Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Check out my compositions.

I have composed a few tunes and have some others in the works. I've also done some bagpipe arrangements of a couple of LDS hymns and a tune for a friend of mine, Rose. You can check out her blog HERE. She's done a very good job.

Anyway, it was suggested in a comment that I should post my compositions on this blog, and I thought that was a great idea. After all, that is part of my bagpipe experience and I'm proud of my pieces as simple as they might be.

So, if you'll take a check out the right column you'll find a table with some of these tunes posted for download.

I hope anyone who happens across this blog and downloads these tunes will find them fun, but if not - oh well ... I like them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oooh! I almost forgot!

I did get my son and I registered for solo competition this year. I decided to get it in early and I didn't bother "discussing" with my son whether or not he wanted to solo this next year. That was one of the problems last year that made us late; Teagan just wasn't sure he wanted to compete and I didn't want to fork out the money if he wasn't going to.

WUSPBA allows for a discount if there is more than one competitor in a family. That means that if Teagan and I sign up together the total cost is $35. However, if we don't sign up before the January 15th deadline then we each have to pay $35. That obviously doubles our fee.

When the deadline came and went and we were late, I just decided to bag it for the 2008 season and take a break from solo competition. I think both of us regreted the decision, but them's the breaks!

Anyway, this year we'll be back competing again.

Band Party and Announcements

Teagan and I attended the band party last night. We dropped in a few minutes late and the feast had already begun. Ian had purchased about 20 pizzas and there were lots of pot luck treats available. Unfortunately I'd just eatten and wasn't very hungry, but I did have a piece of pizza and a couple of soft drinks.

I was mainly there to hear about the upcoming year and find out what was going to happen with the grade IV band. There had been a proposal to move the entire grade IV band up to grade III and I wasn't very thrilled about the idea. I feel like the grade IV is a little more relaxed and not as uptight about things.

The PM of grade IV does get frustrated with things from time to time, but it has always been a rare occassion and for the most part understandable. On the other hand I've seen there is far more pressure in grade III and from my experience it just isn't as fun. Perhaps as I get better my opinion will change, but for now that's the way it appears to me.

The other concern I have had is that the grade III gets a lot of gigs and yet the grade IV rarely gets an invite to perform. Interestingly the ranks of the grade III band have depleated. I've talked to one of the pipers who is probably ready to move up to grade III, but he said he will probably stay in grade IV for another year because he likes it better. Anyway, I wanted to find out if the grade IV band would be invited to play in more gigs this year.

Good news on both counts! The grade IV band will remain intact without a mass movement to grade III, and the grade IV band will be invited to play in more gigs. I'm very excited about both of these announcements, and my son even said it sounded like we would have a fun year next year. Cool!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pipe Band Forum

Response to tartan weight for band kilts

I've made two kilts and am working on a third right now.

I have taken two classes from Elsie Stuehmeyer author of the book
The Art of Kiltmaking. She is very opinionated about kilts and has literally made thousands of kilts for all purposes.

The first kilt I made in her class was a 13 oz. Colquhoun weathered. Being my first kilt I didn't want to put out a lot of money for material. I love the kilt and it swings every bit as good as my 16 oz. band kilt. The main problem with light weight kilts is that they don't hide the stitching and minor flaws as well. By the way I'm wearing this kilt in my avatar picture.

The second kilt I made was from a 15 oz. tartan (Highland Granite). It's a beautiful kilt and one I'm very proud of. I made it for my wife who has perfect curves (hour glass shape). Unfortunately it's a lot tougher to get the pleats and aprons to fit these beautiful lines. I think if I'd used a lighter weight it would have been a tough to get the fabric to move the way I needed it to while stitching it. In the end it turned out very nice.

I'm also making two more kilts of this same fabric for my son who is nearly straight (waist to hips), and me (the opposite of my wifes curves). I'm happy with my light weight kilt, and if it was being professionally done, I wouldn't have much concern about the weight.

BTW: There is a photo on
this page of me working on my son's kilt.

Pipe Band Forum - response to thread about Recording the Bagpipes

A few years ago my oldest daughter was dating a guy who played in a local rock band. His band had been together for several years and were mostly working local clubs and saving money to do their own CD.

On their first date he popped a CD into his car stereo and out came bagpipe music. My daughter asked him about it and he said he was a big fan of bagpipes.

A few weeks later he came over while I was practicing and knew several of the tunes I was playing (besides STB and AG). Just after my daughter and he broke up he called me and asked me if I would be willing to play the pipes on an intro to one of the tunes on their CD. He was willing to pay me, but he had treated my daughter well and they were still friends so I decided to do it as a favor and to have some fun.

The studio was fairly small and they had been recording each song in parts (vocals, precussion, guitar, etc.). I came in after much of the precussion had been recorded, so I had a beat to follow. I played a fairly simple tune (Farewell to Camraw by Robert Mathieson) for the intro.

By the way, knowing that they would be selling this CD, I wrote to Robert Mathieson and got permission to record it. He was very obliging.

To get the best recording, the technician miked the chanter and drones seperately and then put an additional mic in an adjacent room with the door open. I recorded several tracks with the drums playing through headphones.

In the end, I got a copy of the CD and it sounded pretty good although there was one spot where the drum beat was a little ahead of the tune (probably only noticed by me).

FYI: my daughter got married in September - to someone else

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pipe Band Forum

My thoughts on a discussion about various interpretations of music and what standard should be followed.

Last year I competed in Grade IV with Lochaber No More - a slow air that I heard at a Memorial Day performance and loved instantly.I had the same judge at two competitions and he kept saying my phrasing of the tune was all wrong. At the last competition I spoke to him after and he said I should listen to some recordings of the tune to get an idea.

I found several recordings of the tune by the following bands and players: Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, 1st. Batallion King's Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Batallion The Queen's Own Highlanders, 1st. Batallion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and Robert Wallace on the small pipes. Interestingly, none of the performers phrased the tune the exact same way; they were all very well played, but all unique.

I thought I'd get some additional help and corresponded with Jori Chisholm who helped me with the tune and prepared a lesson for me on the tune. His version likewise had different phrasing.I still play the tune often as it is one of my favorites, but I have ultimately settled on a phrasing of the tune which I feel brings out the solefulness of this wonderful lament. I'll not play it in competition again because it seems to me it is not what the judges want to hear - so be it, but it would be a shame if the only tunes pipers learn to play is what they think they can win with in competition.

Let's not forget that piping is an art, not a science.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pipe Band Forum

Reading and Writing Music

Sight reading is like learning to read the written word. It's musical literacy. It's well worth the effort.

Like reading however, one should learn it in conjunction with learning to write it. I learned to sight read, but it really meant something to me when I started to compose a few tunes.

When you learn to compose your first sentence and someone else can read and understand it, it's quite an accomplishment. The same holds true for music. When you can compose a short tune and someone else can read and play it, it is likewise quite an accomplishment.

What would this forum be like if all you could do was read the posts of others and not be able to respond.

Not everyone is a great author, and most of us won't be great composers, but you never know when you might hit on a tune that is catchy and fun - even if it's just for your own enjoyment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winner, Winner, Winner

Our band competed at the Dave Barclay Memorial Competition last week. We tied for first place in the QMM (quick march medley) but our ensemble score was lower, so we got second place. We then placed first in the timed Medley. We scored first place in all categories, so it was a fun win.

I felt pretty strong. I was worried about not being able to keep up the wind because I haven't practiced much, but I felt good.

We had seven pipers and four drummers (including the bass). We all sounded pretty good.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Nauvoo Pagent

A few years ago I saw a flyer advertising for bagpipers to play at the LDS Nauvoo pagent.

Being LDS and a bagpiper I was immediately interested. When I got on the website I found that they were not taking any applications at that time. I was disappointed, but vowed I'd check back later.

The next year we had a lot of expenses with kids getting married and other things, so a trip to Nauvoo was not possible. This year we didn't have the time or the money to commit, but we have discussed it and have decided that 2009 will be our year. Mindy and her family went to Nauvoo this summer for her mother's 80th birthday. They had such a good time that she has agreed we should go, and thus the ball has started to roll.

