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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 10-15-2012, 10:06 AM   #1
KDB
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Default What is competence?

To avoid a thread-jacking, I felt the need to open a new thread. I rarely post, but read voraciously. This morning I read the following quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bish View Post
The number of players who persevere to a reasonable standard is a very low percentage of the number who start, or even of those who make it onto the pipes.

This touches upon a question I've had in mind for some time, but was looking for a way to ask. As an adult learner, I've been told (often and at length) that it's a pity I didn't start younger as I'll never be able to develop the necessary dexterity at my advanced age to be really good on the pipes but I hope someday to be considered a competent journeyman.

So.....What , exactly, is a "reasonable standard" to be considered a competent piper?


I think it would be instructive to read a few opinions!
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Old 10-15-2012, 10:45 AM   #2
philippewilliamdaniel
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Default Re: What is competence?

As an adult piper same questions came to my mind; I imagined when I started some years ago that playing simple and most common tunes of light music (Scotland the brave, Highland Cathedral, and so on) but nicely I should consider myself as enough competent.

Now my aim has changed a bit and next competence will be to play nicely a few piobaireachds in a way it will be pleasant to the ears of talented experts, and the day my instructor will tell me it's that nice I will consider mission accomplished.

So IMO no need to be "that good" but just to play correctly and (very important) with a sense of music not like a robot.
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Old 10-15-2012, 10:54 AM   #3
Texas Gael
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Default Re: What is competence?

This is a good question. IMHO it's the ability to play the requested tunes through with relatively clean fingering and no note mistakes. Also, being able to properly set up your instrument and get good tone - drones and chanter in reasonable tune. Personally, I don't have a problem with folks who haven't been on the pipe for long playing gigs in public, everybody's got to start out sometime. The problem is those who go for public gigs that are way over their head and way beyond their abilities.

Cheers -

Wes
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: What is competence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by KDB View Post
To avoid a thread-jacking, I felt the need to open a new thread. I rarely post, but read voraciously. This morning I read the following quote:




This touches upon a question I've had in mind for some time, but was looking for a way to ask. As an adult learner, I've been told (often and at length) that it's a pity I didn't start younger as I'll never be able to develop the necessary dexterity at my advanced age to be really good on the pipes but I hope someday to be considered a competent journeyman.

So.....What , exactly, is a "reasonable standard" to be considered a competent piper?


I think it would be instructive to read a few opinions!
I'd have to say if you can play through your tunes on a pleasant sounding instrument with clean fingering you're doing better than most pipers. Even if you're playing a bit slower. I was lucky to learn when I was young so when I took ten years off all I had to do was practice a few hours a day for my hands to come back. I've been able to get them better than they were when I was twenty.
Something you may want to do is play along with recordings of top players. Start with slow airs and then move onto 4/4 and 3/4 marches. It's amazing what you can pick up by playing along. Your gracenotes will start getting faster and your doublings will tighten up. You may not be able to get as far a young player but it should help your playing considerably. Jim McGillivray's site is great for this. You may be able to pay a good player to make recordings of your tunes for you. You'll be able to get them to play at an appropriate speed as well. When youve mastered the tunes at a lower soeed you can speed them up yourself or get new recordings. Some of the players that teach over Skype will likely be able to do this for you. People like Neil Clark, Jori Chisolm, and Bruce Gandy would all be great choices. You could ask your teacher if you have one.

I hope my thoughts were of some use to you. I had great success in improving my technique by playing along to recordings in the past. It takes a bit of gettin used to but is worth the time and effort. Don't sacrifice clarity for speed. You can work on gradually speeding things up.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:33 AM   #5
bob864
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Default Re: What is competence?

I like to use the term "reasonable competence" without defining it. It's probably not possible to really define that, but we can probably agree on some generalities (I'll use he/his for ease of writing here, but I mean women as well as men):

I think at a minimum:

A competent piper can set up and tune his pipes. Note that tuning accurately requires steady blowing.

