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"To the make of a piper go seven years ... At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear to the drone he may have parley with old folks of old affairs".  NEIL MUNRO


There’s something about bagpipers that I really likethey make a lot of noise!
There’s something about bagpipers that I really dislike as well… they make a lot of noise!

The noise I dislike is the noise they make about how profoundly difficult the bagpipes are to actually learn. Personally, and from my own experience, I think it’s a lot of bull.

Learning tunes on the bagpipe practice chanter is one of the easiest musical endeavors I have ever done. There are nine notes, and the fingering, while odd, isn’t all that hard. The tunes are pretty easy to memorize. Musically, this is a pretty simple task.

WORKING the bagpipes, now… that’s another story. Once you know the tunes and can play them on a practice chanter, the pipes themselves will actually fight back. The instrument itself is ancient by design and a little bit cantankerous in its very make-up.

The very fact that I can play the things has nothing to do at all with my musical ability. I was tenacious and downright mercenary with regard to figuring out how to make the bloody things work!

The bagpipe is like no other instrument I know. It’s a bag with four instruments hanging off of it. You inflate the bag, and then squeeze it to send wind into the four instruments and play them simultaneously. Three of them are pretty easy; they make the same note all the time. The other one you play makes the notes of the song. The thing is, you need to keep replenishing the bag with air or the whole mess falls apart pretty rapidly.

The individual instruments are connected to the bag with wax and string. You read that correctly… wax and string, not screws and clamps. These connections need to be tight, but not too tight, because as moisture from your breath goes into the bag, the condensation causes the string to expand and it can get so swollen the wood splits. If it’s too loose, air leaks out and you can’t keep up with the leak. How thrilling…

Modern bagpipes have been constructed out of plastic with rubber O rings for sealing. Of course, nobody uses them, the ancient ways and all; well… it just wouldn’t be right… we’re all about the tradition. That would be like wearing a leather kilt! (Wait… I do wear a leather kilt)

Anyway, Neil Munro said it takes seven years before you can hang with the big dogs and have anything in common with the old folks. After seven years all you’ll have in common is seven years of complaining about how bloody stupid the instrument is assembled, and how easy the tunes are compared to how difficult the actual instrument is!
Seriously though, playing the pipes gives you a great excuse to own a kilt, and chicks dig kilts. There’s no better reason to pipe, in my never too humble opinion.

There are really two ways to perform on the drums...
One is to let yourself flow with the music, to explore the groove and to become a part of the whole in that space.
The other way is to force your will on the music, playing rehearsed and lifeless patterns, subject to your personal limitations.
~ Mike Morgan

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