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The Thirteen Steps, Final Thoughts

The Thirteen Steps, Final Thoughts


The foundations of great bagpipe sound can be summarized in the video, "13 Steps to Great Bagpipe Sound." In Parts I, II, II, and IV, we drilled down into each step and uncovered the smaller problems that you will encounter.

In piping, we need to solve lots of little problems in order to build a great bagpipe sound. This is what I find appealing about the "13 Steps" video. It provides a framework for achieving the goal of great sound. And, most importantly, the video outlines a set of actions that you can follow to solve the little problems in each step. By learning and following the steps, you will put yourself on the road to have a well-tuned, well-balanced bagpipe.

In preparing this overview of Andrew's video, I went through each of the thirteen steps (see above).

Interestingly, I had just seasoned my bag several weeks before going through the steps and had, what I thought, was an airtight bag. In testing my bag, (Step 1), I found that I was leaking air. This came as somewhat of a surprise. But, I hadn't played my pipes in more than a week. So, although I had what I thought was a well-seasoned bag, I had not been playing regularly. After light seasoning, my bag was airtight once again. The lesson that I learned was: don't make assumptions. Had I progressed through the steps, I may have been confounded at Steps 10 and 11 (physical and mental blowing). I probably would have had the column of water in my manometer hopping all over the place. The point is, make sure that you go through each step, no matter if you're extremely active or haven't played in a while.

The 13 Steps provide a nice framework breaking the problem of great bagpipe sound into smaller, solvable problems. But don't assume that each step is easy. For example, I had great difficulty the first time I tried to calibrate short-tongued drone reeds. I either moved the bridle too much, shutting the reed down completely, or too little which made no difference. The first time I tried, I failed miserably and managed to utter a few more expletives than is normally proper. However, with practice, I got the hang of it. I can now calibrate short-tongued reeds much more rapidly and accurately. The steps may not be easy at first, but with practice, you will gain proficiency. Practice does make perfect.

And, in my experience, the more you work on each step, the better you will get. When I first started working with a manometer, my pressure was all over the place. As I worked on keeping steady pressure, I found that I was able to keep the water level within one inch of the sweet spot.

There is a logical solution to each of the smaller problems outlined in the 13 Steps. Remember those logical solutions and work on them. You will get the hang of it.


Take Action

13 Steps to Great Bagpipe Sound
Bagpipe Maintenance
Is Your Bag Airtight? Part 1


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.