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Date Posted: 15:50:06 03/11/03 Tue
>First, I want to play the Bagpies...why? I get this
>spooky feeling when I hear them. Almost as if at some
>other time I knew how to play, can't explain it better
>than that. I think they are one of the most haunting
No kiddin'! People either find them enchanting, or dislike them intensely.
>So I did some looking and it seems that everyone
>recommends a Chanter first and a teacher second. The
>teacher, I have written to a few I have found in my
>area from musicansearch. The Chanter is my real
>question...is there any quality, type or variables I
>should look for in a good chanter? Any and all advice
>is heartily welcome.
First, what you're probably referring to is a "practice chanter". It's scaled down an octave from a real bagpipe chanter, it's kind of liek a smaller, quieter version of the actual chanter that plays the tune on a real set of pipes... The practice chanter is the instrument that pipers use to learn tunes. Practice chanters are relatively inexpensive, and the quality is variable, but most of the ones I've seen play about the same.
Mine is an old Lawrie practice chanter my folks got me one Christmas. There are wooden practice chanters, and plastic ones you can get. They're relatively easy to play, but you still have to get used to the mouthpiece on one.
I'd suggest searching on-line for "practice chanter" and getting one with an instruction book. Then find a teacher.
I learned some of the basic fingerings from the book that came with my practice chanter (there was an instruction record that came with it); then I found a local bagpipe teacher.
>Lastly, I was in a professional progressive band for
>16 years. i toured the globe, I was the singer and I
>played acoustic guitar and very little piano. I have
>since ceased playing.
Sorry to hear you quit playing...
>But the one thing is that I
>always played and sang by ear. I was never happy with
>theory...even after 5 albums and awards around the
>world I can say that theory is the one thing that has
>eluded me. More because of the fact that I consider
>music a heart modality.
I've always figured that theory is only as good as the musician's ability to use it creatively. Without that creativity, or imagination, all the theory in the world means nothing.
In the bagpipe world, tradition counts more than theory; although I suppose there is an actual theory to it. But, if you get into pipes, you won't be bothered by many pipers who want to talk theory.
But one thing you will find is there are some of them who'll mention that you "missed that one grace note", things like that. Because, a lot of it is tradition, there are some set ways of playing tunes, playing them correctly.
So, you basically learn the music from standard music notation -- which is easy to learn. the individual notes are easy to decipher, and the grace note movements are easy to recognise after a week or so of learning the notation.
>I have heard that the pipes employ 9 major
>fingerings...what more do I need to know about that?
>I would like to hear from some veterans on playing
>from the heart and their opinions on theory and
I'm not a veteran, but I've played off and on for almost 20 years, and used to play in a Grade 3 (U.S.) band.... Here's my take on it:
Piping is deceptive, because is appears very simple -- you've just got nine notes! (well, eleven, if you include the two, lower octave notes emanating from the drones).
But most of the expression in bagpiping is in the grace note movements -- usually a quick, crisp series of grace notes, that are in most bagpipe tunes. The grace note movements have names: 'burl', 'grip', etc. They're easy to learn, but sometimes they can be difficult to do real well, especially in a tune, while playing a sometimes very cantankerous instrument!
The execution of the grace notes, that's what makes a good piper. Crisp grace notes, good tone, and overall musicality -- it's something you acquire from practice and listening to other pipers, and listening to good pipers on records; and here's also where a good teacher can help greatly. I still remember some of the things my teacher (and pipe major) taught me years ago, cautions he gave me about my playing.
Piping can be hard to do well, because often the fingers sometimes want to speed up too much, muddle up some of the grace notes, especially if you get a little short on breath. But, if you're doing it mostly for fun, just do the best you can, it'll still be very rewarding.
The main problem I had (and still have, if I don't practice enough) in piping was if I got a bit short of breath I'd get a little nervy and then my fingers would speed up, muddy up the grace notes. Also, I remember hearing experienced pipers tell me "always practice on the the practice chanter to work on the fingering!" And they were right.
Bagpipes don't take as much breath as you'd think, but it does take a bit of practise, to get used to playing a whole set of tunes, and play them well, without running short of air, or having air leak out the sides of your mouth around the blowpipe. My weakest spot wasn't my lungs ability to get the air out, it was the mouth keeping a good hold on the mouthpiece...
Re: cantankerous instrument. Bagpipes can be cantankerous. The reeds sometimes don't want to sound, they can be affected by humidity and temperature, which will affect their tone, playability, and tuning. Pipes are easy to tune, compared to tuning a piano, or even a 12 string guitar; but harder to tune *well*, until you learn how to work with the reeds. A lot of it is also just knowing the instrument; which is also where a teacher will greatly help.
One thing experienced pipers used to tell me: the best way to keep the pipes working well is to play them regularly. They were right. :-)
I'm sure other pipers who know a lot more than I will have more intelligent and resourceful comments to make than I'm able to; but I hope this helps.
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