Yourself

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Think about this for a second. How are you going to sabotage your practice in the future? What excuses will you use to skip a practice session?

Dedicate Some Extra Time to Improve

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Nature or nurture? Do the top pipers in the world possess some sort of genetic predisposition that allows them to play with speed, grace, and expression?

To Be a Better Piper, Work on the Basics

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Listen to the Piper's Dojo Audio Experience, #206, Audio Lesson With Grade 3 Solo Competitor. You will note that, if we momentarily set aside the comments on tuning, Andrew's constructive criticisms revolve around the first five finger work fundamentals:
  1. Scale Navigation
  2. Basic Rhythm
  3. Gracenotes and Gracenote Quality
  4. Embellishments and Gracenote Quality
  5. Dot/Cuts (ALAP/ASAP)

As You Improve, Slow Down

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You've logged more than a few hours practicing. The desk has a little bit of wear where you set the sole of your practice chanter. Your gracenotes are becoming tidy. Your embellishments are becoming consistent and crisp. Your natural inclination is to reach over to the metronome and crank the dial up. Stop! You still can reap the benefits of practicing slowly.

James Scott Skinner

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There have been, over the years, many great composers of bagpipe music. Many of the great composers were also pipers. George Stewart McLennan, for example, was a master at ceol beag and was known as “the king of pipers.” McLennan’s compositions include notable tunes such as "Dancing Feet," "The Jig of Slurs," "Inveran," "The Little Cascade," and "The Strathspey King." The latter tune was written in honor of James Scott Skinner.

Identify, Determine the Cause, Solve the Problem

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Things go wrong. It is our condition as humans. We aren't machines that execute tasks perfectly every time. In piping, we have a multitude of variables to which we need to attend in order to have a successful performance. Some of those variables, such as the temperature and the relative humidity, our out of our control.

Tunes For Improving Rhythmic Accuracy

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Rhythmic accuracy, scale navigation, grace note quality, embellishment quality, and ALAP/ASAP, are foundation skills on the Highland bagpipe.

What Can You Do in Five Minutes?

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As a younger man, I worked at night. I was able to practice four to five hours before I went to work. When I returned home at the end of my shift, I’d practice for another two. I made quite a bit of progress and, as a result, identified six hours of practice as the minimum I needed in order to progress.

Practicing Your Bogeys

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Golfers who want to improve their games pinpoint their shortcomings and come up with a plan. Bagpipers can too.