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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.

"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.

A Positive Attitude Toward Performance

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Things were not looking good. We were down 7 to 1 in the fifth inning. Our opponents, Hillside Team #9, were the bullies of the league. Their lineup was stacked. They had won ten straight games by the 10 run rule. They didn’t play to win; they played for blood. They had won their last eleven games by the ten run rule. In our last game with them, we, too, had suffered the ignominy of the mercy rule. And, Murphy was pitching. He didn’t really pitch. He threw fire. Most of our players only heard the slap of the ball in the catcher’s mitt and the ump’s “steerike” call before they were even ready. Rumor had it that no one had put the ball in play off of him since the second game of the season.

Practicing Relaxation

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We are all too familiar with the "death grip." Our fingers go white and are almost glued to the chanter with stress. The thumb on our lower hand develops a divot and an imprint of the high A hole is tattooed into the pad of the thumb on our upper hand.

Demand More From Yourself

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In order to progress as a piper, you will need to improve shortcomings in your technique. The first step toward improvement is to identify where your technique falls short. The second step is to identify a method that will help you to improve your technique.

It Doesn't Take Talent to Hustle

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Andy was not athletically gifted. At full speed, he was a step slower than his teammates. His arm was not particularly strong and he lacked the quickness and coordination to regularly put the bat on the ball. Yet, Andy had qualities that made him a coach’s delight.

To Improve As A Piper...Exercise Care

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One characteristic that is often overlooked in practice is the notion of care. Daniel Levitin tells his students “if they want to do well on a test, they have to really care about the material as they study it.” (1)

If you care about something, whether it is a test, an exercise, or a 2/4 march, you will tend to execute the task much better.

Going Deep with Your Piping

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May was a good month. I was on top of the world. I was practicing regularly and I was, I thought, in a position where I could play well and compete successfully. Then I recorded myself. I sounded terrible. I had been recording my performances on a regular basis in the past, but, for some unknown reason, I fell off the wagon. Pity, because the recording was revealing.

The Eclipse and Bagpiping

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What does viewing a total solar eclipse have to do with playing the pipes? More than you would expect. On August 21st, 2017, a total solar eclipse inched its way through North America along an arc starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. For those in the path, the eclipse would be total; day would, briefly, turn to night.