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Bagpipe Audit: Five Steps to a “5”

Bagpipe Audit: Five Steps to a “5”


The toil of building your tunes and honing your piping skills has moved along at a consistent pace. You’ve dutifully attended your lessons and various Dojo U sessions. You might finally be satisfied with your delivery of a tune or three. After weeks of work, the music is starting to sound OK and your efforts at improving your scale navigation or general musicality are paying off. But what’s next? Are things really sounding as good as you think? Sometimes, in order to make progress in any project or effort and move on to the next level, we need to circle back and check in on past stages to make sure everything is as neat and tidy as we think. We need to behave like an alchemist or mystic and take stock of our process and revisit skills we think we’ve mastered. Doing so sometimes shines a light on smaller details we might have overlooked, details that are not as good as we thought. Here is a quick method to audit your playing and “check-in” on the progress you think you’re making.

The Five-Step Bagpipe Audit

Step 1. Pick five areas of your piping that you may have been working on and think are going really well, or that are progressing steadily.

Step 2. Record a 5 minute part of your practice session where you play a set of marches, your competitive MSR, or other light music.

Step 3. Listen to the recording and rate yourself on each of the five areas you picked in step 1 on a scale of 1 to 5 (be honest!).

Step 4. Pick those areas that are not at least a “5” and troubleshoot. Formulate a practice framework for those areas and repeat steps 2 through 4 until you can give your self a “5” on all five original areas.

Step 5. Go to Step 1 and repeat.

There is no set timeframe for this audit. You can perform steps 1 to 4, then cycle back to steps 2, 3, and 4 some days or weeks later after you’ve spent time practicing. Step 5 then requires you to pick five new areas of your playing and run through the whole process again, recording, listening, and scoring until you can give yourself a “5” on multiple areas of your playing where you had been making progress. The exercise will force you to zoom in on finer and finer detail until you are focussing on smaller areas of improvement. For example, your general technique might hit “5” on average, but if you listen closely enough, you might find that your taorluaths or F doublings from E specifically are in need of more accuracy and clarity. If you had been working on your timing and maintaining a steady tempo and scored yourself a “5” on average, another listen might reveal some varying timing in say, one particular part or line of a tune.

Ongoing assessment of your progress like this provides the necessary self-analysis we need to move forward in our piping. It can provide information for focussed sessions with your instructor as well as hone your listening skills. It will also give you the raw material for smart, sustained focused practice, the single best thing that will improve you as a piper.

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Vin Janoski Vin is a long-time piper based on the east coast of the USA. He has been on the Executive Committee of the EUSPBA and been the editor of the acclaimed Voice magazine. Recently, he has played in the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band, and the Grade 1 Stuart Highlanders pipe band. He currently produces the websites Pipehacker.com and WhiskyTunes.com.... And, needless to say, he spends way too much time than is allowed for any one person playing, writing about, and thinking about bagpiping.