tunebook 463 tunes.

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Experienced, hobbyist musician with strong, often cranky opinions. Example: Irish Americans’ taste is mostly in their mouths.

I’ve mastered the most difficult woodwind there is in Irish music (the uilleann pipes). Which is a bit like peeing one’s pants: both provide a warm feeling, but nobody cares.

Currently working hard to fill longstanding gaps in my repertoire and challenge myself technically.

In the interest of providing some useful information, here are my hints to aspiring pipers:

1) Get the best chanter, bag, and bellows you can. The chanter needs to play easily, well, and in tune. The pipes are not about brute force, although some strength and muscle tone is required. The bellows, bag, and all joints must be airtight.

2) Forget everything you know, especially if you are a highland piper. This is nothing like highland pipes, and it doesn’t really play highland pipes repertoire, nor does it use highland fingerings, and does not use most highland ornaments. The bag and bellows technique is also unique. So you’re at square 1. Remember: you chose this.

3) Don’t get sucked into reed making until you can actually play well enough to know if a reed is any good. Messing around with reeds is a drain on practice time. Get a good reed (rely on an experienced piper or pipe maker to tell you what is, or isn’t a good reed), take care of it, and don’t f*** with it. Use the time you could waste on making garbage reeds to actually learn how to play well. Capisce?

4) Lean into the difficult things. Don’t avoid technique, scales, or tunes that are awkward or uncomfortable. You will improve if you are diligent.

5) Drones and regulators aren’t merely decorative. Learn to use them.