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My Daily 5-Step Checklist for Ultimate Bagpipe Efficiency

My Daily 5-Step Checklist for Ultimate Bagpipe Efficiency

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checklistThis past year, our band had a contest or two early in the year, and struggled to get the sound we wanted. How to improve I wonder???

I asked a few players in and around the band - what's you're setup routine at the beginning of each practice? Most people sort of blinked at me, and there were a few who took at stab at describing their haphazard process to me. And this is a Grade 1 band I'm talking about!

I was stunned to find that folks didn't have an easy, reliable, repeatable process that they used every time. That's what I have! That's how I can get my sound zoned in each time I play.

Aaaanyhow, here's what the Pipe Major and I came up with to teach the group, and ensure we could get a great sound every time:


Every time you play your pipes, you should have an easy checklist you perform to make sure you set yourself up to be able to produce great tonal quality and tuning. Here are 5 sure-fire steps that you should use:

  1. Check bag for air-tightness
  2. Check stock-joints for air-tightness
  3. Check reed-seats for air-tightness.
  4. Calibrate 1 drone to your chanter reed.
  5. Calibrate the other 2 drones to the first drone (thus completing the calibration process).

This is a very easy, logical list to remember, so it's easy to repeat every single day.

(By the way, you can click here for a tour of how to actually perform these steps. We also have an instrument fundamentals course that exhaustively goes through all of this stuff!

Now, the first few times you go through the 5 steps, there are elements that may take a while. You may need to season your bag if you haven't done it in a while. You may need to re-hemp some joints and reed-seats. You may need to spend a good amount of time getting the calibration right on your drone reeds.

However, the next time you play, this process will go much faster. If you play every day, within a few days these 5 steps will simply be a mental checklist that you just need to double-check before you start playing.

Try these steps for a full week of practice sessions. I betcha you'll experience a huge improvement in your comfort and sound quality!

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Andrew Douglas Andrew is a prolific practitioner of the bagpipe, having been active at the highest level of pipe bands, solo competition, teaching, and creative endeavors for the past 20 years. He's also the founder and creator of Dojo U and of PipersDojo.com

Comment(4)

  1. True, I moaned and groaned at the thought of the process, but as you promised, it becomes almost second nature and only takes minutes. I play mostly at 5000 ft. elevation, but do compete at sea level events and very glad to have this routine down pat. Thanks Andrew and Dojo U

    1. The pipe major always tuned my pipes and I knew very little about them. I watched the "TREE" videos and have my knowledge and confidence and pipes in good order. It is frustrating to spend a lot of time wrapping and biting on the pipes and not clearly understanding what the results will be. I am confident that by simply following the checklist that I will not be "THAT GUY" in the band who needs the pipe major to work on my pipes....again.
      Thanks DOJO

    1. Hey John! AHAP refers to blowing "As hard as possible" (meaning, blowing as hard as you can without the chanter starting to squeak or make unpredictable sounds). Hope this helps!

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