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Old 08-02-2017, 10:37 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Orlando, FL
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Default Can't hear my pipes when playing with my band

Hi all,

I searched for this subject in the forum but could not locate anything. if it has already been covered please point me in the correct direction.

That being said, I have started playing with my local pipe band after almost 2 years of instruction. It is really fun and I am learning a lot. I do pretty well on the chanter sessions but when we get in the circle and start playing I can not hear my pipes over the others. I mean not at all, nothing.

The PM said "if you don't hear your pipes in a group that is a good thing" but I can't tell what I'm playing.

I can not even tell if they are even sounding most of the time. I can feel vibrations most of the time but can not hear wrong notes or squeaks. the PM asked me "is that your pipes squeaking?" I had to answer most likely, but not really sure.

Any advice or tips to play while in a circle would be appreciated. How do I practice this? How do I hear what I am playing? I have an easy-medium reed and this may contribute to the problem, but am not quite ready for a much stronger (louder) reed.

Should I step back a bit? More distance from the group? It would look a bit odd but if it works I'll try it.

Thanks in advance.
Rosie O'Grady's Highlanders, Orlando, FL
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Old 08-02-2017, 11:45 AM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: North America
Posts: 3,397
Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

Ah... DRCTL....

Time to Time... and running on as it does...we all of us
discover... that there is... and quite simply... a plethora
of Great Peculiarities... in this... our Piping Game...
('Twas ever thus... :)

Kindly be neither dismayed... nor discouraged... by this
sudden realization... that has now confronted you... as
it suddenly descended upon most of us... and... Kerplop!! :)

Yes... in a large circle... or in the midst of the band... and
especially... in massed bands... (where you cannot even
hear yourself pass wind !!... and no matter how gusty an
exuberance it may be :)... you shall not be able to hear...
your own pipes...

And the only recourse... and for any of us... is the old guide-
post... "Steady On!"... and to relax... and hear the music that
is surrounding you... and to stretch... and to feel the holes in
your chanter... and the air pressure coming out of them... and
finally... just to keep a weather eye... on some of those other
fingers... playing around you... :)

And... as with all else in The Piping Game... it's just practice. :)

You will get there !! (After all, we did. :) Just keep after it !! :)

And the Best of Good Fortune with it !!,


My friends all know,
With what a brave carouse...

Last edited by Pip01; 08-02-2017 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 08-02-2017, 12:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

Yeah, the circle might be too tight... Reed might just be too quiet. If I were in your situation, I'd experiment a bit- after the first phrase or so of a song, I'd play a low-g or low-a. Just honk it out, long and loud. If you don't hear it, then you probably are dropping pressure in the circle and have stopped playing. That, or your reed is impossibly soft. Are you wearing hearing protection? That also might be it.
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Old 08-02-2017, 12:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

Depending on the chanter reed, you should be able to feel the chanter vibrate, especially on lower notes. If that occurs when playing solo and you can hear your bagpipes, when you're playing in the circle and can still feel the same vibrations, then you can assume your pipes are doing fine.

During band practice, you could always throw the odd wrong note on purpose to see if you can hear it, but you might inadvertently draw the attention of your PM.


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"Melancholy as the Drone of a Lancashire Bagpipe" (Behn, Aphra 1678. Sir Patient Fancy)
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Old 08-02-2017, 02:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

Try playing with one piper, then two and then three. This will tell you, as well as other pipers, if they can hear your pipes.
"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."
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Old 08-02-2017, 03:32 PM   #6
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

I experienced the same thing when I was getting started. Good suggestions here .. but overall, I daresay that you just get used to it.

But it DOES take getting used to. It's very off-putting to essentially not be able to hear what you, yourself, are doing. But that'll come. Sometimes the phenomenon still catches me by surprise.

Stage scenarios are very similar ... if monitors aren't set up properly, you can't hear what you, yourself, are playing. That's an issue, and it's supposed to be what monitors are there for in the first place.

Maybe, ask the pipe major if you can be on the short list of people who play harmonies in some tunes. This would be ideal .. as you'll likely play unison for one repeat of a tune, and harmony on the next. You'll definitely hear yourself more directly when you're playing the harmony parts, and dropping in and out of playing unison will likely help you on your journey of getting used to the way unison sounds by default.

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Old 08-02-2017, 04:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

At some point, playing a tune becomes a
pattern of finger movements... a percussive
gracenote as your finger hits the chanter,
in just the right place, and on the beat.

(You could write your name on a check, behind
your back, but you haven't actually practiced
that, eh?)

Until then, relax, keep track of the beat, and
someone will surely tell you if you're playing
the wrong tune.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

I think many of us struggled with this. It has been a long while since I first played in a band but I remember this disconcerting feeling. What helped me was learning to relax, switching my focus to the ensemble sound of the band and not trying to hear my own pipes and musicians ear plugs. The latter helped to turn everything down from 11, which made it easier to focus on whatever I needed to. Sort of like turning the radio down in the car when you are in heavy traffic or looking for an address you aren't familiar with.

Hang in there, it gets easier.
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

I've learned to just trust my fingers and that I know the song by heart. As long as I can feel vibrations coming from my chanter and I'm not getting any dirty looks from the other players, it's all good. Give it time and you'll get used to it.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: Can't hear my pipes

I remember those days too, many years ago haha. It's something you definitely get used to, and now something i've probably taken for granted.

Thanks for the reminder for when i'm bringing new learners through.
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