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Bagpipe Maintenance Horror Story

Bagpipe Maintenance Horror Story


We take bagpipe maintenance very seriously here at Dojo U. Good maintenance is essential to good sound. Poor instrument maintenance can be responsible for hours of bagpipe horror stories.

Several years ago, a group of us ventured to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina. Being in the mountains, the temperatures varied a lot. The morning was chilly and the afternoon was quite warm. As you know, the temperature will affect your bagpipes.

My friend (no, it really wasn’t me) was headed to play for his judge, late in the morning. He was up next and he was hurrying a bit. Just as he got to the racing oval where the solo piping was being held, he stepped on something and heard a loud crunch. The hemp on his chanter had loosened up, and the chanter slid out of the stock and fell to the ground, in mid-step, right under his ghillie! He scratched for that event, and managed to play his last event with his band chanter (don’t tell the PM).

This story has a double lesson. Lesson 1: The joints of your instrument should be checked for tightness at the start of every playing session—and certainly at the start of your warm-up for solo competition. Lesson 2: Whenever walking with your pipes on the shoulder, keep the chanter turned up on your shoulder, or walk with your hand around the chanter stock and top of the chanter. I know I do this constantly now. No need to tempt fate!

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Tom Crawford Tom Crawford is Pipe Major for North Atlanta Pipes & Drums and a piping instructor in Marietta GA. He’s been piping since 2000, when he began his studies with Winter Taylor. Tom has played rock, blues, country and Celtic music for nearly 50 years. He’s been a member of Keltic Kudzu since 2006, where he plays mandolin, bouzouki, whistle, and of course pipes. Tom has played and competed up and down the Atlantic coast, as well as in Canada and Ireland.