I have submitted the application and other documentation and we are just waiting to hear back on whether or not we will be accepted.

Here is an excellent story on the "Pipers of Nauvoo":

and here is the web site for the Nauvoo pagent:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Band Practice ... again.

I was back at band practice last night. I hadn't picked up the GHBagpipes in a while and after a couple of sets it was obvious. My fingering is great when I'm fresh, but man does it go downhill when I get worn out, and it didn't take long for that to happen.

I hadn't played for a few weeks because of a cold and laziness. I'm healthy now and need to force myself to play for at least 15 minutes each day.

Teagan made the hockey team he was trying out for and so he didn't have to go to the tryout last night. Instead he came with me to band and I think he actually enjoyed it.

I have been practicing a lot on my small pipes, so I'm not letting things go completely, but I do need to play the big pipes more often.

The band is getting ready for a competition coming up in November. It's the Dave Barclay Memorial and was a lot of fun last year. I won't be competing solo, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Band Practice

I attended band practice last night (a break in the hockey schedule). Being the off season we're working through a lot of our parade sets and reviewing some of the tunes we haven't played as a band for a long time. We spend about half the time on practice chanters which I think is a big help.

It is obvious to me that I'm not spending enough time practicing on the great pipes and too much focus on the small pipes. I need to play more on the pipes to keep my wind up.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Status in the band.

I had a good talk with my wife the other night about staying in the band. I loved it when she and my son were going with me to band, but she quit and my son is wanting to quit so it's not as much fun any more.

The fall and winter are busy for me with football (photographs) and hockey (coaching) and I don't have as much time for band practice. The problem is that if I quit the band I'll not practice as much and could easily loose what I've worked hard to gain.

I've talked to the PM about not coming to practices the next few months. He still wants me to play in the Barclay Memorial competition in November with the band. We'll see how it goes for the concert, but I doubt I'll be playing in that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Thank you note.

This was for a funeral I piped at of a neighbor and friend. He was a leader in my Church and always very kind to me. He passed away from cancer and left a wonderful family behind. I had sent a note to his wife offering to play if the family was interested. I got a phone call from her the next day asking me to play at the gravesite. I readily agreed.

My wife suggested I blur the names on these for privacy. I agree.

Uncle Kay's Funeral

This was my first funeral. It was back in April.

I'd always wanted to pipe at a funeral, but I would have preferred someone I wasn't as close to. I admired my Uncle Kay for many reasons, so it was a special honor to be invited by my Aunt to play at his funeral.

I piped the casket to the hearse from the Chapel; then from the hearse to the graveside; and finally at the end of the graveside service.

Even though I've played Amazing Grace many times, I actually choked up a bit and struggled a bit to get through it.

Here is the program from the funeral.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Percentage of Pipers in each Grade

Thought this might be interesting.I wanted to find out what percentage of pipers there are out there in the various grades, so I did some research on the matter in the Western United States Pipe Band association and came up with the followin based on pipers competing in various events in WUSPBA in 2007.
The average percentage of pipers at a WUSPBA competition in 2007 was as follows:

Professional - 1.44%
Grade I - 4.16%
Grade II - 9.37%
Grade III - 27.61%
Grade IV - 57.41%

I didn't compete this year solo, but I'm anxious to get back into it. I'll see how next year goes for me and then I'd like to move up to grade III. I'd like to be a grade II piper eventually and I don't think that is beyond my reach even at my age.

Thank you notes

Here are a couple of thank you notes from people I have done some piping for recently.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jackson Hole Highland Games

This was the last band competition event of the season. I was kind of looking forward to it, but then found out we wouldn't have enough pipers there to compete for placement. Since I haven't been competing solo this year, it seemed like a wasted trip especially considering the price of gas.
The band was paying for our rooms, and had already reserved a room for my son and I, so I felt I should go in spite of the expense.

My son has not been very excited about playing in band events lately and I think that is largely due to the shift in the importance of a social life as he enters adolescence. He wants to hang out with youth his own age and not the young adults and older adults that make up the band. I can't say I blame him, but at the same time I think that if he quits the band he'll quit drumming so I've been pushing him a bit to stick with it. He's a good kid and has been willing to go along even if it is reluctantly.

We got up to Jackson fairly late and went straight to bed. The next morning I got up and went down to get some of the free breakfast leaving Teagan in bed. He came down a few minutes later. We met up with some of the other band members and found out that the band would not be doing the morning massed band event at the town square (I was looking forward to doing that as well, so I was a bit disappointed). Teagan was happy because he got to sleep in a bit longer.

Around 10 am we went down to the fair grounds where the games were at. I got tuned up a bit for the noon massed bands and then we went a looked around. We ran into Jesse Fry. She was a young drummer for the band when Teagan started and they were good friends. I think he was very happy to see her there and it made his day when she came over and gave him a hug.

We hung around the fair grounds most of the day and played in our two performances which I thought went fairly well.

For the closing massed bands I played the bass drum. I thought I'd give it a try and so the bass drummer, Sandy (who also is a piper) piped for the massed bands.

We left soon after the games were over and had a non-eventful drive home. Teagan told me that he had fun on the trip and for me that was exactly what I needed to hear.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blogs, blogs, blogs ...

So that catches me up on all my forum posts now. I didn't include all of my forum posts because some of them weren't very informational or interesting. The ones I did post on my blog give a better idea of many of my sentiments about playing the bagpipes and being a piper.

I will continue to update my blog from time to time with things I find interesting and perhaps even a controversy or two as they may arise in my mind.

The truth of the matter is this blog will probably be more for my personal enjoyment more than anything else and I'm happy with that.

Pipe Band Forum 6/9/08

Using Bagpipe Software

I use Bagpipe Player and love it. I convert every piece of sheet music I get from the band into it. I can then save the tune as a midi file and convert it to mp3 so I can put it on my mp3 player and get familiar with the tune. It's also nice to be able to download tunes from websites that provided .bww formated music and be able to play it and print it. I've found some very good - and freely available - tunes that I might not have otherwise found.

Bagpipe Player is free, but you'll find that there is a lot of controversy over it. In fact you can't even mention it on some forums. I emailed the two parties involved and got a very terse response from one of them (I won't say which), but it made me feel much better about using it without feeling like I was an accomplice to theft. I was perfectly willing to pay for a good piece of software, but found there was no need.

There are still strong opinions out there, but I'm satisfied with my conclusions on the matter.

Pipe Band Forum 3/31/08

Why play?

Competition is key to me as motivation to get better. I was encouraged to compete and have done well at it. I compete to improve and as a piper it is much easier to set a goal for competition than for entertainment.

That said. I love to play my pipes for people - it is much more rewarding than a medal and if I were more self motivated I'd probably give up competitions.

Pipe Band Forum 2-29-08

Making Practice Chanter Reeds

Yogurt containers have worked the best for me although you do have to be picky about the type of plastic they use. Yoplait has been the best, but it was a while ago since I made any and can't vouch for which is best now. I did try 2L bottle plastic and as has been mentioned it doesn't work well.

I have used the gibson reed as my pattern. Besides the plastic (don't use a flat piece of plastic - it has to have a curve to it), you'll also need a staple (the metal tube the blades are bound to), crazy glue (or something similar), dental floss and/or waxed hemp, teflon tape and an emery board/sandpaper.

For the staple I would simply reuse the staple from your old reed, but you can purchase metal tubing from a hobby shop (I've even used aluminum tubing). Cut the tubing to the appropriate length and then flatten one end of it slightly to an oval shape opening - if you flatten it too much you can use a stylus to push it back out. Cut the blades from the plastic and using a small dab of crazy glue attach the blades to the staple (just enough glue to hold the blades in place). I use the old reed as a guide for how far up on the blades the staple should be.

I then start low on the staple and wrap dental floss up the staple towards and then over the blades about a third of the way up and I wrap it fairly tight. I then go over this wrap with a good wrap of teflon tape and finally wrap the bottom with waxed hemp or dental floss to get a good fit in the chanter. When you try it out it is going to sound aweful. You'll have to do a lot of sanding and maybe even some minor trimming to get it to sound decent. If some notes come into tune and others don't continue to experiment with the sanding and 9 times out of 10 you can get it to work for you. My reeds have generally lasted as long as a purchased one has, but for the price of a purchased one the only reason to make your own is to get some "Reed Making 101" experience.

Pipe Band Forums 2/27/08

Fun Tunes

I like Farewell to Nigg as well, but after playing it for the past year it's lost a bit of its initial appeal with me.

I really enjoy 6/8 tunes and one of my favorites is Donald MacLean of Lewis. Hot Punch is a fun little two part tune I like to play and another that I really like is Farewell to the Creeks.

Heights of Dargai and Battle of the Somme are both 9/8s and have a strong dot-cut feel to them. The band is currently playing them as a set and they sound really good together. It's a fun set I like to play for my own enjoyment.

A couple of 2/4s that I enjoy playing on my own are The Sweet Maid of Glendaruel and Teribus. They go good together as a set and I played them together last week at my nieces wedding after an intro of Highland Cathedral.

For a more somber mood I like Fair Maid of Barra, Lochaber No More, and a tune I wrote called An Abhainn Chaillte (The Lost River). It's in Composer's Corner on this forum.

Donald MacLean of Lewis - Donald MacLeod
Hot Punch - most often listed as Traditional
Farewell to the Creeks - P/M J. Robertson
Heights of Dargai - J. Wallace
Battle of the Somme - Pipe Major William Laurie
Sweet Maid of Glendaruel - most often listed as Traditional
Teribus - most often listed as Traditional
Lochaber No More - Thomas Connellan

Pipe Band Forum 2/15/08

My Pipe Case

I have the bag-piper case and really like it. The only flaw was that one of the handles lost it's stitching within a week after I got it. The rest of the straps, zippers and rings have held up fine and I secured the broken handle with a strong safety pin. I have the strap set so I can throw it over my shoulder which frees me up to carry a drum case if my son or wife need help.

I carry all kinds of junk in there besides my pipes and whenever someone in the band needs something I always seem to have it.

I've flown to Hawaii, Ontario (twice) and Boston with my pipes and never had a problem. I always tell the security people that what they are about to see on the x-ray is a set of bagpipes and they've never stopped me to check them.

Pipe Band Forum 2/5/08

Piping an expensive hobby?

Concidering that 98% of pipers classify this as a hobby, I don't see the need to charge big bucks!

Amen to that! It is an expensive hobby, but do you have to buy a new kilt every time you have a gig?

Expensive compared to what?

Chess, checkers, watching TV, collecting bottle caps, counting bricks in the cell block, reading and writing posts on forums on the internet ... that type of thing. To be honest with you for the money I've invested in piping so far I could have outfitted myself with some top of the line hockey gear and covered my adult hockey league dues for many years to come.

For what I paid for my bagpipes alone I could have purchased a very good ski combo and had money left over; and if I add in the cost of pipe lessons, competition fees and travel, I could easily cover my ski passes each year as well. And I consider skiing an expensive hobby.

I suppose once you reach a level of piping where you don't take lessons anymore; you have purchased pipes, case, clothing, etc. and can in fact start charging for your performances and instruction it's not only not expensive, but you can make money at it.

$700 ripoff - case in point!

Pipe Band Forum - 1/24/08

Piping for Weddings

I had my first experience piping for a wedding last month. (I actually posted a thread for tips) It was my sister's wedding in London, Ontario. Nice place and I got a chance to visit Scots Highland Services - great shop and good people.

My sister wanted to be piped down the aisle. She had a chamber group playing for the processional before her, but she wanted me to pipe for her, so I did. There wasn't much room at the front of the hall, so I piped from a doorway.I saw the video afterwards, and thought it was actually quite nice.

I've seen several video clips (youtube) of pipers leading the bride and escort down the aisle and as long as the music was an appropriate slow march I thought it came off quite dignified, but I can see where there might be issues.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pipe Band Forum 1-22-08

Reading Sheet Music

Reading the music is invaluable if you want to keep learning new tunes.

I have sheet music to almost 200 tunes and like to challenge myself by just pulling out a tune and playing through it. If I hit on a tune I like, I mark it to add to my repertoire. It's a fun exercise and I've found tunes I really enjoy playing that I wouldn't have come across any other way.

There are tons of new tunes posted all the time on the internet by their composers for downloading. Check out this site for example - click here. Reading sheet music opens up a lot of possibilities.

There is another topic going about Online Tutoring which was a big help for me on my one of my solo pieces. I was getting all the notes right but the interpretion was messed up.

I kept getting the same comments from judges about my piece, but I wasn't quite understanding what they were getting at, and they don't have a lot of time to explain. After getting help online, the light went on in my head and I finally got it. I would never have figured it out from the sheet music.

When I present a new tune to my classes, I don't want to listen to the publishers recording first. I want to study the piece without any interference from someone elses interpretation. I will sit at my desk and conduct the piece to myself as well as "attempt" to sing the meldoy. I'll go to the piano and play some parts, again deciding how I want to present this piece. Once I have decided how I want it, I may listen to the recording and any other recording I can find to see how different directors interpret the tune. As the conductor I want the music to reflect my interpretation of the piece.
This doesn't work so well in competition because the judge wants to hear it the way they feel it should be played.

I've mentioned before the struggle I had this past year with a piece called Lochaber No More. It's a beautiful piece and I wanted to learn it the first time I heard it.

After getting the same comments about phrasing from two different judges I figured that it was definately my problem and I needed to figure out what I was doing wrong. I downloaded the tune from six different musicians (most of them solo pipers, but not all) on itunes and listened intently to each piece performed by different pipers. Each had subtle differences, but from what I could tell, the phrasing was just as I was playing it.

I finally turned to an online tutor who prepared a lesson for me on the piece based on the setting I sent him and give me some pointers. I really liked what he prepared for me and have done well with it, but it is quite different than the way the music is written, the way it is played by the soloists I have recordings of and the way I was playing it.

Thus my conclusion. When you play a piece for competition your interpretation doesn't amount to a hill of beans. The judge wants it phrased a particular way and it had better be that way or you'll not be successful.
interpret it.

... No matter what, when I perform, I want the performance to represent me and not someone else's performance. Although, they may have some influence on my interpretaion of my performance. ...
Thanks Bill - always nice to get the opinion of someone with more experience. The audience I play to most of the time is myself and that is who I try to please.

I do, however, value the opinion of judges and appreciate their comments whether I place or not. Since I am relatively new to piping, I take the judges comments seriously and try to use their critique to improve whether it be technique or expression. When I get a comment on expression from two different judges and the comments are nearly identical then I figure I'm not getting it right and I'll research it to try and correct the problem.

To be honest with you I still enjoy my interpretation of the piece better because I think Lochaber No More needs to have a sorrowful feel to it; which seems to be the way it is played on the recordings I have. Probably not a good choice for a slow march competition piece.

Pipe Band Forum 1-10-08

Drinking and Piping

Interesting thread. I posted a thread a while back about piping for a wedding. Most of the responses included something about alcohol.

I'm not a drinker, but I have nothing against those who do as long as they act responsibly.

Here in Utah most of the bands have a lot of Mormons in them so there is generally not a lot of drinking. Contrary to popular thought however, Utah is not a dry State and anyone who wants to can get alcohol here.

As far as the association of alcohol and bagpipe players, I don't think it is that much different than a lot of groups, clubs, teams, associations, etc. Most fraternal organizations have a lot of drinking - some even have their own bars. I play hockey and even here in Utah there is a lot of booze in the locker rooms of the adult teams.

I would guess that for a lot of folks drinking is just part of the social scene and some think that a party without booze is just a meeting. I would disagree, but hey what would I know ... my favorite drink is choclate milk made at Reed's Dairy in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Believe it or not it has potatoes in it!

Pipe Band Forum 1-4-08

Pipe Band Website

This is a touchy subject for me, so this is a bit long.

When I joined the band I'm in they didn't have a website. They had one at some point in time, but after some changes in the band I guess no one kept it up and it went down. They still had the domain name, but it was actually registered to someone who was no longer in the band.

I offered to help out - the band manager said that would be great, but didn't give me any direction. I created a website and showed it to the band manager. He loved it and said he would help me with content. I told him he would need to get the domain name transfered back to the band so we could use it. Nothing happened. I went ahead and purchased a new domain name using .org instead of .com, I paid for a hosting service and put the site up.

I got lots of positive comments and the band committee started having me put tunes and scores on the site in a members only section. I kept asking for content such as band history, roster, etc. Never got any help. I winged it and did the best I could with what I had.

I'm like most of you, I hate websites that are out of date and not maintained. I didn't want that with this site. I wanted people to visit regularly and find something new each time. I had video and audio clips of the band. I had news stories and current photographs of performances that were updated regularly. Sheet music and drum scores were available for band members to download including mpg files of the tunes and scores that could be loaded onto an ipod.

I continued to get positive comments from band members and the band manager mentioned it often at practices.

The band was trying to decide if it was a good idea to split the grade III and grade IV bands up for practice. I thought that was a good poll question so I posted a poll on the website in the members only section. Almost immediately an email was sent out to the entire band stating that the poll was not authorized. True - actually nothing on the site was authorized; and if they had sent me an email I would have pulled it immediately and had no problem with it - it just pissed me off a bit that the email was sent to the entire band. I closed the poll.

I had paid (out of my own pocket) for the domain name and the hosting services, plus all the time I'd put into it. I asked the band manager what he wanted - do I get input from the committee on what goes on the website or not. Again, no response.

Bear in mind that by then the site was on most search engines and was referenced on several other piping sites (including WUSPBA and this forum) as a link to the band. Band members were also accessing the site to get band information and it also had a page where persons interested in hiring the band could get booking information. It was a well maintained site.

The hosting contract renewed in October last year and I asked the band manager what I should do. He said they were going to get someone else to do the website. I transfered the domain name I had registered to the band (no charge) and since October our band has no website - what a shame!

In the mean time, most of the other bands here have fairly good websites. Lots of good information and fun to visit. Wish we were one of them.

My opinion is that websites should be important to a band. It gives them an identity on the web and a place for people to learn more about them. One of my favorite things to do is check out band's websites. I also like the websites of individual pipers and some day when I have something interesting to produce I'll put up my own.

If the time ever comes to transfer bands I'm going to find one that wants to kept their members and the public informed about them. I'll be looking for a good website.

Would I have decided differently had info on that band been readily available? No, as my choice of bands involved more than driving distance to practice, but at least they'd have given due consideration.
I agree that just having a website shouldn't be the main criteria for choosing a band. While my previous posting may have made our band sound like a terrible place to be, it actually has a lot of positive things about it. There are certainly the usual politics, but it could be a lot worse ... I've heard stories.

Anyway, all this got me thinking that I might start my own website again (non band). I just registered a domain name and I think I'll start to work on it.

I wasn't as upset about the money as I was about the time and effort I put into it and the lack of any appreciation from the leadership. I kept up the site for as long as I did because of band members like scarhand who liked it and said so.

Pipe Band Forum - 12-12-07

The Cost of Bagpipes

I bought my pipes from a local pipe maker. Cost was about $2,300. Anyone hear of SD Sterling bagpipes? Didn't think so. They're nice pipes; they look good and sound good - I almost always get compliments from judges on the full sound; so I'm not disappointed; but ... $$$$$$$

Another piper in our band bought some McCallums and they were about half as much. They sound good and look good. So, what did I really get for twice the price?

Mine were turned by hand, but I doubt that makes much difference except that it takes more time and requires more skill. Hand turning could just as easily turn out a bad set of pipes as a good set - human error. This pipe maker has now gone to CNC probably for consistency and efficiency.

I doubt that the vast majority of people are going to spend more than a couple of grand on an instrument of any kind unless they can justify the cost somehow (ie a professional musician). I certainly stretched the limit with what I spent and even then I broke into a cold sweat when I handed over the cash.

Pipe Band Forums 12-10-07

Small Pipes

I have some Walsh small pipes (see Rogues Gallery - playing for my grand daughters). I do play it with the drones in occasionally, but for the most part I use them as a practice goose with a stopper in the drone stock.

I use it as an intermediary step as well, but you can't go away from practicing with the GHB pipes. I learned from sad experience that it is not a replacement for the big pipes.

I went away from practicing with the big pipes because the small pipes are much more family friendly when playing indoors. I practiced a lot, but when I went back to playing the big pipes (after a couple of weeks) I had a tough time blowing steady and my stamina had dropped a bit.

Small pipes are great for working out the fingering on tricky pieces and practicing sets repeatedly, but if you ignore the big brother he won't cooperate with you when you go back to him.

Of course, let's not forget that the small pipes are an instrument in and of themselves and are fun to perform with; they are not just a practice tool for the GHB.


... I wouldn't say that they improve your piping though. ... The harmonics of them can make it sound like you're playing well, but in actual fact you aren't, and if you played the same on the Highland Pipes you'd be caught out!
I'm not sure I agree 100% with the above quote. I agree that trying to use the small pipes as an exclusive means of practicing for the GHB is foolish, but I don't agree that using the small pipes won't improve your piping. There are a lot of ways using small pipes can improve your piping just as chanter practice and electronic chanters can help. There are certainly limitations, but they do help.

I also don't agree with the idea that the harmonics cover poor playing. The same could be said of the GHB, but once you know how they are supposed to sound and hear them in the hands of a musician, you can certainly tell the difference in either instrument.

I think that because the small pipes require less effort to play, you can probably play tunes more easily on them than the GHB just as learning tunes is easier on the PC, but I think poor playing comes out in both.

Pipe Band Forum 11-14-07

Solo Competition Preparation

I usually get there early enough to play a bit and tune up. I try to tune myself as best I can and I'm getting pretty good at it now. I get a final tuning by the PM or PS before I go over to the judging area. I was warned against watching the competition, but to be honest I enjoy it. So I like to watch especially if I'm one of the first of the group. I'll stick around and watch the others perform.

I never play my pipes close to pipers who are playing for the judge - I think it is inconsiderate and I've seen some annoyed looks from judges when a piper strikes up in the vacinity while he/she is judging. I generally trust the final tuning done by the PM or PS, but pipers are allowed five minutes to make final adjustments, so if you need to strike up and check before you begin that's the time to do it.

I've placed several times including first place twice in the two years I've been competing in grade 4 and I've totally bombed several times (although I've always finished the performance). Having been at both ends of the spectrum and realizing that the judges are there to critique (not critisize) and encourage, I've become more comfortable with solos to the point where I'm really not too nervous anymore. The result is that my pre-performance rituals are much more relaxed now.

Pipe Band Forum 11-12-07

Online Lessons (my thoughts)

I quit taking private lessons because of the expense and I didn't really feel that the instructor was doing much to help me. I'd come in for a lesson and he'd say, "Okay, what do you want to play for me today?" I'd play and he'd say - you missed this, or didn't open that up, or you didn't keep the tempo here, blah blah blah. Then he'd say, "Now what do you want to play?" and it would be on to the next piece. There were no or very few suggestions for exercises to help with certain problems, just "you need to work on that". With the cost of lessons going up so much each year I finally called it quits.

I have been getting helpful tips at band practice, but I still felt I needed something else.

I had gotten several comments from judges on my slow march which were very similar. I obviously had a problem with the phrasing but my instructor wasn't much help. Three different judges made the comment that I needed to emphasis the "question/answer" feel. I didn't get it and my instructor couldn't explain it in a fashion I could understand.

I came across Jori Chisholm's site (www.bagpipelessons.com) and decided to pay the $20 for a custom tune lesson - he didn't have the tune available in the ready made tune lessons he has on his site.

I contacted him by email and provided the sheet music I was using. I explained the problem and the judging comments. He was very responsive and created a custom lesson the same day. He did a great job explaining the phrasing problem I was having with the tune and got me on the right track to correcting it. It was like having the light turned on - I got it and the tune sounds so much better using his suggestions.

