Thursday, September 30, 2010

Improving 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 instrument. 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 bagpipes, 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. 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 bagpipes. An article with examples is provided here.

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 what you can fix yourself. many provide Skype lessons and face to face lessons, so there is now no excuse for not being able to locate a high quality tutor. Downloadable lessons are available at the school of piping website.

4. Play bagpipes 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 have expressed a resolution regarding improvement. I am sure there are others with some good tips to share?


  1. hi brett,

    thanks for your article.

    i like your system of scalic exercices.

    for the practicing, i choose only one embellishement, for exemple doubling on E, and i practice it 5 - 10 minutes per day during 2 weeks until it becomes perfect.Then i play a tune and i see if my doubling sounds good. if not i do exercices again. this method can be boring but it's good way to improve fingering.

    when the embellishement is good i choose another one.

    each day i always start with exercice, it's a good warm-up ( for me )before learning of playing tunes.

  2. Thanks for the info. I personally am lacking when it comes to exercises, which is crazy because I always struggle with the tachum. Now, I will try warming up with tachums!

  3. Tachums are often played poorly but should not be as difficult as many make them. After playing the G gracenote on C, lift the D gracenote finger to a full D and then close down. It sounds the same but is alleviates the tangling up of fingers many seem to get. You should be able to control tachums and play them at varying strengths throughout tunes.

  4. I found it interesting how your notes only focus on website..