Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

If any pipers here could give me some advice, it would be much appreciated.

I’m just coming to the end of my first block of lessons (13 in total) and will not be back at classes until September. I’m finding it hard to get a teacher for the summer months, so I’m basically looking for a list of straightforward tunes (say 3 jigs and 3 reels) that I could work away on myself until September comes around.

Are there typical tunes that people start out with on the pipes, just to get a feel for where the notes are on the instrument, ie without getting into taps, cuts, etc? I play the banjo already, so know a good repertoire of tunes, but would really appreciate some guidance from any resident pipers.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

The best person to ask would be your current instructor. Write down the names of the tunes you know on banjo, show it to your instructor and ask him what to work on over the summer.

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

If you know a good repertoire of tunes already, I would start with those. Much easier to learn a new instrument with tunes that are already in your head.

But if your banjo tunes go below the range of the chanter, or you just want some classic and fairly easy pipe tunes to learn, then there are some gems like these:

Jigs: Down the Back Lane, Sean Bui, Young Tom Ennis, Garret Barry’s, Tatter Jack Walsh.

Then there are the slip jigs, some of my favorite: O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick, Dinny Delaney’s, The Kid on the Mountain, etc.

Reels: so many to choose from; a few of my favorites: Jenny’s Wedding, The Connaught Heifers, The Merry Blacksmith, The Maids Of Mitchelstown, Within a Mile of Dublin.

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

That’s the job, An Draighean!

Míle buíochas.

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

It seems to be fairly standard uilleann pedagogy to start with double jigs (especially in the keys of D and G) as people’s first dance tunes.

Preferred are tunes with more limited range, which stay mostly in the low octave and don’t have a load of screaming High B’s and so forth.

Some tunes just fall under the fingers, on the uilleann chanter, than others.

An Draighean mentions Sean Bui and that’s what I start people on.

Personally I don’t think the tunes are the main thing. The most important thing is how you practice. "Practice doesn’t make perfect… PERFECT practice makes perfect" is how the saying goes.

From what I read somewhere Leo Rowsome didn’t have his pupils play tunes at all until, what, the 2nd or 3rd year? It was all scales and arpeggios and other exercises. I do a little of that: I have a page of exercises that the beginner has to master before we do tunes, under the theory that you need to be able to negotiate your way around the chanter before you start trying to blast through tunes. My exercise sheet covers every interval on the chanter, and once mastered the pupil will never encounter anything in any tune that he hasn’t already done. (I do the same thing with flute and whistle BTW.)

But I know that exercises fly in the face of the way ITM is taught nowadays, where people just start hammering away at tunes and let technique get addressed on the fly as hitherto unaddressed problem bits are encountered.

But whether tunes or exercises the important thing is how you practice, slowly and precisely, with every note-change utterly clean, no wonky bits, no "crossing noises", each note pure and clean and in tune and blown with even pressure. Personally I would keep ornamentation to a minimum and strive for clean precision at this point in time. To hear this in action, slow down a recording of Paddy Keenan playing a jig to half-speed. You’ll be amazed at how clean it is, how uncluttered.

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner


Na piobairí Uilleann have video tutors on their source website which are divided into beginner intermediate advanced etc. I found these useful when my tyutor went off to work in CHina for 7 months of the year.
the dvds they do also start off easy and progress, can be useful to start to get your head around what sort of ornamentation work well on pipes for certain tunes or note patterns.
Youtube can be variable for quality of the music some are people learning themselves but OAIM and offer samples which can be useful to look at even just to work out which tunes beginners are playing

Otherwise tutors even tin whistle ones tend to have tunes that work well on the pipes etc

Re: Advice for an uilleann pipes beginner

Paddy O’Rafferty is another good one to get the fingers warmed up.

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