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Piping, You're Doing It All Wrong

Piping, You're Doing It All Wrong


How did we get by before the internet was invented? With a bevy of blogs and social media sites, all manner of advice is not lacking on the internet and that advice often comes under the rather presumptuous heading, "you're doing it all wrong!" Apparently, we should feel bad about ourselves in just about everything. From tying your shoes to being a dad, the internet has no shortage of course correction for all of us. I was recently so horrified that I was applying deodorant incorrectly, that I had to hang my head in shame.

You might assume, then, that I am going to admonish you that you are doing it all wrong in your approach to piping.


I'm here to tell you that you are doing it RIGHT!

I recently posted a poll in the Dojo University Engage Facebook group asking the members how often they practiced. Of the 34 respondents, a clear majority, 85%, indicated that they practiced at least once a day. As the following table indicates, 16 respondents indicated that they practiced more than once a day.

Regular practice is the cornerstone of skill development. As musicians, we rely on regular practice to improve our technique and master our instruments. If we practice regularly, we may not note immediate improvement. But over a span of time, we may note that we can now execute techniques with which we previously had trouble. Think back on that 2/4 march that you learned last year. Can you perform it, today, with confidence? That is the power of time and regular practice. It is similar to the power of time and compound interest. After a while, your money has grown.

Virtually every musician has trumpeted the value of regular practice. Sure, there are lots of debates within that fanfare. There are arguments about how long one should practice, dialectics on the value of practicing at various tempos, and squabbles over how you should think during practice. But the facts of the case cannot be disputed. Every heavy weight contender in every musical discipline, from Perlman to MacLellan, has sung the praises of regular practice. You are carrying on that tradition. You as a musician, as a piper, are practicing regularly. You are doing it right.

Now, I will be the first to admit that the data I have presented is only a snapshot and represents a small sample. But I am willing to wager that these data would extrapolate to the greater community of pipers. I've seen too many competitions, informal gatherings, and band practices where individuals, from those in the lowest grades to the professional ranks, are fanatical about regular practice.

The next time you feel a little bit down about where you are at as a piper, remember, if you are practicing regularly, you are doing it right! Don't fall into the internet trap of, to paraphrase Megan Garber, becoming a wanton, finger-wagging judger. You've built a base with the regular practice you have done heretofore, you will continue to build a new, improved base as you continue to practice regularly. You are doing it right! Keep it up.

Take Action

Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 1

Do You Need 10,000 Hours of Practice

Make a Plan for Practice


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.