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Interested in Learning the Bagpipes

Interested in Learning the Bagpipes

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Published by Rauncie Kinnaird
This is a must read article for anyone who wants to learn how to play the bagpipes. It includes information about practice chanters, tutor books and finding instructors.
This is a must read article for anyone who wants to learn how to play the bagpipes. It includes information about practice chanters, tutor books and finding instructors.

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Published by: Rauncie Kinnaird on Jun 29, 2012
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07/25/2014

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Interested in Learning the Bagpipes? A Must Read Guide
If you are interested in learning to play the Bagpipes, there are many things you shouldknow first. Learning the bagpipes requires a good quality practice chanter, a tutor book,and formal lessons with an instructor.
Practice Chanter
A practice chanter is its own instrument which is used to learn fingering for the bagpipechanter. It will continue to be used after the student has moved on to the bagpipes to learnnew tunes. It is also useful for practice when playing on a full set of pipes is impractical.Some people aren’t familiar with the differences between the bagpipe chanter and the practice chanter. The Practice chanter has a narrower cylindrical bore and comes with a plastic reed. It has a quieter sound than a bagpipe chanter. It requires less air and lower  pressure to allow for longer practice sessions. It is also pitched one octave lower than a bagpipe chanter. The Bagpipe chanter, or Pipe chanter, has a large tapered bore and a cane(wood) reed. It produces a louder sound and requires a large volume or air and substantial pressure. It is not suitable for practice on its own.The practice chanter consists of three parts- the practice chanter body, a reed, and the practice chanter top/mouthpiece. The Body looks like a bagpipe chanter with general sizeand finger hole location, but a narrow bore which lowers the pitch and volume. The reed isusually made of plastic and ensures a stable pitch despite wet blowing. Thetop/mouthpiece is a tube and air chamber that surrounds and protects the reed and allowsthe player to blow into the instrument. It is long enough to place the practice chanter andyour hands in a comfortable position.There are 3 different sizes of practice chanters available- Child, Regular, and Long. Thesize of the practice chanter will depend on the age and size of the student. Young childrenwith small hands will not be able to reach the required finger spacing on a full sized practice chanter, but can still learn the basic fingering on a smaller chanter. The Child’s practice chanter’s holes are closer together and the overall length is shorter. A Regular  practice chanter is most commonly used by youth pipers or pipers with smaller hands. Theholes are very similar to that of a bagpipe chanter. Once your hands are big enough, youshould practice with a Long chanter. It has the same finger spacing as a pipe chanter making the transition to pipes easier.Practice chanters can be made of plastic, wood or a combination of both. Wood offers highquality sound, however they can be prone to cracking due to moisture. Quality plastic
 
 practice chanters are durable with good tone. A combination plastic mouthpiece top andwooden chanter body can sometimes be the best of both worlds.
Some practice chanters offer counter sunk finger holes, making it easier to feel where the holesare. The holes also feel larger which is similar to the finger holes on a bagpipe chanter. Somemanufacturer’s chanters are quieter than others. Some makers offer water traps.
Tutor Books
Your instructor will likely have a tutor book they prefer to teach from. If you are trying toteach yourself, there are many good options. The College of Piping Centre Volume 1Book, or “Green Book” as it if often referred, comes with a CDROM. It is a good tutor  book to start with as it begins with the very basics, assuming no prior knowledge or musical experience by the student. This allows the student to start in on it alone. It isstructured so that the student piper can learn one lesson a week, making a complete courseof just over six months. It explains all of the required first movements and when used inconjunction with the audio and video files on the CDROM, gives the student maximum benefit.The National Piping Centre Tutor Book also contains rudimentary information and is avery good resource for someone who wants to learn on their own. It i
ncludes a CDROMwith step-by-step guide to supplement book as well as an appendix that talks about the bagpipein comparison to other instruments for those individuals who have previous musicalknowledge.Bagpipe Solutions are 7 highly detailed volumes from world class piper John Cairns. The first3 volumes cover the practice chanter and the following 4 are for the bagpipes. Each volume isaccompanied by a CD. They contain in-depth material on all aspects of piping includingtheory, maintenance, tone, tuning, band and instrument drill, technical playing, reading music(time and rhythm), the wearing of highland dress, music instructional training, bagpipe historyand ear training.
Instructor
It is strongly recommended that you get an instructor as the Bagpipes are a complicatedwind instrument.
Bad posture, poor fingering techniques, and poor tuning can be easilycorrected with an instructor but difficult to learn after poor habits set in.When finding an instructor, consider what your goals are and find an instructor to match themwhether it is for competition, fun, or piobaireachd (pronounced “pee brock”, which is the“classical music” of the bagpipes). Depending on what
 your 
goals are, your instructor’smethods may or may not be a good fit. Inquire what grade level your potential instructor is (or was) and if he/she has ever competed. You should ask how long he/she has been piping andteaching, how many students he/she currently has, if he/she can provide you a list of referencesof his/her students for you to contact, and the cost.

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