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Left hander new to piping...

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  • Left hander new to piping...

    Howdy all,

    During our recent trip to Scotland, I picked up a nice chanter in Edinburgh at Kilberry Bagpipes, as I've wanted for a long time now to learn the Highland pipes. I've been practicing the scale and was getting decent at it, but then realized I was "playing backwards"- That is, playing with my left hand where my right hand is supposed to be.

    ,My question is, is it set in stone that the right hand has to go on the four lower holes, and the left on the upper ones? Or can one play either way? I have been working on the scale "right handed", and could learn to play that way, but it feels more comfortable playing with my hands switched (left hand on the bottom). I am a musician who plays stringed instruments, mostly guitar, and play that instrument right-handed in spite of being a lefty..So if it were imperative that I need to learn the pipes right-handed it's not out of the question.

  • #2
    Short answer: No. It's not set in stone. If you've started that way, making progress, and feel comfortable, go with it. The other question to come is whether you will carry the pipes on the right or left side. That's another topic. All the best in your learning and progress. Do you have an instructor? If now, I would suggest one. As a musician, you would likely know the value of instruction. Cheers, Michael


    • #3
      A substantial minority of pipers do play left handed. Most of those play with the bag on the right shoulder, as it makes sense to have a shorter distance to the chanter for the bag arm - though by no means all. It's certainly not a problem.

      My view in general is that there's no especial reason to choose to play left-handed - ie it doesn't confer any advantages - and the one drawback is that certain drill manoeuvres in pipe band performance are made more difficult with a set of drones on a right shoulder. If you use the search function on here you'll find the topic has come up many times over the years, with all sorts of views...
      -- Formerly known as CalumII


      • #4
        Thanks for the replies!,

        I can see how a being lefty player in a band situation would be a bit of a challenge, but at the same time I don't know if I'll ever get that far as a piper. We were at the Hamilton, Montana Highland games a few weeks ago and there were some amazing pipers and pipe bands there! Another factor is I'm 65 years young, so I probably have less time to "get good" than I did when I was in my twenties.

        But as I already stated, I play my guitars right-handed, so I could learn to play the pipes that way as well. Need to decide one way or the other though, so I can get on with my practicing!

        And yes, I would like to find an instructor in the Livingston/ Bozeman, MT. area.
        Last edited by aspiringpiper; 09-06-2022, 05:03 PM.


        • #5
          For what's called "right handed piping", it sure seems to favor the left side of the body a lot. Left hand controlling the main gracenote of high G. Left arm controlling the bag. Drones over left shoulder. Mouthpiece of the blowpipe often, but not always, on the left side of the mouth.
          All the right hand is doing is low hand notes and tuning drones.
          I'm left handed, and for myself "left hand style" is the most uncomfortable way I could think of to play.
          Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.


          • #6
            Speaking from the exact same experience, play which ever way is more comfortable... First time I picked up a chanter, it was right over left. I also learned to play guitar right handed and never got that far. Mainly because it always felt wrong (until I got used to it) Learning to pipe was a desire of mine from childhood so I decided to play left handed anyway (and I am not too far behind you in age!) As for the left or right shoulder, it is easier to switch that than re-learn the fingering with the left hand over right... Just try and play a left handed guitar... strumming is easy, the cords are like going back to the beginning!!


            • #7
              Here lefthanded pipers make up half of the front rank of a Scottish Grade One band. Obviously playing this way is no impediment to becoming a great piper or to playing in a pipe band.

              Anyone who tells you that your hands "must" go a certain way is ignorant about piping in Scotland.

              Last edited by pancelticpiper; 09-10-2022, 05:15 AM.
              proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte


              • #8
                I'm left-handed and I play the usual way that most pipers do (left hand on top).

                I have actually always thought that we lefties have some advantages in the piping world: there's lots of tricky top-hand stuff in piping (especially in piobaireachd) and I get to do it with my better hand. I get to control the bag with my stronger arm.

                There are minor issues, too . . . like, if you play with your bag under the right arm and you buy a set from someone else, it is likely to come with a bag already tied in to be played under the left arm. This problem doesn't arise often, but if you play left-handed, you won't be able to borrow a set from someone else if you need to. Marching and counter-marching are easier if everyone has their drones on the same shoulder (though, obviously, this is no kind of deal-breaker).

                If you were my student and were absolutely bound and determined to learn with your right hand on top, that would be OK. But (as a lefty) I can't think of any advantage it would give you. If you've only just started on the scale, I'd recommend that you switch.
                "Totally lacking rhythm and musicality" since 1988!


                • #9
                  Thanks so much for all the replies!

                  I've been practicing right-handed, and I think I'm gonna be fine playing that way..I'm actually beginning to make some noises that resemble music!


                  • #10
                    Ah... aspiringpiper... (and... ain't we all... :-) ...

                    ... be it... Righthanded... Wronghanded... Uphanded...
                    Downhanded... we... all of us... are ever in... that
                    same Ol' Leaky Boat!!... and are forever... simply
                    confronted with... that same... and most formidable
                    obstacle... our selves... and our own... shortcomings...
                    and misgivings... our sloppily acquired bad habits...
                    and our own... ever-pursued... and over-riding Hope...
                    to just be able... to ascend... to that "Place"... where
                    we can... and simply... "Just play it... a little better."... :-)

                    To quote an Old Teacher of mine... though in an
                    entirely different... form of Art...
                    "Not Trick!!... Not Magic!!... Not Show!!"

                    But... and rather... to simply gather ourselves... to
                    simply apply ourselves... and gently... as we would...
                    with any New Student... to garner... and to take in...
                    those Lessons... that serve to bring us to... The
                    Music... and... the Joy of it all... :-)

                    As they say on the pitch... "Get Tore In!!"... "Just keep
                    after it!!"... It will come!! ... Promise!! :-)

                    Wishing for you... All the Best!!


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


                    • #11
                      I just saw the photo at left today, it shows a hold I can't remember seeing, the usual left-hand-on-top but with the bag under the right arm.

                      This completes the four possibilities!

                      Note that every piper here doing it the "wrong" way is wearing four chevrons, and indeed each was an Army Pipe Major. So we can be done with nonsense like "I was told I had to play the right way so I could march in a band". These are the very men in command of the band!

                      Last edited by pancelticpiper; 11-09-2022, 04:40 AM.
                      proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte


                      • #12
                        No matter the choice of the piper, how uncomfortable it must be to have the drones spread so wide as to be playing with pipes lying more on the elbow (especially with the guy on the right).


                        • #13
                          The photo on the right looks like a tourist photo taken in a photo studio. Just put them on your shoulder any old way. No one will know the difference.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pancelticpiper View Post
                            This completes the four possibilities!

                            This is an awesome compilation. Same question and answer for drummers especially with modern carriers.

                            I played in drum corps once with one matched grip, one traditional grip and one reversed traditional grip (he learned by watching his brother across the table). We won multiple contests with that corps and no one ever commented
                            Loud is Easy, Soft is Hard


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by chuckinphoenix View Post
                              The photo on the right looks like a tourist photo taken in a photo studio. Just put them on your shoulder any old way. No one will know the difference.
                              The man was Pipe Major of the Black Watch of Canada, so a piper of some ability in his day, and he knows how to hold and play the pipes.

                              The pipes are set up to be played on the right shoulder as we can see. The odd thing is that he plays using the usual left-hand-on-top orientation.
                              Last edited by pancelticpiper; 11-11-2022, 07:40 AM.
                              proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte