Another 30 minutes of practice

Spent the first 5 – 10 minutes practicing strike ins and doublings to warm up. Then played 4 tunes, a few twice over, for a total of seven runs through, with approx. one minute  breather break between each. 

I seem to get slightly less out of breath in the last few minutes, but still I fizzle out enough to have to finish after 30 minutes.  They say perseverance pays.

Bagpipe pressure gauge and endurance.

So, I’ve had the pressure gauge attached for a while now. What I hate the most about it is that the tube is too short. I certainly can’t see the gauge when I’m playing. It should be long enough to attach it to a wall so that it is within line of sight.

The strike in’s were terrible today. I got 4/10 for those. I don’t know what I was doing wrong this time.

Achievement for today: minimal. I played the pipes for 30 minutes. But just as it became easier and nicer sounding, my own endurance gave way. I persevered long enough to fizzle out after the first bar of Loch Rannoch. No pain no gain. I will have to push myself to the end every day; this will be the only way for me to increase endurance. Tomorrow’s another day.

Strike up – mystery solved!

Striking up the pipes was very much hit and miss for me, until recently.   I can now get 9/10 success rate 🙂

I used to think that the strike up was about pressing the right hand ( if you are a right handed piper) against the bag while keeping the left lower arm steady and using is a kind of anvil which doesn’t move. Wrong! At least for me. The solution is to press both the right and and left lower arm into the bag at the same time. Simple.

Now back to warming up those pipes for tuning practice.

Long time gone but now am back again

My last post was over a year ago. Wow, time flies when you are studying and working and struggling with the pipes.

That does not mean that my pipes lay sadly in their case slowly gathering dust and drying out.  Nope. Not quite. But almost at one stage.

I’ve re-acquainted myself with my old friends over recent weeks and am now pretty much where I left off.

My main goal right now is to learn to tune the buggers. I don’t want to be dependent on someone else in this regard.

I read a few articles on this ‘black art’, and the first thing I did was to learn about chanter tuning using my chromatic tuner.  With the help of this little tutorial,, I learnt to adjust the reed up and down to align the tuning. So far so good.

The next step is to tune the drone to the chanter, right? I dust off the Complete Pipers Handbook by Brett Tidswell.  It instructs me to blow high A and listen to the wavering. I can’t hear it. FAIL.

I gave up on that and started reading some old Chanter publications produced by Bruce Campbell from the where I came upon an article about tuning pipes. I am instructed to play the pipes for an hour to warm them up before attempting to tune them. That is a big challenge for a beginner piper like myself! I will give it a try today though, as  I simply have to learn to do it.

We shall see how it goes 🙂

PS: I still haven’t found a way to get my butt to an instructor to help me progress.  In the past it was studies interfering with regular times for practice and now it’s work schedules that can be unpredictable at times and I hate to have to perpetually cancel tutoring sessions.



5 days of only pipes practise

Time, as is not surprising, has not been on my side this week. All I could do was to do all my practising on the pipes. There was no spare time for the practice chanter as well.  The up-side of that is, that when I did get back in touch with the practice chanter, it was suddenly sooooo much easier for my fingers, as well as maintaining the correct timing.

I”m happy so far. The hardest part I have yet again to start from scratch: tuning the pipes.  Uh, it’s Sunday already…maybe I can squeeze it in before I have to run about again and do other things.

Nevertheless, I am making progress. The real sticking point is tuning! If only I could get over that quickly, but I think not.

Taming the reed with a rubber band


Well, I should have thought of this earlier, shouldn’t I. If the reed is too hard and licking and squeezing it doesn’t have much of an impact, then take one dental rubber band ( used for practice chanter reeds) and roll it onto the chanter reed, as high as necessary to the tip of the blade, and PRESTO the reed is finally playable!

This is now day two of using the rubber band and I was now able to take it off altogether. Will do the same for me backup reed.

So, it’s been a good two days of practising my tunes on the pipes.  The next major challenge is the tuning process. Will do as much as I can, and then take it to the local pipe band to do the rest for me.

After that, I’ll be on my way to being a not to trashy piper for the next 6 to 12 months.


Taming the reed

After struggling with two new reeds ( supposedly low pressure…!) I finally am managing to play complete tunes on them, although there are still some patches where I lose the battle with the reed to a greater or lesser extend.

Below are two of my first attempts at playing a complete tune with the new reed ( and my strengthened diaphragm).

Warning: I only have two tenor drones open at this stage and the setup is totally untuned. I’ll be returning to the tuning part of my education shortly… as soon as I have ordered another set of chanter reeds.

The Dark Island

The Skye Boat Song

and the old standard, Amazing Grace,