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Old 07-09-2019, 11:32 AM   #1
JoetheBagpiper
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Default Struggling with finger placement

I've been learning with a practice chanter for about a month now. I can play up and down the scale and do grace notes as well as the 'Throw on D'.

However, I struggle to get good finger placement consistently. I can have good finger placement, and lift one finger and put it back down and have that horrible sound you get when you don't have all the holes covered completely.

This is getting to be a real source of frustration right now.

I thought I'd throw this out there and see what advice or guidance you all could offer me, a frustrated beginner.

Thank you!

Joe
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Old 07-09-2019, 05:22 PM   #2
Randy McIntosh
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

What kind of practice chanter do you have? You should have one with countersink holes.

That will allow you to feel the holes.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:05 PM   #3
Joseph Diodato
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Hi Joe, I'm Joe!

I'd echo Randy's point about countersunk holes. Aside from that, are there any particular notes or note changes that give you trouble?

You might find it helpful to start with your low G. Can you comfortably pick up your chanter and cover all holes at once without too much trouble? If not, I'd start there, slow and steady. Be sure to watch how your fingers move in the mirror. Stay relaxed, and don't choke the chanter.

Cheers,
Joe
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Last edited by Joseph Diodato; 07-09-2019 at 07:10 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:42 AM   #4
pbutts
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Three words : practice, practice, practice.

Your question suggests you’re attempting this without a teacher. If you’ve been on this board for any length of time, you know that is discouraged and that there are good Skype options out there.

If you do have a teacher, I can understand being shy and feeling reluctant to ask what might seem like a silly question.

Good for you to be aware of this. Everyone struggles with this and a month really isn’t very long. Everyone’s hands fit the chanter in slightly different ways, so you ultimately need to figure this out for yourself. I have a couple of students at about this point and the things I keep reminding them about are pretty common issues:

Don’t grip the chanter too hard; it should balance reliably between your mouth and either the table or your knee. Your fingers shouldnÂ’t need to hold it in place.

Watch the position of your right thumb. If it moves, your C and D fingers will move.

Keep your arms and wrists relaxed. Your fingers should be straight but relaxed: neither extended or curled.

The fingers on your right hand should be perpendicular to the chanter (but itÂ’s unlikely this will be possible for your left hand).

Both of my current students are high school woodwind players who I sometimes need to remind that the pads on their fingers are used to replace the keys on the instrument they played before. The amount the fingers overlap the plane of the chanter holes depends on the length of your fingers. Make sure the pads on your right pinky and left ring finger can comfortably cover their holes.

If it feels like the chanter is rolling under your fingers sometimes, youÂ’re not alone. Check your position and keep practicing. This is another issue that might be solved by a long practice chanter with counter sunk holes.

Whenever your hands are free and thereÂ’s a flat surface in front of you: put your fingers on the edge and practice moving each finger up independently to build up strength.

Did I mention practice? It gets easier and youÂ’ll soon notice new challenges to worry about ;-)
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:34 AM   #5
JoetheBagpiper
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Thank you for the replies. I know one month is not long, but I got so frustrated last time, I had to stop myself from snapping the chanter over my knee.

I play electric bass guitar as my main instrument, by now I have a few caluses on the fingers of my left hand. I don't know if this contributes to the problem, but I'm thinking maybe.

Yes, I do grip too tightly, I'm sure of that. I want a good flow of notes and it sounds terrible right now. The chanter does have the counter sunk holes in it. It seems to be a good one made by Wallace Bagpipes.

And yes, I am doing self study at this point. I would like to eventually offer my services for parades or ceremonies. I've often admired bagpipe players and how beautiful the sound of the instrument is.

Again thanks for your replies and your support.

Joe
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Old 07-10-2019, 09:14 AM   #6
el gaitero
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Can you play triplets,hari-hums,grips,taorlauth’s,rodin,..with precision and clarity up/ down the scale at varied tempos ....of course not;
...almost above all...don’t get frustrated..get a qualified instructor ...face to face is best..,join a quality band.
You could be ready for parades etc in a year or so....but you’ll nae do it worth a farthing alone. Just sayin’.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:15 AM   #7
JoetheBagpiper
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Where would you suggest I look first for a tutor?

Thanks very much!

Joe

Quote:
Originally Posted by el gaitero View Post
Can you play triplets,hari-hums,grips,taorlauth’s,rodin,..with precision and clarity up/ down the scale at varied tempos ....of course not;
...almost above all...don’t get frustrated..get a qualified instructor ...face to face is best..,join a quality band.
You could be ready for parades etc in a year or so....but you’ll nae do it worth a farthing alone. Just sayin’.
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Old 07-10-2019, 11:26 AM   #8
Randy McIntosh
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Where about are you located?
The US is a big place....
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Old 07-10-2019, 03:57 PM   #9
Joseph Diodato
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoetheBagpiper View Post
Where would you suggest I look first for a tutor?
If you know of any pipe bands in your general vicinity, they'd be a good resource to point you in the direction of some possible folks. You could also check which region you're in and see if that regions pipe band association can be of assistance. I reccomend this article on Andrew Lenz' blog on finding an instructor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoetheBagpiper View Post
I play electric bass guitar as my main instrument, by now I have a few caluses on the fingers of my left hand. I don't know if this contributes to the problem, but I'm thinking maybe.
I've dabbled in guitar myself, and the callouses shouldn't impact your playing since we play the bagpipe chanter with the pads of our fingers instead of the fingertips that other musicians might be accustomed to.

From one beginner to another -- it sure is challenging, but I think we'll find the rewards to be well worth it.

Cheers,
Joe
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:01 AM   #10
JoetheBagpiper
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Default Re: Struggling with finger placement

Thank you everyone, and especially Joe! I had a feeling the caluses weren't at fault for my foul playing but it's very good to hear from someone more experienced.

I want this to work, I'm not sure when I can afford a tutor, but I can see the value in the suggestion already. I'm determined, somehow, I will be a bagpiper!


Joe
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