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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.

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.

"Are Plastic Bagpipes the Same as Wood?"

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These days, Highland bagpipe makers are turning well-crafted sets from both wood and plastic. The primary difference between wood and plastic bagpipes is the material used.

Are You a Scientist?

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Are you a scientist? Are you a musician? Or are you both?

"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.