I discussed doing an online lesson with him before next season to go over my competition pieces and get his input. He was very willing and as far as I'm concerned, reasonable on his charges. My favorite thing about it is that I have access to a top piper whenever I need the assistance; it's awesome!

I'm all for online lessons.

Very good points regarding beginning pipers. I would have been totally lost without personal instruction. In fact, I'm not sure I'd have done very well in group lessons to start (that's just me).

Another benefit of face to face lessons is the encouragement a new piper can get when first getting on the pipes. This was the "baptism by fire" for me and was the low point in my piping. I was so discouraged I almost quit several times, but I had to go play in front of someone each week and so I kept trying until I could actually get music out of it.

I almost hate to say this because I know there are strong opinions regarding competition, but I would say that once you have reached the level where you are ready to compete - even if you don't compete - you could probably benefit from online lessons.

Pipe Band Forum 10-3-07

An Abhainn Chaillte - The Lost River

This is a tune I wrote as a tribute to my brother who passed away in a kayak accident this last year. He was a real adventurer and tried everything. For several years he was a Yukon smoke jumper and helped to start a smoke jumping service in British Columbia. He loved to rock climb, kayak, bike and backpack. He worked for the Victoria Fire Department and was a good man. Everyone loved him.

I want to thank Carrie for helping me with the translation of the title of this tune to Scottish Gaelic.

I've attached a recording I made on the chanter and the sheet music in a zip file. I did my best on the recording, but there is a minor flub or two and I rushed it a bit in places (hey, I'm just a lowly grade 4 piper). Still, okay all in all. Hope you like the tune.

Sorry, I couldn't add the zip file, but it can be retrieved from the forum post at:

Copy and paste this into your browser address window.

Pipe Band Forum 9/23/07

Piping Exams

There was some discussion on another thread about keeping certain skills alive in the piping community. I just read through the syllabi of the exams and it seems to me that many of the skills of bagpipe maintenance, theory, playing, etc are required by these exams. Seems like a great way to standardize the skills required to be a knowledgeable piper. Wish I had an instructor who would teach me these things.

Is there any possibility of you getting one?

1. Go to a week long seasonal school and learn for your level there and sit the exam while there? Then work all year for the next level? I know someone who does this.
2. Combine your annual holiday, if you have one, with spending a few days at one of the piping places which offer top level instruction, have an intensive few days of lessons, and sit the exam there?
That's a good question. I think there are knowledgeable individuals in this area, but I think the route I would probably take is your first or second suggestions.

I could combine some travel with some education.

Pipe Band Forum 9/16/07

Synthetics in Piping

I've given my thoughts on plastic before and they haven't been too popular, but I'm not ignorant of what is happening in piping, just as it is in other areas of music and art. (You don't see a lot of hide drum heads anymore.)

I didn't start piping at a time when hide bags and cane reeds were the only things available and I'll be the first to admit that I don't know as much as I probably should about maintenance. My instructor and the band don't spend much time on it. What I have learned I've learned on line for the most part.

I've enjoyed the discussions about drone valves, hide bags, cane reeds, canister systems, polypenco, carbon fiber and such. It has made me think about where things are going.

For example, electronic chanters are getting so advanced now that it won't be long before bags and drones won't be necessary to get a bagpipe sound good enough for recording. In fact synthesizers have already made it so that you need little more than a key board to play all kinds of instruments even in a live performance.

I attended a concert a few months ago where Dean Martin's son did a tribute show of Dean's old hits. He had three guys playing for him and it sounded like a full orchestra; brass, woodwinds, percussion, etc. It was amazing.

So where do you draw the line? Anything synthetic is not allowed or at least frowned on? Do you draw the line at electronics (probably a reasonable place to say no)? What about something that is an assistance device (drone valves, canister system, synthetic drones)? How would you define an assistance device?

I can certainly understand where there is a need to keep from losing the art and skills of piping. I guess they (the essential skills) really need to be defined so they can be preserved. You need to separate nostalgia from necessity?

Pipe Band Forum 9/12/07

Getting into a Band

I have been involved with youth for many years. I've been a Scout Master three times (a total of about 10 years) and with my own five kids I've coached everything from baseball to hockey. Most of my kids are adults now, but I have a 12 year old son (the drummer) and he loves hockey, so I've been coaching his teams for the past four years. With three grandkids getting older I'd like to continue to be involved in their activities.

My experience with Scouting was the most difficult as far as having to be careful what was said and done. Because of the exposure I have turned down the latest request to be Scout Master again. I told them I will continue to be involved as a parent, but beyond that I'll not take on the responsibility.

It's too bad, but I've seen too many good men lose their sterling reputations because of unfounded accusastions by some brat who has no concept of the consequenses of making them.

Back to the topic, I've not been involved long enough to judge between band discipline now and what it was a few decades ago, but I'm happy to be piping and have a band that I can be involved in.

A couple things were mentioned that I thought I'd add about our band(s) (We have a grade IV and a grade III band).

The band has a quasi affiliation (not a sponsorship) with a business called the Celtic Center. It is a store (pipe and drum equipment and instruments and related items) and a music school (bagpipes and other pipes, tin whistle, fiddle, and various drums). The relationship is so close that I'm not aware of any band members who at one time or another haven't taken lessons there.

Pipes are not provided by the band, but can be rented or purchased through the Celtic Center. Our former PM (retired to the bass drum) is the owner of the Celtic Center and a pipe maker; a very good one - I have a set of his pipes and love 'em - BUT ... they are quite expensive and beware of buying some other make of pipe because you'll hear about it - Scarhand can vouch for this.

Lessons are not free and are getting quite expensive. I had to quit lessons this year because it cost too much with my son and wife both involved now.

Anyway, there are issues now and again as I'm sure there are with most bands, but I have found the responses very interesting so far. I hope more will tell us about their bands.

Pipe Band Forum 9-12-07

The Problem with being involved with Youth

I have been involved with youth for many years. I've been a Scout Master three times (a total of about 10 years) and with my own five kids I've coached everything from baseball to hockey. Most of my kids are adults now, but I have a 12 year old son (the drummer) and he loves hockey, so I've been coaching his teams for the past four years. With three grandkids getting older I'd like to continue to be involved in their activities.

My experience with Scouting was the most difficult as far as having to be careful what was said and done. Because of the exposure I have turned down the latest request to be Scout Master again. I told them I will continue to be involved as a parent, but beyond that I'll not take on the responsibility.

It's too bad, but I've seen too many good men lose their sterling reputations because of unfounded accusastions by some brat who has no concept of the consequenses of making them.

Back to the topic, I've not been involved long enough to judge between band discipline now and what it was a few decades ago, but I'm happy to be piping and have a band that I can be involved in.

Pipe Band Forum - 7/27/07

Piping for a Drummer

I play pipes for my son's solos (see our family photo in the rogues gallery). Since we submit our registration at the same time we inevitably get scheduled in the same time slot (has happened at our last four competitions). The judges have always been good about resuffling us, but sometimes it means he has to wait for me.

As far as finding pipers for drummers, our pipe sergent has come up with what I think is a good idea. He is going to post the tunes that drummers need pipers for and ask for volunteers. If no one volunteers the civilian way then he will volunteer them the military way.

I can understand pipers being apprehensive about playing for drummers. I was scared to death to pipe for my son. I didn't mind screwing up my own solo, but I dreaded the idea of messing up my son's chances.

I've since had several experiences which have made me much more relaxed about playing for him, but I think a lot of pipers worry about hurting a fellow band member's chances - and you don't know if playing badly could hurt your relationship with that person. What if they blame you for not playing well?

Bagpipe Band Forum - 7/27/07

The Power of Focus (my comments)

I really like Stormy's response. Practice, practice, practice. But I still find if my mind wanders I can mess up a tune I can usually play well. Maybe as I get a few more years under my belt I can relax a bit more.

