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Old 03-03-2014, 11:56 AM   #41
bob864
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Superiority /and/ insecurity. Go figure.
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Old 03-12-2014, 04:29 PM   #42
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MelodyPipes View Post
I expect a lot of my self, and I practice a lot, working towards really clean fingering. I can wish all I want that I still had the fingers of a young person, but I do what I can with what I have -- I just want to play the best I can for as long as I can, and since I started late, and only up on pipes a few years, I hope to continue to improve. I began competing in G4 in 2013 to help me improve as well. Last year I played The Dundee Military Tattoo as my 2/4, and this year I am working on Duncan McInnes & King George V's Army for 2014.

I exercise my fingers and I sleep in gloves to keep my hands warm -- I have some slight arthritis, mostly in my thumb joints. Had I started playing at a much younger age, I can imagine all sorts of things, but I didn't. I love piping, and I love the challenges of some of the more difficult tunes. I may be older, but I'm not dead yet...
My sentiments exactly!

I started to learn when I was 58 and am nervously looking forward to my first solo competition year at the age of 61. I take lessons monthly, have attended workshops, and practice for hours every day. I struggle with jigs and reels, but straths seems to be easier to play. I have no expectations of ever "winning" these competitions or of becoming a Gold Medalist, unless of course a miracle happens and I live another 50 years, my arthritis goes away and I win the lottery so I can afford more frequent lessons. What I do expect is to be the best damn old woman piper I can be, and to be able to hold my head high after a performance. I can curse the grey matter as much as I want, but it is what it is. If I can achieve a Grade 4 standard before leaving this planet, then that will be my Gold Medal. If I can manage to play Sleepy Maggie correctly and up to speed, then I will be euphoric. I envy those who started under the age of 18 but the opportunity has to be there, and, unfortunately, for many of us it was not. Sometimes winning a Gold Medal isn't the only measure of success. I think it's all relevant and the older learner can reach quite impressive milestones even if they never reach a Grade 1 or Professional level. As long as we keep striving to improve our technique and challenge ourselves to get to the next level, then we are winning. Even if we never conquer a hornpipe, we can still stand proud next to those young kids in our own light, because we have worked our hardest and will enjoy the rewards of our efforts.

Now, back to Scot's Wha Hae
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Old 03-20-2014, 08:59 AM   #43
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

I started at the age of 53...I'm 58 in july...
4 years on practice chanter...and a bit more then 1 year on the pipes (also started on my own by an impulse from the guy who set my pipes up)

Have no clue when I shall start official in our band on the pipes...the last year just only 5-6 times to try it

just learned some of our parade tunes (3/4 - 4/4)
and a few slow tunes

my goal? play the pipes correctly and play during parades...


mc

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Old 03-23-2014, 08:12 PM   #44
Harvey McLendon
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

I started at age 29 on practice chanter and turned 30 by the time I was up on pipes. I've been playing now for a little over 15 years. I play in a Grade 3 band and was upgraded to Amateur Grade 1 for the 2014 season. My first competition in the new grade is coming up next weekend, and just like Grade 4 Sr., Grade 3 and Grade 2 before, I fully expect to start at the bottom and just try work my way up .

Anyway, I am an adult learner and of course at this stage I must play all of the light music idioms in band and solos. My favorites are jigs and I can 't stop playing Jig of Slurs. It's an unhealthy obsession.

My experience has been that my proficiency and playing ability over the last 6 years has been on a much sharper upward trajectory than the first 9. This is entirely due to the decision I made to join a band with terrific players and great leadership. My motivation was simple - I wanted to be a better player, so I thought I would try to play with better players. It wouldn't have worked for everyone, but it was the right environment and timing for me. Yes, I've had a lot of individual instruction too, and that's critical. However, I need to be challenged by playing in the company of great players - that motivates me like nothing else.

And that's what I think it really comes down to - motivation. We all have constraints: work, money, time. But if you are motivated to improve, you can do it. There are a thousand ways to do it. If you have a physical impairment or injury, it's going to be harder, sure. But I know for a fact we all actually do have the ability to play faster and more accurately, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
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Last edited by Harvey McLendon; 03-23-2014 at 08:14 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-24-2014, 01:11 AM   #45
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey McLendon View Post
I started at age 29 on practice chanter and turned 30 by the time I was up on pipes. I've been playing now for a little over 15 years. I play in a Grade 3 band and was upgraded to Amateur Grade 1 for the 2014 season. My first competition in the new grade is coming up next weekend, and just like Grade 4 Sr., Grade 3 and Grade 2 before, I fully expect to start at the bottom and just try work my way up .

Anyway, I am an adult learner and of course at this stage I must play all of the light music idioms in band and solos. My favorites are jigs and I can 't stop playing Jig of Slurs. It's an unhealthy obsession.

My experience has been that my proficiency and playing ability over the last 6 years has been on a much sharper upward trajectory than the first 9. This is entirely due to the decision I made to join a band with terrific players and great leadership. My motivation was simple - I wanted to be a better player, so I thought I would try to play with better players. It wouldn't have worked for everyone, but it was the right environment and timing for me. Yes, I've had a lot of individual instruction too, and that's critical. However, I need to be challenged by playing in the company of great players - that motivates me like nothing else.

