Want to learn to play the bagpipes or drums?
We can help you. One of the primary goals of the our band is to teach anyone who has a sincere desire to learn to play. We will provide you with lessons, with the only obligation being your commitment to learning. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions below for more information.
One of the biggest questions we receive is with regards to age — what is a good age to start learning the pipes/drums? While the bagpipes and drums appear to be very physical instruments, pipe band life starts with practice chanters (similar to a recorder) and drum sticks and pads; we start with teaching music. Our youngest students have started at 8 years old. Our youngest piper started at 11 (same with our youngest drummer). It really depends on the child and most importantly…parents.
I’ve heard the bagpipe is a difficult instrument to learn; is this true?
It is probably an urban myth, likely propagated by pipers themselves, that the pipes are the most difficult instrument in the world to play. Yes, there are a few unique challenges to the bagpipes, but any instrument that one wants to firmly master will take time and great effort. Interestingly, many adult learners naively view the pipes as “easy” to master, perhaps because they might have seen friends or other adults marching in parades, playing at a wedding, or playing a few tunes at a pub. The difficulty with the bagpipes arises because there are two main areas that must be properly addressed: 1) the physical blowing and squeezing of the bag to maintain a constant air pressure, and 2) while seeming to wrestle with an octopus, the piper must simultaneously play the tune from memory, play the tune “on the beat”, and play while marching (at least when performing a “march” tune).
Instruments other than the bagpipes can be used as an analogy for anyone interested in learning how to play the pipes. Consider for a moment the following question: If you had chosen any other instrument, such as the violin, piano, guitar, flute, etc., how long do you think it reasonable would take to learn how to play it well? How long would it be before you were “good enough” to be welcomed into a group of local musicians? One year? Five years? Adults, for some unknown reason, often expect it to be an easy journey to learn the Highland bagpipes.
Adults learn music differently than younger folks. Motivated youngsters absorb music quickly, often learning “by ear”. The developing brains of young people pick up new skills more quickly than adults. Adults often put pressure on themselves to succeed quickly, and invariably attempt to play beyond their immediate capability. This unrealistic adult expectation leads to frustration. Adults have busy lives and many external pressures, and may have the idea that they can be as successful with piping as with other aspects of their lives. However, like any skill, it takes time and patience. One of the many truths about playing the pipes is the following: “If you can’t play a piece slowly and perfectly, then you will never be able to play it faster.” For adult learners (as well as youngsters), the shortest path to success and enjoyment on the pipes is to BE PATIENT.
As a general rule and regardless of age, if a beginner approaches the tutor’s instruction diligently, practices often (and correctly), steady progress will be assured. One starts to learn how to play the bagpipes by using a practice chanter, which simulates the chanter on the actual bagpipe. However, the practice chanter is mouth blown. The practice chanter is used to learn the different finger positions for the different musical notes, and finger movements called embellishments, which ornamate the music. Pipers will have a practice chanter with them for the duration of their piping career, as it is useful for many pipers to learn new tunes before playing them on the bagpipe. There’s a bit of tradition that one should memorize a few tunes and play them correctly on the practice chanter before taking up the pipes. However, it is fun and enlightening for even a new student to “try out” the real bagpipes. Holding the pipes and attempting to blow and squeeze in a coordinated way gives a preview of what’s to come later. The singular reason to learn the basics on the practice chanter is because there are too many things going on while playing the pipes to learn good finger technique. Once the instructor is satisfied with the student’s progress and suggests it’s time for the pipes, the student will find a host of new challenges. An adult learner who practices on the chanter at least 15-30 minutes each day, will certainly make steady progress, and might be expected to be on the pipes within 6 to 8 months. But everyone is different. – Dojo University
Will I have to pay for the lessons?
For group lessons, no. You need only provide a sincere desire to learn and a commitment to practice. One on one instruction is available starting at $25 per lesson.
Will I need to purchase any supplies to take lessons?
Yes. You will need to purchase a practice chanter (about $100).
How long will it take to learn to play?
Instruments other than the bagpipes can be used as an analogy for anyone interested in learning how to play the pipes. Consider for a moment the following question: If you had chosen any other instrument, such as the violin, piano, guitar, flute, etc., how long do you think it reasonable would take to learn how to play it well? How long would it be before you were “good enough” to be welcomed into a group of local musicians? One year? Five years? Adults, for some unknown reason, often expect it to be an easy journey to learn the Highland bagpipes. – Dojo University
How far you progress beyond “street level” will likely depend on how determined you are and how much practice time you dedicate.
Once I learn to play will there be a place for me in your band?