Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Gift Idea!

It's not too late to give the perfect gift for the piper on your list. Gift Certificates are available in any amount and make it easy to finish your last minute shopping. Shop from the comfort of your own home -- no driving, no crowds and no hassles.

Pipers, forward this link to friends and family to give a hint for what you want this year!

Buy a gift certificate now!

Your gift certificate can be redeemed for anything at and also for the revolutionary new Bagpipe Gauge.

Discover how this incredible tool can help you learn to blow your pipes like a pro. More info at

Monday, December 20, 2010 Online Piping Master Class

Last week I announced an exciting new feature at -- the first-ever online piping Master Class. The response has been fantastic. I received many, many excellent student recordings and here are the first three.  Thanks to you all for your contribution to the online learning community here at

If you would like take part in future Online Master Classes, please sign up for my email list and join the facebook group.

The concept of the Master Class has been around for generations. It is similar to a regular private lesson in that the student performs for the instructor and receives immediate, personalized feedback complete with suggestions for improvement, practice strategies, practical exercises, and more. The Master Class adds to the further dimension of an audience of other students who can listen and learn from their fellow classmates.

So, have a listen to these tunes and join the discussion. Consider the three main skill areas:
  1. Tone: the sound of the instrument, tuning, reeds, blowing, maintenance, reed set up, and more...
  2. Technique: doublings, gracenotes, crossing noises, beat placement of embellishments, clarity of short notes, and more...
  3. Musical Expression: tempo, rhythm, dot/cut, beat emphasis, and more...
What went well? What needs further improvement? For each student who provided a copy of their sheet music, I have made notes right on the sheet music.

Tune #1: Abercairney Highlanders

Our first piper is Steven Giles from Birmingham, Alabama USA. Steven has been piping for 10 years and takes lessons intermittently. He plays with a Grade 4 band and competes in Grade 2 solos. His tune is the big 2/4 competition march Abercairney Highlanders. He's working on refining the tune and getting it 100% ready for competition.

Read the comments on Steven's tune and the marked up copy of his sheet music.

Tune #2: Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban

Our next piper is Sebastián Geymonat from Montevideo, Uruguay. Sebastián has been piping for 6 years, starting at age 18 and plays with his local Riverside Pipe Band. He doesn't play solos. He is interested in being the best piper he can be and also to eventually teach others in Uruguay. His tune is the 2/4 competition march Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban. He's interested in any comments, but especially about how to play 2/4 marches with proper expression.

Sebastián provided the sheet music for his tune, but he didn't know the source of the tune other than it was from an unknown internet source.  Modern bagpipe computer programs make it easy to typeset tunes, but it also make it easy to alter and distort the music.   Pipers often unwittingly download sheet music not knowing that it is full of mistakes, wrong gracenotes, missing parts, and more.  They spend hours learning an incorrect or incomplete version of their tune. Top pipers know that to learn a tune properly, with all the proper notes, rhythms, and gracenotes the music should be obtained from a respected, trusted source.  That was one of the reasons I created the Tune Lesson Downloads, to provide correct sheet music for many of the most popular pipe tunes ever written.

 I've marked up Sebastián's sheet music with my comment and indicated the places where his copy of the tune is incorrect.

Read the comments on Sebastián's tune and the marked up copy of his sheet music.

Tune #3: The Banjo Breakdown

Our next piper is Bruce D., who is originally from South Africa currently living in Ghana. He's been piping for 20 years but currently mostly learning on his own due to his location. He's played with bands in the past but not now (again due to his location). He's never competed solo. Bruce is hoping to improve his technique so he can join a higher level pipe band in the future. His tune is the classic jig The Banjo Breakdown and he's looking for pointers on how to get the tune up to speed and keep it clean and controlled.

The sheet music for the Banjo Breakdown, along with mp3 and a recorded lesson are available from the Tune Lesson Downloads page.

Comments on Bruce's tune:

Bruce, nice job overall. You are definitely on the right track with this tune. The key to good jig playing is a steady tempo and consisten delivery of the triplet rhythms. There's much less to talk about regarding expression in jigs compared to other styles of pipe tunes (marches, strathspeys, reels, etc.). When you listen to the best players of jigs you hear clean, clear technique, a dead steady tempo, and complete control throughout. Unlike our other types of tunes, we don't need to talk about holding and cutting certain notes, we just want to work towards consistent, smooth rhythms.

