Home Media News & Blog Perfect Piping Begins by Making Your Bed—Part 2
Perfect Piping Begins by Making Your Bed—Part 2

Perfect Piping Begins by Making Your Bed—Part 2



Easy to talk about; hard to attain.

A piece of music can be executed perfectly when played slowly. The doublings can be rhythmically correct, the tempo steady, and not one noted is missed. A piece of music doesn’t need to be executed at a tempo that pushes the right edge of the metronome. Perfection can be attained as you work up the ladder.

Perfection, executing a piece of music correctly, can be attained through attitude and effort.

In 1980, I had a vague idea of who the SEALs were. Our state's governor had served as a SEAL, but I had no conception of the SEALs' zeal for perfection. I had, perhaps, some intuitive sense of Admiral McRaven's notion that “if you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” I learned, though, that notion in a roundabout fashion.

I had attended the California School of Piping during the summer of 1980. The California School of Piping is conducted every summer in conjunction with the College of Piping (Glasgow). It was somewhat like living the Green Book for two weeks under the watchful eye of Seumas MacNeill. Throughout two weeks of practicing exercises, applying them to marches, strathspeys, and reels, all of the students gained an intuitive idea about perfection. However, we may not have been able to enunciate that ideal.

During one group class, we were handed a new piece of music after which we played around the table. I was the first to play the piece and, although I played slowly and deliberately, I was able to sight reed through the piece and execute it correctly. My execution was perfect. I will allow that I was executing perfection on a sliding scale, my tempo was slow and deliberate. MacNeill noted that, when sight reading music, it was important to execute the piece correctly the first time through.

Perfection is difficult to attain, but if you work at it, it is attainable. Starting off with as much attention toward that goal as possible the first time, "making your bed" so to speak, is important. When working through exercises for embellishments, pay attention to the cardinal rules:

  • Play each step accurately
  • Play each step evenly

When you apply your exercises to tunes, remember the cardinal rules and apply them. Resist the temptation to play beyond your capabilities. You do want to bring your tunes up to tempo eventually but, to quote the Dojo U Tutor, "that day is NOT today."

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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.