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:
- Scale Navigation
- Basic Rhythm
- Gracenotes and Gracenote Quality
- Embellishments and Gracenote Quality
- Dot/Cuts (ALAP/ASAP)
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.
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.
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.
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.