I think you would benefit from slowing the tune down a little and working get 100% consistent on your rhythms, especially the GDEs. These three gracenote combinations are everywhere in jigs, and they easily get compressed which leads to rushing the beats and loss of control of your tempo. Good jig players are masters at GDEs. Another section to watch out for is the closing phrase of each tune: A-C-E HiA-E-C A. This arpeggio like pattern is quite easy to speed through, again causing an increase in tempo. In parts 3 and 4, there are many strikes. I would work on the strikes, focusing on consistency and control, which will lead to greater confidence, which in turn leads to even more consistency and control.

Jigs are perfect tunes for using your metronome. You played the tune around 105 beats per minute. I think a good strategy would be to play it at a slower tempo, 85-90 bpm, and aim for achieving 100% control of every triplet and beat in the tune. Then gradually build up the tempo. I wrote previously about using a metronome, during our first-ever 30 Day Practice Challenge. If you don't have a metronome, try this free one online.

Questions?  Comments?  

What your thoughts about these videos?  Have you faced similar challenges in your playing?  What are you favorite tips or tricks for working on your tunes?  Please join the discussion and add your comments below.

If you have an idea for a future Online Master Classes, please let me know!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Give the Gift of Bagpipe Lessons

Looking for the perfect gift for the piper on your list?  Give the Gift of Bagpipe Lessons!

With gift certificates available in any amount, makes it easy to find a great gift for the piper or future piper on your list. Shop from the comfort of your own home -- no driving, no crowds and no hassles. is the premier online site for learning the bagpipes. Your gift certificate recipient can redeem their Gift Certificate for any of the following:

Downloadable Video and Tune Lessons: A comprehensive learning solution at a great value! Video Lessons include high-quality video recording with a clear, step-by-step demonstration of your topic. Tune lessons include a studio-quality recording of a tune, professionally-typset printed sheet music, a detailed audio instructional lesson. Also included: an additional sheet of BONUS written instructional materials. For beginners, I recommend the Learn the Pipes Video Series.  Learn more about Video and Tune Lesson Downloads and check out the complete list of tunes.

SKYPE Webcam Video Lessons: Live one-on-one lessons from the comfort and convenience of home. Just like regular in-person lessons but we meet via Skype. I have taught many people around the world with this technology and it works great! Learn more about Skype Webcam Lessons.

Lessons by Tape/CD/mp3: A great long-distance learning solution. The student sends me a recording of their tunes on tape, CD, or mp3. I listen to your recording and record a custom lesson for the student, with a complete assessment of the tunes, suggestions for improvement, playing demonstrations, and a practice plan to help the student achieve their goals. Learn more about lessons by tape/CD/mp3.

In-Person Lessons: For students who live nearby, or are willing to travel to my teaching studio in Seattle. Learn more about in-person lessons.

• CDs: Check out my long-awaited and Album of the Year nominated solo piping album Bagpipe Revolution, and listen to sample tracks and check out the amazing cover art.

Select Gift Certificate Amount

The Gift Certificate makes the perfect gift for any occasion! Thanks for your support and send me a note if you have any questions!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First-Ever Online Piping Master Class

I'm very excited to announce a new feature here at -- the first-ever online piping Master Class.

The Master Class has been used for generations by premier level instructors in other musical disciplines.  The Master Class is similar to the typical individual lesson but with the addition of an audience.  The members of the audience enjoy the benefit of listening to the student's performance and to the teacher's detailed comments.

Today, we're taking the traditional Master Class to the next level -- online!

I'm looking for volunteers for the first-ever Online Master Class.  Sound fun?

Here's how it works:
  1. You submit a recording of your playing a tune (either video or audio).  A video posted to YouTube is perfect.
  2. I'll create a customized and detailed lesson for you, complete with suggestions for improvement, practice strategies, practical exercises, and more.
  3. Your recording and lesson will be posted online here for others to watch, listen, comment, and learn.
I'm looking for pipers of all ability levels!  If you are interested or have any questions, drop me a note.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Big or Small Gracenotes?

A common question for pipers concerns the size of gracenotes. Should your gracenotes be as small as possible? As big as possible? How big should they be?

If you look around online, you'll find lots conflicting information on this topic. But if you watch and listen to top players, you'll see they all play their gracenotes the same way.

Check out this new video Secrets of top Players: Gracenotes.