When I practice I try to concentrate on technique, timing and tone. I try to pick out "landmark" notes in a tune that are keys to how well I'm keeping the beat and timing the phrases. When I play that tune I'm focused on hitting those landmarks just right.

When I compete solo I also like to focus on the judge's foot. I want to see it start to tap out the beat and keep it going. I'm still listening to my playing, but the foot keeps me from being distracted.

When I compete with the band I'm focused on the PM's foot or the bass drum beat if I can't see the PM. Same thing, I hear the tune, but I'm focused on the foot.

With performances I still try to find someone in the audience to focus on; usually someone who is tapping or moving to the music.

Parades are a bit harder to stay focused, but I usually concentrate on whoever is marching in front of me.

Bagpipe Band Forum - 7/23/07

Drone Valves (my comments)

I started with a hide bag setup and cut offs were a piece of cake. It was a borrowed set of pipes and leaked like crazy, so I was in heaven when I got my own pipes. It took some getting used to the Ross zipper bag with cannister, but once I reached a comfort level I was good to go. I was using ezeedrone reeds and had no problems with cutoffs.

Some members of our band switched to kinnard reeds and I liked the sound so I bought some and after a bit of tweeking was getting the sound I wanted. Problem was that my cutoffs went down the tubes. I felt like I was having to start my blowdown way early and it was causing my drones to waiver at the end. I really struggled to get a clean cut and keep my drones steady.

I wasn't the only one in the band having the problem, but that was no excuse so I finally purchased some hyland drone valves. They went in super easy and not only were my cutoffs clean but my strike ins were right on too. To me it was like discovering the miracle cure to cancer! I was very happy with them.

I did hear some comments from various people about the affect the valves might have on sound quality, but at my last competition one judge said, "nice big pipe sound" and the other said, "pipes full and balanced". If the judges like the sound I'm not going to gripe about it.

The only down side I can see is that my shoulder and elbow aren't going to get as good a workout blowing down my bag. Darn!

I may upset some folks, but here's my two cents (I say that because it seems that if you've played pipes less than 20 years then that's about all your opinion is worth).

I'm going on five years now and I love the valves I put in my pipes about 6 months ago. Do I play better? Probably not. Am I a worse player because I use them? No, I'm consistently improving which is reflected in my score sheets. Are my strike ins and cut offs cleaner and more consistent? Yes, definately. Should I have to learn to strike in and cut off consistently without the valves before using them? Why should I? It makes no difference as to whether I'm a worse or better player with valves and I enjoy playing the pipes more.

Hmmm ... I play the pipes more because the valves make it easier and more playing makes me a better piper ... maybe valves are making me a better player.

I was going to say that I don't know what the fuss is all about, but I actually think I do. As technology makes piping easier and easier, at what point are you no longer "playing" the bagpipes? At some point I suppose someone will just turn on their pipes and listen to them and claim that they are a piper. I wonder where the line will be drawn ... another topic for another thread.

Relay for Life at Riverton Park 8/1/08

I was asked a couple of months ago if I would be willing to play my pipes at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life at Riverton Park. They wanted a piper for a Luminaria Ceremony which is the lighting of candles inside paper bags that are tributes to victims, survivors and those fighting cancer. I was honored by the invitation. I put together a couple of sets of slow marches and airs which I hoped would be appropriate.

They first presented a slide show of cancer victims and survivors as well as those still fighting the disease. It was a very moving media presentation. Then there were two testimonials about the relay and what it means following which I played a set of tunes - Farewell to Camraw, An Abhaine Chaillte and Flowers of the Forest. Only a very minor flub in Farewell to Camraw.

After that set there was a moment of silence and then an invitation to walk around a visit the luminaries. Unfortunately at this point there was a slight mix up in the program, but it was straightened out and I played my last set which I shortened up. It included the tunes Fair Maid of Barra, Lochaber No More, Danny Boy and Amazing Grace. It went well except for a slight mistake in Amazing Grace - can't believe I slipped up on that one. The mood of the ceremony was appropriate and I felt good about my performance.

I hope God will allow me to continue to serve others through my playing.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pipe Band Forum - 7/6/07

A Family Band

My wife has now joined the band! We now have a snare drummer, tenor drummer and piper all in the family!These photos were taken by one of my daughters at the end of the Sandy and Park City, Utah parades.

My oldest daughter is taking bagpipe lessons, my oldest son is thinking about taking pipe lessons and my son in law is a drummer who says that he wants to play bass with the band when he gets back from his summer job in Ohio this fall. Oh, and my grandson has a set of toy pipes that he marches around with whenever he comes for a visit. LIFE JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER!!
Piping on Maui (Hawaii)

I spent last week in Maui, Hawaii with my wife and son and had a great time. With the band's first competitions coming up and having to miss a band practice I felt obligated to take along the pipes and get in some individual practice. I found an elementary school close to the condo and did most of my practicing there, but I did get down to the beach one night and played through a few sets and tunes. It was a great experience! Here's a photo my wife took.

By the way, on our last evening I was practicing up at the school when a car pulled up. The driver told me that I was welcome to come out and practice with the local pipe band. LOCAL pipe band!!? Was he kidding!? He said the band is the Maui Celtic Pipes and Drums. Unfortunately it was our last night, but he said anytime we visited Maui to be sure and look them up. I checked around on the internet and did find some information on the band here: http://www.mauiceltic.com/bagpiping.htm

Anyway, it was a fun trip and if we ever get out there again, I think I'll look up the band and go to a practice.
Learning about the bagpipes

I think the weakness in my instruction was not being taught much about the instrument itself. By that I mean the care, tuning, maintenance, reeds, setup, etc. I was taught a lot about the music, but not as much about the instrument. I think it has been pointed out before on this forum that innovations in the instrument have made care and maintenance a less demanding part of being a piper. Perhaps for this reason instructors forget that students still need as much instruction on the instrument as they do on the music.Most of what I have learned about the bagpipes themselves has come from instructional video (Mcgillivray), the internet, and watching and asking questions of other pipers.
My bagpipe setup:

Chanter: McCallum chanter/Gael chanter (band)
Reeds: Magarity/Ross chanter reed; Kinnard Drone reeds
Bag: Ross Canister zip bag w/ tubes to drones and chanter (sponge in chanter chamber ... Utah - high and dry )
Pipes: SD Sterlings
Other: Hyland drone valves
Canadian Dishes (my comments)

Isn't Tourtiere more a french Canadian dish. I'm from Alberta and had never heard of it until I moved to Quebec City. It can be made a variety of ways with both wild and domestic meats and it is delicious. Sugar Pie is also a french Canadian desert that is great. Steer clear of blood pudding IMHO. I used to eat a lot of horse meat in Quebec - it was very good.I'm not really sure there is a "Canadian" dish, but they do have some great candy bars, cereals and snacks that are unique. Eatmore, coffee crisp, shreddies, smarties (not the rolled up sugar candy you get in the States, they are more like M&Ms but better), aero bars, crunchies, red river cereal, macintosh toffee, old dutch potatoe chips (they had flavors like salt and vinegar, dill pickle and bbq way before the US ever had them - in fact I've never seen ketchup flavor chips in the States) and the list goes on and on.
Bagpipe Controversies and new pipers (a comment)

I think that Pete's statement in the last sentence, covers it all, far too often you hear younger (and some older) Pipers argueing the toss with well known and experienced Pipers, only to find that they have been playing for all of five minutes, YET think they are experts.To be fair this is happening in all walks of life? it always reminds me of the old saying, A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS

I agree to a point. I have only been playing for four years - that's not a long time by piping standards. It hasn't been that long since I was struggling with the same things that newer pipers are struggling with and yet I still have much to learn. That doesn't mean I can't have a valid opinion about certain things.

I have asked questions here and on other forums to try to learn and have found that even the "experts" often have different opinions. Here is a website that spells out some areas of differing opinions and controversies.


I respect the opinions of those who have more experience than I do. I try to research my questions as much as possible. Often it will change my pre-concieved ideas on things, but sometimes it will not depending on numerous factors, not the least of which is a feeling of mutual respect. I don't think anyone likes to have an opinion jammed down their throat regardless of the "expertise" of the person doing it.

