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Old 08-25-2016, 11:21 AM   #1
Jacobite James
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: North Texas
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Default Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

I have long been interested in learning to play the pipes but do not have direct access to a teacher. I do, however, have a very good ear and play guitar and tinwhistle by ear only. I understand that learning the pipes is fraught with difficulties and potential pitfalls, but I think I might have a chance with something like Bagpipe Solutions, which I have read claims to work without outside instruction (the situation in which I find myself).

The other issue is what practice chanter to get? I have already decided that a long practice chanter is what I want to go with, and I am kind of leaning toward Piper's Choice. Pipers Choice also offers a set of kitchen pipes that utilises a long practice chanter which I believe can be used independent of the pipes themselves. It also appears to come with "self tuition method, kithchen pipe edition". Might it be worth paying a bit more for these and looking into Bagpipe Solutions?

Most likely, though I may learn some of the basics of reading, I will probably be more successful learning tunes by ear. Also, I'd like to learn more for my own pleasure than to become a performing piper.

Advice appreciated.

Last edited by Andrew Lenz; 08-25-2016 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 08-25-2016, 11:29 AM   #2
bob864
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Default Re: Advice needed.

According to your profile you are in North Texas. So are the North Texas Caledonians. Perhaps one of them even lives in your town or the next town over.

If you can't get any in person instruction, then you should at least use skype. There are a few people who manage to teach themselves with instructional material and occasional workshops, but they seem to be few and far between.

Self taught pipers /tend/ to have poor technique and bad sound. There are a few exceptions and it's possible you could be one of them.

My instructor frequently notices things I'm doing incorrectly by seeing what I'm doing.

You should probably pick either small pipe or highland pipes to do first. I'd avoid toy pipes all together.
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Old 08-25-2016, 11:58 AM   #3
el gaitero
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Default Re: Advice needed.

If there are absolutely no face to face resources available ...go for Skype . For face time...be prepared to drive both ways if you are serious and willing to make a few years commitment. Suggest ...don't waste any money on any kind of pipes until you've learned from competent instruction on a good quality practice chanter.
Any learning ' by ear' will only produce tunes you can hum or whistle...the way you think you remember hearing them... probably wrongly and surely with no credible ornaments.

Learning to play pipes only fairly well is not a vaguley part time effort. Be prepared.

Good luck.
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Old 08-25-2016, 03:41 PM   #4
caveal
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

I agree with finding an instructor or going with Skype.

I don't know what Piper's Choice products are like, but I recommend poly McCallum chanters to all my learners.
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Old 08-25-2016, 04:14 PM   #5
Nathaniel
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

Tale a look at the Pipers Dojo. There are a ton of difficulties trying to self teach.
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Old 08-26-2016, 03:18 AM   #6
CalumII
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

Skype is readily available and cheap (Bruce Gandy in particular offers rates that I find hard to believe!) and even if you can't manage it consistently, once a month or so will help a lot.

As long as you are disciplined, prepared to take the long view and not cut corners, it's much easier to self teach nowadays than it has ever been. I get self-taught pupils from time to time and those who have done their research and used all the resources available to them are generally not "ruined" as some are. And I tend to think the worst would never have taken a teacher's advice anyway...!
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Old 08-26-2016, 04:42 AM   #7
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacobite James View Post
I have a very good ear and play guitar and tinwhistle by ear only... though I may learn some of the basics of reading, I will probably be more successful learning tunes by ear.
You may encounter pipers who will insist that reading music is necessary in learning the pipes. I just want to point out that this is not the case. For example we have a fine piper here who does well both in solo and band competition who is totally blind.

Having a good ear gives you a tremendous advantage over many other learners. There are pipers who have been playing for many years who can't pick out a tune by ear.

I'm odd in that I've had, from the get-go, one foot in the Irish Traditional Music world where everything is learnt and transmitted by ear and sheet music is viewed with suspicion and disdain (they call it "the dots") and the other foot in the Highland piping world where there's an odd fixation with sheet music and the publishing industry. Odd because few pipers can actually read music in the ordinary sense, that is, be able to perform a tune they've never heard or seen before by sightreading the music "cold" (at first sight) correctly and up to speed. And odd because Highland pipe music is performed without sheet music.

Rather, pipers use the sheet music when learning a tune to pick up the notes and ornaments. Most can't read timing well, so they use their ear to pick up the timing.

I was totally self-taught because I lived in an isolated place and in the 1970s there was no Skype or internet. I had the Donald MacLeod thick plastic albums and booklets, and the College of Piping green book. Two years after getting my first set of pipes I had moved to a city and found myself playing in a Grade 2 band (oh to have those teenage fingers again!)

Over the years I've realised that one of the greatest advantages of a good teacher is saving the learner a tremendous amount of time. Lessons are structured for maximum efficiency, to allow the learner to spend their time working on things that help them progress, and avoid wasting time on things that are at best useless or at worst make your playing regress.

So if you have plenty of time on your hands, and don't mind spending months or years practicing something a certain way only to find out it's wrong and you have to now spend twice as much time retraining your fingers to do it the right way, then self-teaching is OK I suppose. I went through that exact thing, two steps forward, one step back. I wouldn't wish it on anybody.
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Last edited by pancelticpiper; 08-26-2016 at 04:47 AM.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:29 AM   #8
David
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

Yes, a precious few have the ability to learn on their own. Yet it typically does end in failure.

You've gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?

However it turns out, good fortune!
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:43 AM   #9
bob864
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
Y

I'm odd in that I've had, from the get-go, one foot in the Irish Traditional Music world where everything is learnt and transmitted by ear and sheet music is viewed with suspicion and disdain
I'm fairly convinced that this is a relatively new sentiment fostered by recording technology. If you read the few published first hand accounts from the 1800s and 1900s, it's clear that sheet music used to be important to the Irish.

I've heard Kevin Burke, by the way, talk about playing through ONeil's searching for overlooked tunes.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:48 AM   #10
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Teaching myself? What practice chanter? Need advice.

In echoing the sentiments of many here, I would ask an additional question: How much do you want to relearn everything? I don't know what your ultimate goals and trajectory are; but I ask that because, in my experience, those who are self-taught or poorly taught (by someone who should not be teaching...and we know they're out there!) end up having to back-track and relearn so much if and when they go to a piping workshop, school and/or find a skilled instructor. I find relearning something harder than learning it properly the first time. Good hunting!
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