On the strength of the first video lesson for $5, I went ahead and bought the 18 lesson package from bagpipelessons.com. The first lesson took me weeks to master, but I eventually did. So I assume it may be with this next step of grafting ‘gracenotes’ onto my only rudimentary scale technique. But knowing that it will be hard going in, and to take it slowly, one step at a time,less is soothing going into these next stages.
So my Dunbar poly long practice chanter came in the mail on Monday, shortly after the Eclipse. They say the long is good because its the same length as the pipe chanter on the Great Highland Pipes. The right hand fingering feels pretty stretched for me as a newbie though, but I’m giving it a go regardless.
I have to admit that I forgot how frustrating learning a new instrument can be in the early stages especially.
I bought the first installment of the Bagpipe Solutions tutor book. It’s a PDF with embedded links to online sound files, and it seems fine. One thing I’ve discovered though, between that and my Youtube experiments is that learning the scale is NOT the first thing you should do.
Well, I mean it is, but not ‘as a scale’, but as individual notes. Trying to link them all together into a run is much too hard to get started. So instead, I’m focusing on just notes. Getting the low G to sound properly. Then going up through the next highest note, getting that to sound right, and so on. But for now, I’m only focusing on right-hand notes.
I don’t have a teacher, like they all say you should. But so far this is feeling better than the sad attempts I’ve been doing at getting through the scale all in one shot. Little by little. This isn’t going to happen overnight.
Retail pipe seller sites like Dunbar in Canada charge $40 CAD for a hardcopy book and CD. There are seven volumes, so throw in shipping and that starts to add up. Cairns sells them for $25 CAD each instead. Since there is no shipping charge, that works out to a lot less.
I was a little confused by his site, so I confirmed with the author of the series that the ebooks are in PDF format and have maybe either audio embedded directly (? never seen that in a PDF) or else links to download the audio files for free, via his site. I’ll add more details once I buy them.
I first read about Cairns’ books from the excellent pipe supplier and information site, Hotpipes.com. They claim that for persons attempting to potentially learn the pipes without a teacher – such as myself – this series would lead you toward doing that. Though everyone seems to recommend having a teacher – but this may not always be possible, depending where you live. I’ve learned a lot of things through careful experimentation, study, and, frankly, Youtube — so why not this.
Excited to buy the first three volumes of Cairns’ books at a reduced price to find out. (I hear the first three books completely cover the practice chanter, which I’ll be receiving in the mail from Dunbar before week’s end – and in time for the Celtic Festival in town this weekend!)
Curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I finally broke down and bought a practice chanter (to learn to play bagpipes) from Amazon. It’s a cheap one, and every bagpipe site I have ever seen likes to write, in all caps, warnings like:
DON'T YOU DARE BUY A CHEAP ONE!!!!
Which is all well and good if you’re sure ahead of time you’re going to make this plunge and commit to it forever. But starting with a $15 trial balloon over a $100 experiment seems like a good idea to me. What do I know!
The more I’ve gotten into researching the types and history of pipes though, the more compelling it actually is. I mean, as far as “windbags” go…
This is one of my favorite piping videos for a lot of reasons:
Oddly, it turns out that goats and bagpipes seem to have been intimately connected for quite some time.
If you delve into piping history (at least the online sources I found), they put the first officially recognized mention of bagpipes to a Roman source sometime in early AD. But there’s an elemental pattern you can see behind the pipes if you look with the “eyes of the goat.”
I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of expert, but I found a bunch of different traditional forms of bagpipes which are not only made of goat skin, but which explicitly seem to reference the form of the animal, with either heads included, or else with drones, chanters and windpipes in place of the limbs of the beast.
Check out, for example, the Zaqq from Malta:
Here’s another one from Eastern Europe:
And this is included ‘just for fun’: via Duda on Wikipedia:
“…there were many legends about bagpipes that could play themselves when hung from the wall on a nail or about pipers summoned to Witches’ Sabbaths to perform for satanic hosts.”
So my hypothesis, for the moment, goes something like this:
Bagpiping is a secondary cultural artifact from raising goats (or sheep, variously–just using goats as a catch-all here). In French, we have this handy word for goat-raising, Capriculture.
Moreover, the evolution of the “windbag” is simply an augmentation of pre-existing reed flutes, like this German dude (assuming he’s German–maybe I’m wrong) makes in the Youtube video below:
Bagpipes are basically this attached to a pipe you do your fingering on – chanter – which sticks out of a bag, and which has anywhere from typically 1-3 drones, which are reeds on pipes each tuned to sound at one continuous note.
So there’s a precursor invention, the reed pipe, which is more or less a “natural” human invention from naturally-occurring material. Which is over time grafted onto this other invention: an animal skin or bladder which can be inflated or deflated with air or liquid.
Taken in this light, the instrument becomes less a strange oddity, and something more elemental, and perhaps very ancient – as ancient as the human relationships with the plants and animals from which the craft originally descended.
That’s the theory anyway. Not sure I’m ready to start keeping goats, but I’m warming up to giving piping a shot. Will keep you posted!
PS. I love how that last video shows the pipes mixed with the sound of sheep’s bells
- Practice chanter
- CR2 batteries for laser pointer
- Hand-held cassette recorder
- Deep cycle solar battery