ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Learning to play the bagpipes.

Updated on December 5, 2014

The Irish Air Corps pipe band in 2010

An Irish peace keeper with his pipes serving overseas in Lebanon.
An Irish peace keeper with his pipes serving overseas in Lebanon. | Source

The piping tradition in the Irish military.

When most people think of the bagpipes they automatically think about Scotland, however piping is a Celtic tradition that has been alive in Ireland since the Celts first arrived. There are many different types of bagpipes that exist throughout Europe which all stem from a Celtic tradition in those countries. The most popular pipes today that are used for military ceremonial and in pipe bands world wide are the Great Highland pipes.

When Ireland was ruled by Britain there were many Irish regiments that existed and each one had their own pipe band to lead them on parades etc. The use of pipes in the British army was embraced as it is still today. The Scottish guard and royal Irish regiment of the British army have their own pipe bands as do many others. When the republic of Ireland was formed they kept alive the traditions that the British had in the army and thus the piping tradition and uniform still exists today within the Irish Defence Forces.

As a serving member i was privileged with the opportunity to do a six month beginners course in piping and now a year later i absolutely love playing the pipes not just at work but any chance i get. I recently joined a civilian pipe band which has greatly improved my piping.

Source

Starting out. The practice chanter

Before even touching a set of bagpipes you must start with learning the music and fingerwork on a practice chanter. It is almost like a separate instrument in itself and to most people does not sound very musical to the ear, but it is essential in learning the technique and exercises required to play the pipes effectively. For the first few months at least you must work on and perfect a number of exercises which incorporate certain techniques which are unique to the pipes such as grace notes, the grip and the throw. You will be at a slight advantage if you can already read music but even at that, the embellishments are tricky even for an experienced musician.

Before i began my course on the pipes i could already read music and play the guitar, piano, banjo, tin whistle and sing, so i thought i would pick them up quite easily. There are only 9 musical notes on the pipes incorporating 2 octaves which makes it deceiving in its difficulty. Now, i have no doubt that the bagpipes are by far the hardest instrument i have ever had a go at.

This is me playing for an army motorcycle club event.
This is me playing for an army motorcycle club event. | Source

Moving on to the pipes.

When you first move on to the pipes you will have to block out the drones and only play the chanter. We began by holding a single note on the chanter and focusing on our blowing and keeping the right pressure with your arm on the bag. It is very difficult because if you over blow you can sharpen the note but if you under blow or don't have enough pressure then you can flatten the note. Finding this balance to get the perfect note is, in my mind, the hardest part about playing the pipes and it just seemed to get more difficult when we started to add in the drones. It takes time to get used to and build up the stamina to keep playing. At first the best of our class could only play two songs before being all blown out but come the end of the course we were all confident enough to play a few sets with ease and got sent back to our units to keep it up.

I like to take my pipes with me everywhere i go and i enjoy playing for people. Be it a slow air in remembrance of a loved one who has passed away or a jig or two while having a few drinks, the pipes never fail to make the moment just that bit more memorable.

Passing the course in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin.
Passing the course in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin. | Source

You either like them or hate them.

What do you think of the bagpipes?

See results

My advice for beginners

Even after a year of playing i would still be considered a beginner piper so i am definitely in no place to give a step by step guide on how to learn to play. There are many sources online for learning to play the pipes if you have an interest. The bagpipes are certainly not like any other instrument i have ever played and it takes much determination to get good at it.

A few points to note for beginners;

  • Don't just jump into buying a set of pipes. Get a practice chanter first and work from there.
  • Any piper will tell you to join a band if you have the option. You will get free tuition and it is the best way to learn.
  • Have patience and practice the technique on the chanter often to keep up the quality of your playing.
  • Playing the pipes could be compared to running. If you don't keep it up, you will slowly lose it so it is essential to keep up the playing and blowing.

The bagpipes have the power to touch a person in a way that many other instruments cannot. From just hearing a single piper play a lament at a funeral or hearing a pipe band playing a marching set on St. Patrick's day there is no doubt that they are a powerful and effective instrument. I love playing the pipes and at this stage i don't think i will ever put them down. As hard as they are it gives me great satisfaction to put a smile peoples faces when i play.

Thank you for reading.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      3 years ago from Ireland

      Hi ladyguitarpicker. You can buy them online. It's a Bagpipe practice chanter. They sound quite funny but set you up for the pipes.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Love it , Where would a person find a chanter and does it have another name? You can lose any instrument if you do not play it most of the time.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 

      3 years ago from Europe

      The world needs more pipers indeed, Kevin. Nice information you provide here. The typical sound of the bag pipe goes through bone and marrow. For me personally, the bag piper stands for resistance and perseverance. Great hub.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 

      3 years ago from U.S.

      Although I don't see myself ever learning to play the bagpipes, I love how they sound. I do think they sound magical, as one of your poll options suggests :-)

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      3 years ago from Ireland

      You should give it another try Rachael and maybe try with a pipe band. It will be worth the hardship, I promise!

    • Rachael Tate profile image

      Rachael Tate 

      3 years ago from England

      I played the chanter for about a year in secondary school before giving it up as a lost cause. So hard!

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      3 years ago from Ireland

      I couldn't agree more Susanna! The world definitely needs more pipers :)

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      3 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love the pipes. I can't explain what they do to me. The pipes take me somewhere else, to another place, and I'm lost for a full 10 minutes after the last note has faded. The world needs more Pipers!

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      3 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Alicia. They are a joy to play.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the sound of bagpipes. They can produce such beautiful music. Thank you for creating this very interesting hub about the instrument.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)