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Old 10-15-2010, 07:39 PM   #11
Tripp
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Default Re: beginner's fears

Quote:
Originally Posted by larry_piper View Post
There are some very fine pipers who are not big people. Gordon Walker comes to mind.
At winter storm this year, I was struck by what dwarves most of the top pipers were. I'm hardly a big lad (5'9") but I think that I'd tower over most of that lot. Gordon Walker's sausage like fingers are a revelation. Brilliant accuracy and a pace to match. Just go at it with the intention of having fun. If you enjoy it, you're not practicing, really. Get good instruction and if you're enjoying yourself and putting in the time, you will be fine.
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Old 10-16-2010, 02:13 AM   #12
1911 guy
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Default Re: beginner's fears

And remember this very important thing: All pipers have "sticking points", where you seem to get stuck in your progress for a bit. Some are blessed to have them later on, after they've built up some confidence. Some have them early on. You may be one of those, maybe not. These rough spots come and go. Emphasis on "GO". Work through it, it will become just a memory. Until the next one, of course. But by then you'll have the confidence to just work through it without anybody telling you to stick it out.
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Old 10-16-2010, 07:55 AM   #13
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Default Re: beginner's fears

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Originally Posted by 1911 guy View Post
And remember this very important thing: All pipers have "sticking points", where you seem to get stuck in your progress for a bit. Some are blessed to have them later on, after they've built up some confidence. Some have them early on. You may be one of those, maybe not. These rough spots come and go. Emphasis on "GO". Work through it, it will become just a memory. Until the next one, of course. But by then you'll have the confidence to just work through it without anybody telling you to stick it out.
Two thoughts on previous posters:

(1) Those sticking points almost always come right before you have a breakthrough -- things that had been impossible suddenly fall into place and seem infinitely easier. You just have to keep sawing wood, stick to it, work and you'll be fine.

(2) Tripp's exactly right: if you're looking for male models and hand models, Winter Storm is a lousy place to look. So many of the great pipers are shorter-than-average guys with chubby, short fingers. When my 12-year-old met his idol, Alasdair Gillies, and got his picture taken with him, he was blown away by the fact that he's not much shorter than Alasdair, and that they have very similar hands.
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Last edited by Phogfan86; 10-16-2010 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 10-16-2010, 10:46 AM   #14
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Default Re: beginner's fears

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Originally Posted by stepha View Post
i meant to play the scale clearly and without faults- at this point i know what to do, just dont seem to have fallen into a comfortable and reliable hand position
I have a little short sausage of a pinky. I have a better birl than most in the band with longer fingers. Also I don't think I found a truly comfortable hand position for several months after I started learning. As for hang ups we all have them, I blew thru learning the fundamentals and then they tried to teach me tunes, haha. My instructor swore I would be the only piper in the world that could not play Scotland the Brave. I thought so too. Just keep at it. I was told taking time at begining will get you there faster in the end. It's true from what I have seen.
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Old 10-16-2010, 12:41 PM   #15
David
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Default Re: beginner's fears

My tutor was very short, and had a wee finger to match. She ended up custom-designing her own birl, which I couldn't begin to describe, except to say that she made a circular movement around the hole. She had clean, fast fingers and a killer birl. Her chanter also had gigantic finger holes.

No, finger size and shape are no impediment. My wife is double-jointed in her fingers, and never had a problem. Looks wrong, but sounds right, and that's what counts. As my tutor used to say, "if you can play well with your elbow in your left ear, I won't say boo."
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Old 10-16-2010, 12:43 PM   #16
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Default Re: beginner's fears

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Originally Posted by North Idaho Piper View Post
Ummmm.... don't you mean you will ogle the PIPES?
If 'stepha' stands for Stephanie A, you can 'oogle' the pipers all you like!
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Old 10-16-2010, 07:55 PM   #17
Ron Teague
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Default Re: beginner's fears

Ok I thought I was a hot shot piper. I had some of the very best teachers one can have and then I started with my current teacher, Archie Cairns, yes THAT Archie Cairns. He had one wee listen to my playing and then made me:

Take out the chanter and cork up the stock and play DRONES alone for a 1/2 hour a day. I couldn't tune them I just had to play them. I had to work on proper breathing, sort of a whoOOOSH sort of deal. I had to use my left elbow to control the bag and had to let my left arm dangle straight down so that I used my elbow Only. I had to endure the drones being out of tune. This was not a pretty moment as I had to hear all of the ugly sounds that my drones made.

