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1st Time Playing with band

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  • 1st Time Playing with band

    How common is this and how do we overcome it?

    I have some basic tunes memorized that the band warms up to, but just stepped into the circle for the first time and found I couldn’t hear myself play and two, it was like I forgot all the tunes!! I could play parts, but the distraction of all the pipes and drums made it difficult to remember the tunes, keep the bag full etc. It was like I didn’t know how to play the pipes.

    I’m hoping it’s a common issue and will go away with more practice in the circle with the band.
    Life's a game; play to win!

  • #2
    Yep, first time or two is always a bit overwhelming. If you can arrange to play with one or two other people you might find that helpful as there's just less going on.
    -- Formerly known as CalumII


    • #3
      Welcome to band playing! It's very common and disconcerting to not hear your own playing the first few times in the circle. That's why it's important to watch your Pipe Major's fingers (and their feet using your peripheral vision so you know the tempo the band is playing at), provided your Pipe Major is playing the tune and not any harmonies. If you can't see your Pipe Major's fingers (reposition so you can) or they are playing harmonies, watch another senior piper's fingers.

      Also, listen to the drum corps, especially the bass, for the tempo in addition to watching the PM's feet with your peripheral vision. Once you're familiar with the drum score and how it meshes with the pipe score, you'll know where you are in the tune.

      I know, lots of things to think about all at once. We've all been there. It'll come. Enjoy the ride.


      • #4
        I concur with the above, especially with Calum's suggestion. Yes, this is very common; so you can normalize it and have a bit of comfort. It's usually a shock (tempo is also commonly one, where you believe you're playing a tune fine at home, then in the circle it seems as though the tune has run away). As Calum suggested, play with one or two others, if you can. If you feel a vibration in your chanter, know that you're playing. And consider this: If you cannot hear yourself, and you know you're playing, that's a good thing. If you can hear yourself, you're likely not in sync with the band or, worse, playing something wrong! :-)


        • #5
          It takes getting used to, but keep at it. Eyes locked on the pipe major's fingers. I had the same problem of not being able to hear myself, so I'd end up blowing harder in order to play louder. All that got me was sharp tuning to the rest of the band and made me tired more quickly. Just trust that your pipes are working fine and you're in synch with everyone else.
          Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.


          • #6
            It's a very common issue. All the above advice is great, I would only add that I found it helped me to wear musician's ear plugs, especially if I was playing near the snare drums. Dialing down the volume seemed to help me differentiate different sounds from each other. As everyone else mentioned, if you cant hear your own pipe, that is usually a good thing.

            Hang in there, it gets easier,


            • #7
              The recommendation of musician's ear plugs is a good one and one to be heeded. The pipes play at between 90-100 dB, which can cause permanent hearing loss after 15 minutes. They also allow one to, as Kevin said, dial down for better over all hearing. Most of the folks in our group wear some sort of ear plugs. There are a lot of ear plugs that will help but the benefit of the musician's ear plugs is that they reduce the dB level evenly over the frequency range for a truer sound. They also can be gotten in a choice of filters: 10 dB, 15 dB or 25 dB. I would recommend the 25 dB as this would bring the sound level down to 65-75 dB, which is easily perceivable. They are pricey but worth it if you can afford it. They also come with a pair of solid plugs which can be used in place of the filters for such activities as mowing, using power tools, etc.

              Good luck as you begin your adventure in a pipe and drum band!!


              • #8
                I have the 15 dB filters in mine. I chose those because I primarily played GHB outdoors and they seemed like enough. Also, I can still have a conversation without yelling. However, I do have a bit of minor hearing loss, probably a result of many different types of exposure, pipeband, playing SSP indoors without earplugs, and past workplace exposure. So I would suggest erring on the side of too much reduction rather than not enough.

                Hearing protection wasn't the main point of my post though, they really do make it easier to hear individual sounds and small changes in sound. Takes a bit of getting used to but well worth the $$ and effort.



                • #9
                  Thank you all. I do have custom ear plugs, but for whatever reason was not wearing them. Definitely will moving forward. Thanks for chiming in !!
                  Life's a game; play to win!


                  • #10
                    Greetings, tango68,

                    As mentioned above--finding one or two mates--or even a
                    couple more--with whom to have some practices sessions--
                    is a good way to become the more easily--acclimated--to
                    playing with others. :-) (And much less pressure--therein.)

                    As with all else--in The Piping Game--it's all just a matter
                    of--"getting use to"--and then just--more practice--as your
                    comfort level--increases--and increases--and increases--
                    and--pretty soon--Bob's Your Uncle!! :-)

                    As Churchill was wont to say--KBO--KBO--KBO... :-)

                    You will get there!! :-) Just keep after it!! :-)

                    All the Best!!


                    Holy smoking keyboard!
                    Last edited by Pip01; 11-09-2021, 08:57 AM.
                    My friends all know,
                    With what a brave carouse...


                    • #11
                      This article may help you:
                      The Piping Band Experience

                      And, by the way, not being able to hear yourself is SUPER common! Relax, enjoy the learning experience!

                      Andrew T. Lenz, Jr. BDF Moderator
             - Reference for Bagpipers


                      • #12
                        Good advice there!

                        And thanks for the linked article!
                        Life's a game; play to win!