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Old 05-31-2020, 09:27 AM   #1
Rocketjcat
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Join Date: May 2020
Location: Syracuse, NY
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Default Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Hi, I've just purchased a McCallum standard sized blackwood chanter and the Sandy Jones Instruction book & CD. I'm just trying to get a little jump on lessons that start in the fall, so I don't embarrass myself too badly. I'm having a really hard time getting my RH fingers, especially my pinkie, spaced far enough to cover the holes. I've looked at the pictures in the book with a man's hand and nice straight fingers covering the holes at the small knuckle but I find I have to cover the holes with the fatty part of my finger between my first and middle knuckle to get my pinkie all the way to its hole. This still isn't foolproof, sometimes it sounds great like the CD, sometimes I sound like a kazoo, sending my husband out of the house. Ha. My right wrist also cramps up from the very awkward angle, and my left thumb aches after just a few minutes of practice. I'm resting the chanter on a table and trying not to strangle it. I'm 5'3" and didn't think I had especially small hands, but is it possible that it's just too large for me and I should try a junior size? Any words of advice? Thanks, Jean
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Old 05-31-2020, 09:41 AM   #2
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

I assume this is a practice chanter, Rocketjcat? And would I be correct in assuming you will be starting your first lessons this fall?

It's curious that you're having a bit of a problem with a standard-sized PC. But they do differ; and when I was instructing children, we would often get them on chanters with closer spaced holes. That said, everyone's hands are different, and those starting out often have initial issues with finger position, squealing notes, and so forth. Another way of putting that is that where your fingers fall on the holes will be unique for your hands/fingers. Your instructor will be able to guide your positioning, easing some of the discomfort. That will be key for when you move to a bagpipe chanter, with wider spacing and larger holes.

In the meantime, you might want to look at other chanters; though, as I stated the McCallum you have is a nice PC and should, with guidance and adjustment, serve you well. If you have the opportunity, perhaps your future instructor would be willing to help you out in advance. Good on you for trying to get a head start; and good luck.

P.S. - I grew up south of you in Cortland and worked in Syracuse many years ago.
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Old 05-31-2020, 09:46 AM   #3
olypiper
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Hello Jean,

What worked for me was to put a small dot of glue on the back side of the chanter between the B and C holes as a training aid. When the glue dries, it gives you a locator for your thumb, which puts that low gand thumb right in the middle of all four low hand fingers. This will give you great stability for all those low hand embellishments that use a lot of low G.

The low hand will no doubt be a bit sore as you stretch it out to cover the holes, particularly the low G. This is natural, and will get easier as you go, maybe several days to a week or so. Fear not, it will get better. You are asking those fingers to move in ways they likely never have before.

Cheers.
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Old 05-31-2020, 09:51 AM   #4
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

On your right hand, the holes will be well into the second pad of the 3 fingers so as you observe, the first pad of your pinkie will cover the hole. It will take time, and eventually your right pinkie will naturally stick out farther than your left. Make sure your wrist is straight through your forearm.
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Old 05-31-2020, 11:25 AM   #5
Rocketjcat
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Hi, I'm not sure if I can reply individually but thank you all for your replies. I will try your suggestions of the glue dot, trying to straighten my arm more, and persevering, as it's only been a few days of practice. I will need to use the fatty pads of my fingers more, especially the 3rd pad of my index finger, probably just because my hand is smaller and unaccustomed to stretching. I just didn't want to get flogged when I get to my lessons. If it doesn't get easier I will touch bases with my future instructor for advice. Thanks, Jean
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Old 05-31-2020, 11:46 AM   #6
el gaitero
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Suggest...wait for your lessons and instructor guidance. Don’t create any bad habits over the next few months until Fall that might then need to be un-learned.

Ps ...at this point it’s the Indian...not the arrow ; i.e. the standard length McCallum pc is excellent. ( so is the book you have) . Don’t waste money on a(ny) poor sounding child size pc.
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Old 05-31-2020, 02:09 PM   #7
dsb0628
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

All previous suggestions were well stated. Back to your initial statement re: "getting a head start". Consider spending time on note reading and the corresponding finger placement on the chanter holes.
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Old 05-31-2020, 03:09 PM   #8
CalumII
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Your hands are fine; small children handle pipe chanters easily. Hold your hand out flat in front of you and spread your fingers out. Notice that the middle two stay where they are, but the outer two spread out. Use that to find a comfortable placement by centring your hand on those two middle holes.


On the right thumb, don't worry initially about placement too much but you will notice in time that it is more stable and your fingering more accurate when it moves lower down. A lot of people will say between the B and C holes. This is usually quite a stretch for beginners, so place it where it is comfortable. As your thumb gets used to the position you will find it can reach down further without tension and after about a year or so it will reach the B and C midpoint comfortably.
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Old 06-08-2020, 07:14 PM   #9
LloydB
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocketjcat View Post
Hi, I'm not
sure if I can reply individually but thank you
all for your replies. [snipped]If it doesn't get
easier I will touch bases with my future
instructor for advice. Thanks, Jean
Jean, look for a private message.
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Old 06-10-2020, 01:58 PM   #10
Pip01
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Default Re: Newbie having problems with spacing my fingers





The Warmest of Greetings, Rocketjcat, Jean,

The very first matter of importance is... Welcome
to the Club!!... and Happy to Have you Aboard!! :)
(And ask anything... and... anytime!! :)

The second matter of great import is... You!!... are
exactly... the proper size!!... hands and all !! :)
(Hmm... You're about the size of many an average
Gurkha... and many a damned fine piper in their
ranks. :)

The third matter at hand (with no pun intended :)
is that almost everybody's right hand gives//gave
them fits... when first beginning The Great Waltz-
About... with The Great Beast!! :)

Fingers... and from birth... grip in... and down!!

Ours... the right hand... must lie flat... and straight...
and then... the ring and middle finger... must rise...
together... (Blast!! It starts our really hard!! :)... with
the first and little finger still down... to make a proper
and simple "C." (Love of the kazoo oft appears here. :)

A simple exercise for this is... with the right palm
flat upon the table... raise the middle and ring finger...
together!! :) (Doesn't look hard. :)

And... make very sure... that when you bring them
down... that they both hit the table at the same time.
(Rise at the same time... Fall at the same time... :)

Do this bunches and bunches (and bunches) of times.
(Not much way around this... really... :)

For stretching exercises... stick your left-hand thumb
and little finger between your right-hand fingers... first
and middle... middle and ring... ring and little... and just
spread/pry them apart... as far as is not-too-uncomfortable...
and just hold it/them there... for ever longer bits of time... :)

You can also rotate... your right hand... while doing this...
by simply/slowly... raising and lowering... your right elbow...:)
(Fun!!... ain't it?! :)

The finger's tendons... on the backs of both hands... can
be both elongated and strenghtened ... by simply massaging
them with the free thumb... while under running water from a
faucet... and increasing the temperature... as much as you
can...

In the matter of... which part... of the little finger... God Almighty
intended to cover that Low G hole... at that time (Aeons Past. :) ...
I was instructed... to use the most fleshly part of the pad... that
I could (consistently) place there... though by now... this may be
considered... an Old Style... :)

In that now... Long Ago... my instructor(s) came from some of the
older pipers... who had learned from yet even older pipers... who
had played before and in the First... and between the two World
Wars... and in the 2nd one... and after... so some of these notes
may have now been... superseded... but perhaps... not entirely... :)

Mainly... just keep getting... and staying... after it!! :)

You shall get there... and have a grand time!!... in the doing of it!! :)

All the Best!!

Pip01




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Last edited by Pip01; 06-10-2020 at 02:20 PM.
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