A competent piper can play a number of tunes in different (idiomatically correct) time signatures.

Getting a little less concrete, a competent piper has (started to) become one with his instrument. He knows they will work out of the case. They're going to strike in, the chanter will be basically in tune, and he can quickly get the drones tuned. He knows how long it's going to take the chanter to basically settle in. He can hear when a chanter note is out of tune and can fix many tuning problems.

He has clean fingering; steady tempo; accurate rhythms.

These things are all generic enough that they would apply to pipers in various traditions, not just GHB pipers.
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Old 10-15-2012, 03:55 PM   #6
sticks
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Default Re: What is competence?

IMHO a competent piper is one that holds me in the music. A choke, note error or any other distraction that breaks the bond.......and you still have some work to do.
I've watched a piper play a lament at a funeral. He draws the attention of all present......creates the bond.......then watch as their eyes drift down and become transfixed on perhaps a blade of grass. They retreat to a solemn place.......a thought.....a memory.......the music woven intimately into the silence and stillness of all that are present.
One choke.....one note error.......and the bond is broken. They look up....the hypnotic trance is gone.
This to me......is the mark of a competent piper. The ability to hold the bond.
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Old 10-15-2012, 04:39 PM   #7
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: What is competence?

I've included some ideas about what does make a competent piper, but additionally things that maybe one hasn't achieved but wouldn't exclude one from being competent.

So many areas to be competent in.

1. Technique
-no crossing noises, clean embellishments
-not necessarily every embellishment identical = some variation in timing okay

2. Tuning
-drones in tune and balanced chanter
-not necessarily great chanter sound/gold medal level, just in tune
-not necessarily great drone sound/but in tune with chanter (e.g. not found best set of reeds for the brand of pipe)

3. Maintenance
-drone tops not sliding around
-not necessarily optimized pipe setup for physical build (e.g. bag size)

4. Expression
-technique doesn't get in the way of melody
-not necessarily integrated the embellishments into the melody by altering the timing of how they are played to better fit the feel of the tune

All these, and more I haven't thought of go together. Good maintenance helps in being in tune, technique aids in having good expression.
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Old 10-15-2012, 04:54 PM   #8
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Default Re: What is competence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sticks View Post
IMHO a competent piper is one that holds me in the music...
I've watched a piper play a lament at a funeral. He draws the attention of all present......creates the bond.......then watch as their eyes drift down and become transfixed on perhaps a blade of grass. They retreat to a solemn place.......a thought.....a memory.......the music woven intimately into the silence and stillness of all that are present.
One choke.....one note error.......and the bond is broken. They look up....the hypnotic trance is gone.
This to me......is the mark of a competent piper. The ability to hold the bond.
I've tried many ways to convey what you very clearly put into words. This sums up my thoughts exactly!

Well Done, Sticks!
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:49 PM   #9
Patrick McLaurin
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Default

sticks, on my Glenfiddich album, Greg Wilson chokes just a wee bit in his MSR. Is he not competent?

We all make mistakes. Hence I base my criteria on things people are capable of, instead of the mistakes that are made.
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:15 PM   #10
Steve Anderson
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Default Re: What is competence?

I can't say that I've played a perfect tune all year. I don't generally consider myself competent but I've got an increasing pile of 1st places an AGLs with most of the comments making note of minor technique flubs but great expression, 'awesome pipe', and 'best sounding pipe and tune of the day' by judges....


I don't think that competence is something that can be so clearly defined. It is, as is the judgement comment "That was a great tune" in the mind of the listener(s)

Piping has a certain entertainment factor to it. It serves a purpose. Perhaps to elate the audience with a happy tune, perhaps to help them express grief for the loss of a loved one and the measure of competence could be the ability of the piper to help the listener derive their desired result from the music being played.

Sorry for the ramble. Now back to my scotch.....
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