Home Dojo Fundamentals Fingerwork Fundamentals

Fingerwork Fundamentals

Build a strong foundation of fingerwork skills that puts you in the position to express the music as a true extension of your Self.

Fingerwork FundamentalsWhat a piper does with their fingers is the biggest factor in whether or not they are a good piper (or a bad one). The Dojo works hard to make the fundamentals as accessible as possible to you. We believe in building a strong foundation for your fundamentals to grow into a set of skills that can create great music. By the time you have mastered these fundamentals skills, not only will you be making great music, but you will have the ability and vision to adapt your music, continuously, as a true extension of your Self.

Scale Navigation

Any pitched instrument has to have a means to produce its notes. On the bagpipe, we have a small scale that we use that requires specific fingerings to make it happen properly. As a piper, you need to make sure these fingerings are correct, and that no unwanted sounds (a.k.a. "crossing noises") occur as you switch from note to note.

Click here to learn the fundamentals of Scale Navigation

Basic Rhythm

In order for the notes of the bagpipe to have any musical rhyme or reason, we need rhythm to sequence these notes over time in a musical way. Basic Rhythm, at the Dojo, means establishing a steady beat with your foot, and playing to the foot as different rhythmic (and melodic, of course) combinations arise.

Click here to learn the fundamentals of Basic Rhythm.


All instruments need a way to articulate the different notes that are played. Clarinetists and Flutists tongue their notes. Fiddle players bow their notes. Pipers? Well, we use gracenotes to articulate our notes. Gracenotes, in a nutshell, are a quick "flick" of a finger that produces a percussive sound. These little percussive sounds can divide notes, add texture to notes, and ultimately they help us construct the embellishments that we use to ornament tunes.

Click here to learn the fundamentals of Articulation.

ALAP/ASAP - Dynamics on a Small Scale

Once Melody, Rhythm, and Articulation are mastered (or well on the way to being mastered), it is important to consider the last big musical component; Dynamics. Pipers are in a bit of a pickle with dynamics, because bagpipes only have one volume to work with. So, we can't alternate between loud, soft, and in-between. ALAP/ASAP is the first major technique that pipers use to simulate volume changes in their playing.

Click here to learn the fundamentals of ALAP/ASAP.

Pulsing - Dynamics and Phrasing on a Larger Scale

While ALAP/ASAP is a fundamental that focuses on dynamics inside of individual beats, Pulsing focuses on building dynamic flavor across two or more beats. In order to produce expressive phrases, pipers will often literally extend the length of certain beats, and condense others. Again, this simulation of volume changes is what provides that dynamic flavor to our music. Pulsing, and the degree of pulsing, is open-ended, and completely up to the performer. This concept is the true gateway to making the music a true extension of your Self.

Click here to learn the fundamentals of Pulsing.