Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strathclyde Police Pipe Band

I arrived in Scotland after 32 hours of travelling last Tuesday and was at the Strathclyde Police band practice about 5 hours later. After two practices last week and being issued with a set of McCallum bagpipes (complete with sheepskin bag) I finally got to spend some one on one time with the Pipe Major on the weekend. Played at practice with the full band last night and pipes were singing. Will have to go in early tonight to get issued with uniform etc.

We have practice every night this week in the lead up to the European Championships on Saturday. The band is quite confident that we will do well.

I have been to the College of Piping and spoke to Rab Wallace about their new exam syllabus. Will get a chance to go over it in more detail shortly no doubt. Today I went to see James C Begg bagpipes who will be stocking my book and Pipe Dreams, the makers of Ezeedrone and Ezee PC reeds. Amazing workshop, very automated and clinical, not a speck of dust to be seen! Everyone seems blown away by the handbook and website. I am amazed the book seems to be selling so well as I am yet to see it displayed on a shelf anywhere, quite dissapointing.

So far there is quite a lot of interest here in the new CD and many good comments on the quality. A few shops want to stock it, but sales at this stage at least will remain with the SoP website only.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How to make your bagpipe fit

The most popular technical article on the School of Piping website is the "Making your Bagpipe fit" article. It is good to see so many people realising the importance of this issue. Improved playing, posture and less chance of strain or injury arise from making an instrument fit you properly. The artcile can be seen here: articles

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Recording project

For the past several months I have been involved in a recording project for the School of Piping site. It was my intention to at some stage produce a number of recordings and as it turns out two CDs have now been completed.

The first recording is a very traditional piping CD with a ground and two full (but short) Piobaireachd being played. Other competition style sets and some lighter sets complete the recording. These are all new recordings.

The second CD is a recording of all basic piping idioms. Common tunes learnt by and often requested of pipers. Over the years I found very little reference material that I was happy with on solo bagpipe for some of the common piping tunes, so I have been preparing these types of recordings for our band learner’s classes for years and decided this time to go a step further and offer them to a wider audience. Often requested tunes like Mull of Kintyre, Amazing Grace and Flower of Scotland have been included, but have backing tracks provided by Marcus Holden of the band, Fiddlers Feast to create a little more variety and wider appeal. As well as a tool for learner pipers, this album will hopefully appeal to the lover of the “auld favourites”. If there is enough interest I will produce other volumes in the future.

A great time was had and it was an interesting exercise indeed. Being involved in the back stage mixing and production is always an experience, and it is always a surprise to see how others interpret the sound of your instrument.

The next project is an all Piobaireachd CD. That will have to wait until after the worlds, as I will be over having a tune with the Strathclyde Police this year. I hope to catch up with a few of my friends while I am there.

All CDs will only be available from the School of Piping website.

Brett Tidswell

Improve your piping

Not wanting to over simplify, but I think there is a formula and it has to be put into practice.

1. The most important thing is a good sounding bagpipe. You can improve your playing by 100%, but play on a bad instrument and it still sounds bad! Get someone with an instrument you like the sound of to look at your pipes, make sure they are always clean and maintained in tip top condition and spend some money on reeds, a chanter, whatever is required. You can get away with a lot if you have a nice sounding pipe. There are a lot of tips in "The Complete Pipers Handbook".

2. The next step is to establish a system of scalic exercises, there are some posted on the School of Piping website. These should be repeated to build strength of technique and stamina. Incorporate this into a solid and regular practice regime. Exercises, tune break-up (with a lot of attention to detail), playing on pipes.

3. Lessons concentrating on musicality are a great idea. Try to fix the technical issues before the lessons so you can concentrate on things you need to learn, not covering issues that you could have fixed yourself.

4. Play pipes like you are performing. Establish tuning times, how long it takes to settle the instrument and then play your contest pieces like you are performing. This will train your mind and teach you what you need to know about preparing your instrument.

I hope this helps a little toward steering those who wish to improve their playing. I am sure there are those who can add furthur suggestions?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Negativity in Publishing

I was having an email interaction following an interview that I did for a well know piping magazine. The editor was telling me about a topic that he wanted to "have a go" at, but had refrained as it would have been too negative. I thought at the time, what a refreshing attitude. You know, over the years we have had so many that have "had a go"! We see it more and more now on the internet. We used to see it frequently when Seamus McNiell (love him or hate him) used to get stuck into someone. At times it was entertaining, but most times it just put someone offside and eventually it becomes predictable and boring.

We all see the scribblings on judging sheets, and in that place, it is the judges role to comment on why points were removed during a performance. It is often testing to try and make the sheets positive, and in some cases being too positive on a sheet is out of place. I think we become used to this type of criticism of piping performances and expect it in all forums discussing piping.

Here's to a more positive future for piping!


Welcome to the Blog Page for the School of Piping. Our website www.schoolofpiping.com is a freely accessible site for pipers that provides articles, reviews, soundfiles, photo albums and much more all about bagpipes to inspire, assist and to entertain pipers.

The site now has a huge following and it was thought that a blog such as this might create the opportunity to interact on a greater level. The editor will be in Scotland for July and August, competing with the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. We will keep everyone informed with some snippets of interesting happenings from the week of the World Pipe Band Championships.

If you are a Facebook member you can join the School of Piping Group. This is just another way we keep in touch with our friends.

Currently we have "The Complete Pipers Handbook" and 2 CDs offered for sale as School of Piping products and these help to keep the site running as well as the much appreciated support from our site sponsors, McCallum Bagpipes, Colin Kyo Bagpipes, The Pipers Hut, McCarthy Highland Supplies, and Kintail Bagpipes.

We trust that you will enjoy the main site, but also stay informed via this new blogpage.

Brett Tidswell