Also, if there were no room for lively discussion, this forum would be a boring place indeed.
Band Rivalry in Utah (my comments)

Why is it this old garbage keeps coming up? This is over 10 years ago. I am involved in a number of bands in the area and absolutely no one talks about these issues anymore. Why? They don't care. For the most part we care about improving as soloists and bands.

I agree. I certainly wasn't around when it all happened and I don't really care either, but I've heard about it.

We recently had a clinic with all of the bands in the area, we all enjoyed each others company and no one talked about poaching or cheating or anything of the sort. We had fun. We didn't perpetuate the myth that people involved in pipe bands in Utah are a bunch of litigious nut bags.

Who said anything about litigation? I think the situation now is no worse than anywhere else and in fact probably a lot better.

I find it sad this goes on. Most of the people involved are not even playing in pipe bands now. It's ironic that many of the people discussing this now were not even involved in bands back then. Why does this need to be kept alive?

Good question. There are a few involved who are still playing, and perhaps it is only the ones who were around in our band who still harbor feelings about it. I'm glad to hear others have put it behind them. I wasn't involved in past conflicts and I'm not trying to perpetuate anything here, but I have a link at the bottom of this post which would indicated that not everyone in other bands in Utah feel the way you and I do.

I think the branch clinics have gone a long way to build relationships. I have only been able to attend one of them so far (there have only been two). I still stick to my statement about the tension - it certainly wasn't a general feeling, but I tried to strike up a conversation with one member of another band and he wouldn't give me the time of day (might have just been his personality). That wasn't the case with others however, and perhaps I should have clarified.

I'm also glad that there are people like you who are so involved with other bands and are so supportive and encouraging. You've certainly made my first experience with competition an enjoyable one and I will be always grateful.

By the way, I have made friends with several pipers and drummers in other bands at our branch clinics and at competitions. I'm very happy to see Utah bands progress and do well. In fact, just last night I was listening to a member of the Wasatch and District Pipe Band practicing with his rock band "The Happy Scotsmen". They have another piper in the band who wasn't at the practice session, but I loved it. My son was invited to sit down at the snare and he played part of the SL Scots drum salute for them. We all had a great time. They are going to be performing on Thursday and unfortunately I will be out of town or I would go and watch them.

As far as poaching? You can't poach someone who doesn't want to move on. If your band isn't meeting your needs, find one that fits.

Here's what I mean by poaching:"Judges, competitors and WUSPBA members shall not encourage any person toleave a WUSPBA-member band in which such person is a registered member." WUSPBA Code of ConductI apologize if I gave the impression that Utah is the hot bed of pipe band conflict. I don't think that is the case. On the other hand, not everything is all warm and fuzzy either. Here is a site with posts about our band which are not always kind, and some of these were posted within the last year: http://slsites.com/rateHist.html?btn=cat1734
On Changing Bands (my comments)

I need to emphasize that I am not considering leaving our band (don't want to start any rumors). I think our PM does a great job and for the most part egos don't get in the way of having fun. But being in a competition band does have it's stresses.I agree that your own enjoyment is important and being miserable with a band kind of defeats the purpose of playing doesn't it? Our area has had some very strong feelings between bands in the past. Some of it has had to do with disputes regarding cheating in competitions and some of it is due to allegations of poaching members. Things have gotten better in recent years, but you can still feel some tension between older band members when we get together for district events.
Tune Taken (my comments)

Point is Bill, it's been a time honoured tradition to share tunes, so why in the last 5 years has copyright among pipers become an issue? Even before the internet introduced easy sharing abilities, pipers still had hundreds of tunes in their possesion, where were the copyright Nazies then?If money is not an issue, then why are we groveling over the small chump change they call royalties? There's already too much pettiness in the world, i was hoping we were all above this!

I've composed a couple of tunes - nothing earth shaking (one is posted on this forum). I don't expect to make any money, but if people like the tunes then I would like to hear about it thus I put my name to them and simply ask that if a tune is distributed it have my name on it. That's it - it's ego.I was asked to play a tune as a lead in to a song on a CD by a local rock band. The tune I played was Farewell to Camraw by Robert Mathieson. I was able to contact him via email and asked permission to use the tune on the recording. He granted that permission no strings attached. I think most composers aren't looking to make money on their tunes, but they do want recognition for their creative effort.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pipe Band Forum 3-23-07

Kilted Hockey Coach (my post on my exploits as a kilted hockey coach)

Right after the St. Patrick's Day parade I had to hustle back to the ice rink to coach my son's Pee Wee Hockey team.No, I wasn't going to play goalie. I was just fishing pucks out of the net during the teams warmups while our goalie was getting some last minute adjustments to his pads. I had several Mom's express their disappointment in my ability to keep from slipping on the ice.

Where did you get the Gillie Skates?

Gillie skates? You mean these?I think you can get 'em almost anywhere.

Pipe Band Forum 3/21/07

Wearing a Kilt (a topic I started to get some feedback on non piping wearing of the kilt)

I've noticed that there are quite a few members of our band who can hardly wait to get out of their kilts when a performance or competition is over. I actually enjoy wearing it for several reasons - not the least of which is the attention I get. I had planned on buying my own kilt this year, but have discovered that Elsie Stuehmeyer is doing a class in our area next month, so signed up to make my own! I got my tartan a few weeks ago and can hardly wait!My wife and I were in France a few years back to pick up our son who had been living there for a couple of years. We stayed with some friends of his in Bezier who were from Scotland. The father, Burt, was an awesome host. When we arrived at their home he was there in his kilt and hose; full of stories and a VHS tape of the last year's tatoo playing on the television. We were marvelously entertained during our stay including a thrilling ride into Spain with me on the left side of the car facing on-coming traffic without a steering wheel to help me. Burt was perfectly at home in his kilt and I was wondering how many others enjoy wearing one. I don't think you have to be Scottish to be comfortable do ya? and for those in Scotland, having never been there, I was curious as to how common it is for casual dress? That's probably a silly tourist type question, much like questions I get from people down here about igloo building in my native Canada ... but still curious all the same.

Copied from http://bearkilts.com/It's_a_guy_thing.htmlIce on the testes is a common recommendation for men with low sperm production.

Glad I never had that problem ...

"People who don't wear underwear are immoral." Rubbish. People who don't wear underwear are generally less ashamed of their bodies and have greater self esteem. Immodesty is not immorality.

I don't agree with this for two reasons: 1) Who says being modest equates to being ashamed of your body? That's like saying you're ashamed of your bank account because you won't reveal the balance to the world - truth is it's personal and no ones business but my own - I'm very proud of my bank account. I think being modest shows more respect for your body and for others than leaving naught to the imagination. 2) Who says that wearing nothing under a kilt is immodest? You can still go without and be modest.
Synthetics ... good or bad? (my topic on where to draw the line on artificial bagpiping)

There has always been a lot of resistance to changes and from what I've seen the piping world is no different. I think it's a good thing, because it forces those with innovative ideas to make their best attempts at comformity to what looks, sounds and feels traditional.I was not around when drone reeds went synthetic and missed out on that debate (though it still flares from time to time); and I just caught the tail end of the synthetic bag debate (which still rages in some quarters). Still there are many technical developements that are resisted. I remember when I bought my pipes I ordered a zipper bag and my instructor tried very hard to steer me away from them. Now he plays a zipper bag and so does nearly our entire band. Being fairly new to piping, I don't really have any prejudices yet, so I've just done the research and ordered what I felt would help me. For example, I've done fairly well with strike in and cut off, but I usually wind up squeezing the heck out of my bag to get a good cut off at the end (curse of the synthetic bag). I bought a set of drone valves for my canister system and ... problem gone!!I've been looking at the Clanrye chanter reed. Haven't bought one yet, but I think I will sometime. I think as synthetic chanter reeds keep improving and someone starts to win in competition with them they will become fairly standard.I've heard many comments in our band among older pipers about the nightmares of old cane drone reeds and seasoning hide bags, etc. Then I watch our pipe major and pipe sergent working on chanter reeds and wonder how long it will be before they won't have to do that anymore.Are we headed to simply plugging in our deger electric bagpipe to an amp and knocking out a few sets without ever squeezing a bag? Where do you think the line will finally be drawn?