Then I had to spend the same amount of time trying to tune the drones. I had to move one tenor drone, the middle drone, and then move the other tenor and then the bass. I couldn't stop off a drone, they all had to play at once. I had to endure the awful sound until I got it more or less right. This went on for several MONTHS. My lips gave out and I drooled on my self and I cursed Archie for making me see how terrible I was. Illusion sometimes is better than reality. Archie said that he thought that my ears were painted on and that I couldn't really hear the instrument and that if I couldn't manage my drones plugging in a chanter wouldn't improve matters at all.

Then I got to put the chanter back in, but did I get to play a tune? NOOOO, I had to play a SINGLE NOTE for several minutes at a time. Then another, I couldn't do a scale, just one random note after another. I had to hear how out of tune my chanter was and endure how awful the sound was. Then we worked on chanter tuning. More sore lips and brused ego and more months went by with more cursing from me but now I was cursing my self for being so inflated about my playing. Archie said once a piper can controle the drones the rest of piping is easy more or less.

I had been taught that fingering is everything, but Archie taught me that making the drones go well the fingering works, if the drones don't go well then the best fingering is next to worthless. SO I found out that I was a hot shot practice chanter player, well sort of, but as a piper I sucked. Now is still screw up and focus too much on fingering but I still do drones alone as part of my training.
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Old 10-16-2010, 09:01 PM   #18
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Default Re: beginner's fears

Ron!

As a new piper, I have no illusions about my ability. In fact, I am acutely aware that I have no ability to speak of aside from being able to read music. However, after reading your post, I intend to devote a significant amount of time to tuning the drones, and working on controlling the drones while playing simple notes. Of course, fingering is important, but playing perfectly alongside nasty drones isn't what I'm going for... Control, and consistency. Wish me luck!
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Old 10-16-2010, 11:00 PM   #19
Andrew Lenz
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Default Re: beginner's fears

Speaking from experience, if your instrument is out of tune, your can play very well, but in competition you'll be seriously dinged.

Some years ago, I was at a games and due to temperature and target pitch, I was playing a band chanter that had a note or two flat. I couldn't change/fix it without screwing up "official" reed position since I was running back and forth between solo competition and band audience performances.

If I'd been smart, I would have had a solo chanter on standby ready to swap in. (I had a second chanter but I didn't have it set up.) I was pretty consistently medaling in piobaireachd at the time and expected to, at the very least, place in the top three at this small games. Didn't happen. And it wasn't my fingering or phrasing. The performance, simply because of the chanter tuning, was not pleasant to listen to. The judge couldn't get past that. At the time, I was a bit upset, though I can understand the challenge of getting past a troublesome instrument. Instead I was probably beat by some kid with no expression who had someone else tune his instrument. It was frustrating, there was nothing I could do about it.

Lesson: If you are going to play with a band and compete at the same venue, have a solo chanter as a back up.
(If you are playing in a high enough grade band where your chanter will be tuned spot-on no matter what, it may not be an issue, though a back-up is always a good idea—accidents do happen to reeds!)

Andrew

p.s. Archie Cairns knows his stuff, he's been piping for a very long time. And though he's not a spring chicken at 82, he's still a sharp guy judging from his e-mail to me today, coincidentally.
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Old 10-17-2010, 05:42 PM   #20
Ron Teague
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Default Re: beginner's fears

OH yes Archie knows his stuff, he knows every trick a piper can do to cheat. I think he won't hear the fact that I made a E grace note rather than a D, but he catches every goof. He also makes me use a practice goose to play a tune so I can't cheat between phrases. I use to learn a tune on the chanter and then take it to the pipes. Not any more, I just start out on the goose and start honking away.

SO
to my practice time is 1/2 practice goose. 1/2 drones alone for the most part or drones and ONE NOTE ONLY.

It is a relief to get to the pipes

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