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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.

Piping, You're Doing It All Wrong

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How did we get by before the internet was invented? With a bevy of blogs and social media sites, all manner of advice is not lacking on the internet and that advice often comes under the rather presumptuous heading, "you're doing it all wrong!" Apparently, we should feel bad about ourselves in just about everything. From tying your shoes to being a dad, the internet has no shortage of course correction for all of us. I was recently so horrified that I was applying deodorant incorrectly, that I had to hang my head in shame. You might assume, then, that I am going to admonish you that you are doing it all wrong in your approach to piping.

Testing Methods to Silence A Practice Chanter Reed

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The Highland Bagpipe is not a quiet instrument. Indoors, the Highland Bagpipe can reach a noise level of 122 decibels (dB). By comparison, a jet airplane taking off can reach 130 dB at 100 meters. Noise at 120 dB can cause hearing damage after short-term exposure. This reinforces the need for hearing protection when playing the pipes.

Stripping Away the Inessential

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Joanne Rowling, a young woman living in Edinburgh raising her daughter, had realized one of her greatest fears. “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.” Rowling, however, feared failure more than she feared poverty. Her life story holds an inspirational lesson for pipers.

Pearls of Wisdom from Robert Mathieson

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The art of manipulating bagpipe chanter reeds has often been considered a black art. In three recent Dojo U classes, Robert Mathieson helps to dispel the notion that there is some secret to manipulating chanter reeds. The classes, as with all Dojo U offerings, are chocked full of practical information. Three pearls of wisdom, though, stuck out.

Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 2

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In the paper, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, K. Anders Ericsson, et al, note that “the maximal level of performance for individuals in a given domain is not attained automatically as function of extended experience, but the level of performance can be increased even by highly experienced individuals as a result of deliberate efforts to improve.”

Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 1

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In the paper, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, K. Anders Ericsson, et al, note that “the maximal level of performance for individuals in a given domain is not attained automatically as function of extended experience, but the level of performance can be increased even by highly experienced individuals as a result of deliberate efforts to improve.”

Practicing Slowly

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Perhaps you’ve been to a live performance and have noted how relaxed and fluid the piper sounds. His or her finger work is spot on; each embellishment is crisp and even. You think to yourself, “I can do that!” Inspired by such a performance, you rush home, fire up the pipes, try to push the tempo, and the death grip sets in. You are anything but relaxed and your fingerwork becomes sloppy.

"What Is ALAP? What Is ASAP?"

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ALAP and ASAP are acronyms. ASAP stands for As Long As [Musically] Possible (ALAP). ASAP stands for As Short As [Musically] Possible (ASAP). ALAP/ASAP is a method for learning and teaching “dot-cut” rhythms, dotted eighth notes followed by a sixteenth note, on the Highland Bagpipe.

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.