There actually seems to be a little step away from synthetic bags going on. Here in Alberta, ALACL have gone away from synthetic bags and have started playing sheepskin. This is also the case (apparently) with some bands overseas (SLOT).

I've seen that too, but there will always be revivals now and then. I read a story the other day about a couple of companies in the US producing vinyl records again because of a resurgence in their popularity. So is it just naustagia or does it really have to do with quality?There are so many variables, so many opinions and things change so quickly.

A clanrye reed will be a source of heart ache for you....While a cane pipe chanter reed reacts to moisture or lack thereof and changes and/or settles etc, the clanrye will not...so you could be playing away...your band will ease into the sound your pm wants....and you will not....the moisture also has nowhere to go...and will eventually impede the vibration of the blades....much like a practice chanter reed.....

I would never play the clanrye reed with the band; certainly not without the PM's approval. I wanted to get one just to play around with it. Moisture is a problem with drone reeds too, but there are ways of handling the moisture and you could do the same with a synthetic chanter reed.I've seen a couple of "nevers" mentioned in this thread and I have to agree with Bobby when he said that never is a very long time.Certainly at this time cane chanter reeds are superior ... but, I also think change is inevitable. Obviously people are buying the clanrye reed even though everyone agrees it isn't as good as cane. What's going to happen when someone developes a synthetic reed that competes with cane for sound quality?

Pipe Band Forum 3/12/07

Unkind Remarks (a topic I started about rude people)

I just posted a response to the thread on piping outdoors when I thought of an experience I had on a warm day in December when I was practicing for a few minutes in my back yard. I was wondering if anyone else has had any in-your-face unkind or rude remarks.It was early afternoon on a Saturday, so I figured anyone who had been up all night Friday would be awake by then and it was past most toddler's nap time. I felt the timing was good. I had already tuned up in the house and went out to play a few tunes on my patio and practice some marching for my competition tunes.I got through three or four tunes when a neighbor kid the next street over yelled, "Shut up!!" The kid was probably 9-11 years old and he promptly ducked back into his house when I looked over there.Being a good neighbor I simply went back inside to finish my practicing.My feelings were a bit hurt though. All of my experience playing outdoors has always brought praise from my neighbors and the kids especially.My wife told me she really enjoyed my playing. When I told her what had happened she said she had heard it and knew the kid who said it. She asked me if I remembered last summer when mail had been stolen from many of our neighbor's mail boxes and some of the boxes had been vandalized. I had heard something about it. She told me that they finally caught the kid who had been doing it and it was this same kid! After that I didn't feel so bad - I went out and played three more tunes. I should have invited the band over for an outdoor session. What do you think?

Pipe Band Forum 3/12/07

Playing the Pipes outside (my comments on playing outside)

I love to play in the park near our home. It always seems to gather an audience and I've never had an unkind remark; in fact just the opposite usually.A couple of times I've gone to church and had neighbors say they heard me on the pipes while they were working in their yards and stopped to enjoy the tunes. I'm no great soloist, but it does make me feel good that others love the sound of the pipes as much as I do.Good thread - there truely is nothing like the sound of the pipes outside, especially in a beautiful setting.

Pipe Band Forum 3/10/07

Mental Preparation (my thoughts on preparing for competition)

Last year was my first year competing. It was a lot harder (mentally) than I thought it would be. I hadn't even been voted into the band yet, so I had never even performed or marched in a parade. I felt very comfortable with the tunes, but the nerves were really getting to me. I knew that if I didn't come up with a way to deal with it I would blow it.To make matters even worse, I was going to be piping for my son's drum solo.I finally told my son that if I started to choke on his solo, to just keep going and I would try to come back in. I then convinced myself that this first competition was just a "warm up" competition and didn't really matter. I also knew I'd be piping against 12 other pipers and told myself that as long as I felt good about my performance the rest didn't matter.The best performance I had was for my son's solo and once that was over I felt a huge weight off my shoulders and did reasonably well for my own solos.I've used this type of mental preparation for all of my competitions and it seems to have worked for me. The only time I'm really nervous is when I play for my son and I guess that's because I don't want to ruin his hard work.So how do you get psyched up for competition or a performance?

I haven't done any solo competition, but for some reason at this point, it doesn't seem like it would be as stressful as playing at a lesson, because the judge doesn't know me, and doesn't know my weaknesses, the way my instructor does. I'll know more after I do it, I'm sure!

Ohh ... it will be stressful, but use the suggestions here and you'll be fine. It's not just the judge you'll be playing for. Remember that a lot of the competitions are part of scottish festivals and games, so they can really draw a crowd and a lot of the spectators know good piping when they hear it. You're also playing in front of fellow competitors and other pipers from your band and the other bands who will be listening to every dropped doubling and garbled grip. It's stressful, but it really forces you to prepare and to focus. All in all it's a great experience, but it's very different from playing a private session for your instructor.

It is truely interesting how different this performance anxiety can effect individuals.

In a band setting I feel relaxed. The focus is not on me, so I can focus on my playing. When I first started to compete in solo's I would get so nervious that I would loose feeling in my hands.

I am just the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I still get nervous about solo competition, but I'm really not as worried about screwing up my individual performance as much as I worry about screwing up the band's performance. I don't want to be the piper responsible for a poor showing. When I play with the band I really have to stay focused.

Pipe Band Forum 3/9/07

Pipe Instructor credentials (a topic I started on the subject)

If you were to go out today and seek tuition on the bagpipes, what would you be looking for?What would you have on your check list of questions to ask and what would the ideal answer to those questions be?Let's say you find an average, but competent instrutor. What are you willing to pay him/her?Also, anyone out there with an instrutor horror story?

Here are my top five:
1. Enthusiastic about teaching.
2. Playing ability - hard for a non-piper to judge and while I hate to open a can of worms by this statement, I think their grade level as a competative piper will say a lot.
3. References - who has he/she taught and how good are they?
4. Fees - you get what you pay for, but not always. I think this ties into my first item - is he/she enthusiastic about teaching or enthusiastic about taking your money. Let me also say here that I don't think FREE lessons are a good idea - where there is no investment there is less committment.
5. Patience - you can find this out from other students, but I think it is critical because the bagpipe is not an easy instrument to learn.

Does that mean a person can't learn anything from Donald Macpherson because he doesn't compete?

Oh brother - here we go again!Here is a quote from Donald Macpherson's bio - just for the record!!!

Donald’s performance over a truly remarkable forty years at the top of competitive (emphasis added) piping bears this out. ... This was a piper who, whenever he stepped onto a platform, inspired a hush of anticipation.Donald’s run of competition successes began with the Glasgow Battalion of the Boys Brigade Championship. After serving in the RAF during World War ll, he entered the Oban meeting for the first time in 1948 and became only the second piper to win the double of Gold Medal and Open Pibroch.

... and it goes on from there with all the medals and prizes he's won IN COMPETITION. Go ahead, name a top piper who never competed. Be honest, competetive piping is what it is. It may not be the only way to prove you're a good piper, but in our world, it is one of the best ways and for someone who doesn't have a clue as to an instructor's ability, his/her grade level is a good indicator of their piping proficiency - not the only indicator - but a good one.

Likewise, a great performer may not have the patience and teaching skills to be a great teacher.The point is that as a uneducated beginner, you are going to have to use some kind of criteria to evaluate and differentiate between instructors and because there are bagpipe competitions, it is a good criteria to use to evaluate your instructor's proficency on the instrument.

We seem to be talking about having choices, problem is most people don't have any choices as there is no access to good instructors.

So very true. In fact, in our area it is difficult to find out who is instructing at all if you're not involved in piping or drumming or know someone who is.Perhaps another way to evaluate an instructor is to listen to the band his students generally play for. That is more the case in our area and probably the best way to find a good instructor around here. There are several good bands and good instructors here in Utah.

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