Bagpipes 102- Myths, Fables and Tall Tales of the Bagpipe
First off let me say I’m hooked. The bagpipe has firmly gripped me. I love playing this instrument and love the sound of it. Almost every bagpiper I’ve ever met has the same affliction. So let’s get on with some common questions and some hopefully insightful responses:
1. What is the instrument called? The instrument is a Bagpipe and I’m a Bagpiper. Not a Bagpipist, or Bag Piper, or even Bag Pipe player. It is proper to call me a Bagpiper or piper for short. Thanks.
2. Is it hard to learn? Most anyone with a good sense of rhythm and some musical ability can learn to play the bagpipe. A lot of bands will provide instruction for free. The absolute best time to start is young- the younger the better. One thing else you will need is a dogged determination to learn this instrument. You will start on the practice chanter first. This is very similar to a recorder that some public schools used to teach students on. You will learn basic fingering movements, the scale and some simple tunes. After 6-18 months you will be ready for the bagpipe depending on how quickly you progress. Once you are on the bagpipe it takes a while to learn how to breathe, squeeze and play notes on the chanter and coordinate it all. After a while it’s like riding a bike but it takes a while to get there. I will stress at this point it is vitally important that you get a good instructor if you want to learn. They can help you develop good habits and also eliminate a lot of frustration when you are learning. Contact me if you’d like to know more- I know some great instructors.
3. Is is it expensive? Yes it is. Both in the amount of time,travel and dollars you spend to learn the instrument. The time and miles you put on your car to go to practices and Highland Games all over the state. The bagpipes themselves can range anywhere from $1500 and up. Reeded and fully set up more like $2000 and up. Uniform pieces are expensive too- a kilt ? $500-800; Sporran (that pouch in the front) $150-600, Shoes $125, jacket $250, Glengarry (hat) $100, etc… If you’ve got multiple kilts you got a lot of dough tied up in your gear. I practice an average of 3+ hours a week- and that’s bare minimum. That’s every week for every year I’ve played.
4. Can you turn it down or play more softly? No. The bagpipe has one volume and its sound carries. I love the fact that it’s loud too. It’s supposed to grip you and stir you. This can’t be done at the level of a whisper. This fact is also why the bagpipes were popular in battle- the pipes could cut through the din of battle and rouse the fighting troops.
5. What are the patterns of kilt? What do they mean? Each Clan or family of Scotland has it’s own tartan or pattern. The colors and patterns are significant to that specific family. There are also national Tartans. One or those I wear is called the Pride of Scotland.
Also each tartan has different levels of shade some are very bright- modern versions that use more colorful dyes than were available many years ago. The Hunting tartans are more subdued as well- almost the camouflage version of each tartan- muted colors to help blend into the forest. Also each tartan has a ancient style too which seeks to reproduce the original dyes and colors used by the clan. There is much more to this. If you want to know more go here: http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/.
That’s about all for this post. If you need any more information please contact me. Or if you need a bagpiper in Newport Beach, Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California I’m available and if I’m not available for you, I’ll find a competent bagpiper for you. Thanks for reading.