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Old 10-12-2020, 02:17 PM   #1
Davidck
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Default What reaction do you get when playing in public?

I started learning the bagpipes in June, and my instructor thought I progressed quickly enough on the chanter that I moved on to the actual pipes in about a month. Then I moved out of my house and into an apartment in a large city, where I’ll be for three years. As such, the only time I get to play my GHB is when I go to a nearby park and do so—though I also now have smallpipes that I play at home.

I’m still in the “beginner” range, though I can play some songs (namely Amazing Grace and Highland Cathedral) pretty well, with some occasional lapses in air. Despite not yet being a good player, I find that I attract a crowd of listeners anywhere I go. I even had an elderly couple singing along to “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” yesterday. I suppose it’s just the novelty of seeing someone playing the bagpipes in public, combined with the fact that they can’t tell I’m actually making mistakes, but I’m wondering if this is just how people tend to react.
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Old 10-12-2020, 04:35 PM   #2
olypiper
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

It seems like there are mostly two kinds of people. Those that love the bagpipe, and will come to find you and talk to you, and those that avoid you and say nothing.

When I was learning, I used to wander onto the the state Capitol campus, which was across the street from my home, just about every night. The grounds were filled with monuments honoring all of the recent wars, and everything was made of brick or concrete, which made for a great backdrop for playing. I recall many people who heard me from a distance and sought me out, and many neighborhood people who were very bagpipe friendly. I don't remember a single person telling me that they wished I would stop it. It was a great place to get some experience playing in front of others.
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Old 10-12-2020, 05:42 PM   #3
EquusRacer
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

When I'm out and about and hear the pipes, I'm drawn to it/them usually for one of three reasons: a. Who's playing so beautifully?; b. Who's ballsy enough to be out in public playing like crap?; or c. I wonder if I know that person? Sometimes, it's a combination of two of those.
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Old 10-12-2020, 07:45 PM   #4
Toxpert
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

I was a late starteR at 28 years old. I would practice inside A LOT before venturing to play in public. I was lucky in that the medical examiner lab where I was training was across the street from two museums with lots of lawn space. I would walk across the street before & after work and sometimes on break time and play on the lawns. People would politely stand off to the side of the tree-lined perimeter of the park ....and stand or listen till I was done. Rarely they would come and speak.

I never heard a negative comment until I joined the band and we had gigs to raise money during St Patrick’s time. That’s when things sometimes turned really ugly with drunken patrons.
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Old 10-12-2020, 09:55 PM   #5
Joseph Diodato
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

I've actually only had positive experiences. Mostly in the form of folks asking how I got into playing the pipes, and one guy that wanted to take a picture with me and my instrument. At least the folks who aren't inclined to appreciate piping have plenty of warning to stay away. Part of it is that the public unfortunately has such a terribly low expectation of what a piper should sound like (c.f. Ross on Friends). Even a disciplined beginner will sound quite good by comparison to the untrained ear.

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Old 10-13-2020, 01:33 PM   #6
Davidck
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

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Originally Posted by Toxpert View Post
I was a late starteR at 28 years old.
If 28 is a late starter, then I am positively geriatric at 38!
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Old 10-13-2020, 01:41 PM   #7
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

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Originally Posted by Davidck View Post
If 28 is a late starter, then I am positively geriatric at 38!
I started at 29, but I had 15 years of playing tuba and a Music degree by then
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Old 10-13-2020, 02:33 PM   #8
EquusRacer
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

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Originally Posted by Joseph Diodato View Post
...Part of it is that the public unfortunately has such a terribly low expectation of what a piper should sound like... Even a disciplined beginner will sound quite good by comparison to the untrained ear.
There is some truth in that; and, in part, it comes from some who 'perform' in public who should not. I do understand the need to practice, and the difficulty finding a place; so I'm not focused on those individuals as I am more the ones busking or otherwise out there in public who should not be.

There is also a notion out there with some which I wish we could dispel: "Oh, nobody really knows the difference." That, and crappy playing, only undermines those of us who work to educate the non-piping community on what good piping and drumming, and music, truly is. Besides, whether or not someone else knows the difference is, to me, immaterial. We should know the difference, and at least not accept mediocrity in our own playing. We might not all be high grade players; but we do not have to be sub-par...or sub-potential.
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Old 10-15-2020, 06:34 AM   #9
Davidck
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

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Originally Posted by Klondike Waldo View Post
I started at 29, but I had 15 years of playing tuba and a Music degree by then
Oh, I was not a music novice. Iíve played piano since I was 7 (though not on a regular basis in about 20 years, since I havenít had a piano after graduating high school) and also played trumpet in from 5th grade through college. So Iím pretty out of practice on both instruments, but reading/writing music was not new to me.

The fingerings of the bagpipes have actually come quite easily to me. The biggest problem for me on the GHB is that my hands and lips get tired. I find this actually limits me more than the breathing, though I do occasionally lose pressure momentarily and my high Aís sometimes have that wah-wah sound. So I donít see myself as a public performer by any means...I just like playing them, and if members of the public enjoy my amateurish playing, so much the better.
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:08 PM   #10
EquusRacer
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Default Re: What reaction do you get when playing in public?

I think that most of us who started later (I at 30), particularly those of us who've had young students progress well, wish we'd started earlier. But at least we did; and as a result, we've enjoyed (or will enjoy) as many years as we have, rather than not and regretting never having tried. Besides, had I started as a youngster, knowing how 'flighty' I was, it's quite possible that I would never have continued. I view my journey as having been a combination of luck (having been introduced to the instructor and band) and perseverance. In short, good on you all for doing it, no matter what age you started.
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