And that's what I think it really comes down to - motivation. We all have constraints: work, money, time. But if you are motivated to improve, you can do it. There are a thousand ways to do it. If you have a physical impairment or injury, it's going to be harder, sure. But I know for a fact we all actually do have the ability to play faster and more accurately, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Just goes to show what a great influence a well-directed musical pipe band can be!

After teaching off and on for several decades, I have to disagree about

"But I know for a fact all actually do have the ability to play
faster and more accurately, don't let anyone tell you otherwise."


I have seen a number of older players struggle endlessly. Those I got as students who learned with someone else, I invariably put them into slow-motion exercises, and had them reduce their jigs and reels and hornpipes by 60-70%.

The bad news is that many could not bring up the speed and still play cleanly, after several diligent years. However, the GOOD news is that I picked "fast" tunes that sound decent at a reduced tempo. Many tunes sound great at a reduced tempo if they are played smartly, with crisp fingering, and on a well-tuned, steady pipe. So I have to disagree that ALL can even play fast and accurately--many cannot, though I would agree that many can do much, much better. And those that can't, need a good tune-selection appropriate to their maximum clean-fingering tempo possibility.

You were a young "older" learner. Try teaching very serious, diligent, men and women in their 50s, 60s, 70s. There are exceptions, which is fabulous, but realism does set in as the Golden Years progress.

I had an older student who took a real shine to piobaireachd. He started with Old Woman's Lullaby. It opened a whole new world for him, and was quite happy with slow airs, light tunes, a few simple piobaireachd, and some grounds. He just couldn't get his fingers moving in a jig or reel, and was not willing to spend more years on them when he found pipe music that he was very pleased to play. He prioritized and focused and set goals. His first full performance of a piobaireachd gave him more satisfaction than any up-tempo jig or reel.

We all do have limitations. It is best to push, and push hard, with any motivated older student, and never to assume the negative. That would not be a teacher serving a student well. Any of us can be surprised by a student's progress, and many have been I am sure. In any case, do your best, and hope for the best. Limitations are a fact of life, but I would sincerely agree that they should not be part of our musical dreams.
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Old 03-24-2014, 07:09 AM   #46
bob864
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
J
After teaching off and on for several decades, I have to disagree about

"But I know for a fact all actually do have the ability to play
faster and more accurately, don't let anyone tell you otherwise."


So I have to disagree that ALL can even play fast and accurately--many cannot, though I would agree that many can do much, much better.
Harvey says "faster and more accurately", not "fast and accurate." I perceive a vast difference between those.
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Old 03-24-2014, 02:55 PM   #47
David
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

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Originally Posted by bob864 View Post
Harvey says "faster and more accurately", not "fast and accurate." I perceive a vast difference between those.
I saw that clearly, but was adding something into the mix. The point being the ability to play fast enough that a reel or jig or hornpipe sounds musical. Obviosly, just picking up the tempo a bit, or playing faster, is relative to something. A good teacher teaches tuning, technique, AND tempo. Training up an older student to play half-speed tunes doesn't satisfy anyone. All I am saying is that judicious tune selection, and diligence with focused instruction is good, necessary and worthwhile in teaching faster tunes to older students, but will not carry along ALL late starters. Lots of pipers will never play Clumsy Lover.
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Old 03-24-2014, 06:32 PM   #48
Harvey McLendon
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

That's an important point David, and we have to be honest with ourselves about our ability and not waste our efforts on tunes that are far too advanced for our stage (stages, not ages!). However, call me Pollyanna, I just refuse to believe that someone whose fingers can go up and down in a normal tapping motion cannot with time and focused practice improve on that, even to the point of playing a musical jig or other light music. I do agree that if the player's finger movement is impaired by joint stiffness, arthritis, or injury, then yes, that's going to be a tough road and the prospects are limited.

One other point, there's a lot of self defeating ideas out there passed around by players at every level. In this thread I've seen a passing reference to the "kids". In general, they achieve so much so quickly not because of their fingers, but because they are better learners than we are. They also have lots of free time . Even as a "younger" adult learner I was told by very accomplished players that I could never develop certain aspects of technique because I had not started as a child - some hogwash about tendons or ligaments. It's just not true. You can't do it all at once, you have to focus on the fundamentals and make everything that's weak about your current playing your new strong point. All along, I had to keep reminding myself that I can wiggle my fingers as fast as anyone else - I just have to train my brain to control them.
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:06 AM   #49
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Indeed acquiescence to senescence is no way to learn or teach. Shoot for the moon, and who cares if one ends up on top of the hill at the edge of town? One thing that is certain, older players taught impeccable tuning and reed craft can almost always be taught to make beautiful music, even if they must remain subsonic. And in truth, the slower tunes bring out the essential and unique quality of the bagpipe, the chanter notes against the drones, which they do much better than the admittedly fun-to-play up-tempo tunes.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-Dylan Thomas
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Old 03-25-2014, 05:20 AM   #50
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Default Re: Adult learners who can play straths, reels, jigs and h'pipes.

Thanks for sharing your experiences Harvey - it's very inspirational.
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