Learn the Pipes Right:
Everything You Need to Get Started
Jori Chisholm • BagpipeLessons.com
I’ve been playing and teaching bagpipes for 30 years, including teaching bagpipe lessons online since 2003 to students of all levels around the world. I founded BagpipeLessons.com with the hope of inspiring anyone, anywhere, to fulfill their dreams of becoming pipers — regardless of previous experience or location. I’d like to share a few tips you can use to make sure that you get started out right and learning properly from the beginning.
Yes, you can be a piper!
You can learn to play the pipes. It takes enthusiasm, practice and opportunities to learn from a good teacher. Every piper I know has their own unique interests and experiences they bring to their musical journey. I’ve taught very young children and adults who have taken up piping in the retirement years. I’ve taught experienced professional musicians who have mastered other instruments and I’ve taught pipers with zero musical experience. Whoever you are and wherever you are — you can learn to play!
You don’t need bagpipes to start learning.
You will start learning on a musical instrument called the practice chanter. The chanter (most pipers drop the word “practice”) is smaller, quieter, cheaper and less demanding to play than the bagpipes. The chanter allows you to learn and practice the fingering for the pipes without the bag or drones. The practice chanter has a reed that will get you started learning how to blow strong and steady on the pipes.
I recommend a regular length, plastic practice chanter. Chanters are also available in child’s size (sometimes called junior size) with the holes slightly closer together for smaller hands. I would not recommend a long chanter. Plastic chanters are less expensive than wood chanters and will never crack or break. Save your money for a great set of pipes, instead of splurging on a spendy wood practice chanter with fancy engraving.
Do NOT buy anything bagpipe related made from rosewood. Internet shopping sites, especially Ebay, will have lots of very poorly made practice chanters and bagpipes made from this material. Stay away from these instruments! They may look like the real thing, but they are not designed to be played. They sound awful and will lead to frustration and eventually you’ll need to purchase a new one.
Don’t try to learn from just a book.
Somebody once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s a translation at best. There are a lot of things involved in learning to play a musical instrument — timing, melody, finger position, breath control and so on. Personally, I always strive to explain things in the clearest possible way. It’s one of the fun challenges of teaching: taking a difficult or complicated idea or skill and making it understandable to the student. But I think that it’s almost impossible to learn to play a musical instrument from just a book alone. Even the best written materials on music can only go so far. Eventually, you’ll want to hear how something is supposed to sound or see how something is supposed to go.
Someone also said that a picture is worth a thousand words. When I’m teaching, I always try to demonstrate clear examples of what you want to achieve and pitfalls you want to avoid. My ever-growing library of online lessons are built around the idea that you will learn best when you can learn from many different types of lessons, with clearly written descriptions, audio recordings, high-quality video demonstrations and detailed exercise showcases with clear explanations.
Find a trusted source for information.
There’s a ton of bagpipe-related information online. The challenge for someone starting out is to find the good information and avoid the bad stuff. When you’re starting out on something new, you don’t yet know what you don’t know and you don’t know what you need to learn.
Understanding the amount of scattered information and piecemeal educational material available to new pipers, I designed a better option — the BagpipeLessons.com Inner Circle. Members have access to hundreds of multimedia resources, lessons, tune tutorials, sheet music and more. Plus, you’ll have the chance to join me interactively weekly for live lessons on all kinds of topics — from technique, competition prep, exercises, world champion guests or even how to guides on buying pipes or simple maintenance. You’ll join a great group of other pipers from around the world learning online at their own pace and preference.
You’ll need time to practice, but you shouldn’t waste your valuable time and energy searching the internet for excellent, high-quality lessons from someone with the expertise you can trust. I do all the hard work of creating lessons, courses, and videos so you can focus on learning efficiently. I’m constantly working on new lessons and coming up with new ways to help pipers grow and learn.
Get started with the correct hand and finger positions.
The first few months of your piping can have a lasting effect on the rest of your piping life. Take the time to learn good fundamentals of correct finger position and clean finger technique and you’ll be on the right path. I’ve taught pipers who were either previously self-taught or poorly taught, and they were limited by incorrect finger position which then limited their ability to play with control and expression.
The bagpipe scale only has nine notes. Do yourself a favor and start playing from day one with proper hand position and clean finger technique. Think of the time and effort spent in the first few weeks as an investment that will pay off for years to come.
Is it really possible to learn bagpipes online?
Absolutely! I teach students every day around the world who are living their dream of learning to play the pipes. Online education is huge! Many are now learning to play a musical instrument online. I was even featured on the front page of the New York Times in 2012 in their story about the growth of online music lessons.
I’ve been teaching online in one-on-one video lessons since 2003 when webcams and high-speed internet first became available. I remember thinking that internet-based bagpipe instruction would be promising for pipers, especially for those with no opportunities for high-quality local instruction. I also created the world’s first tune and video series lessons that have now been downloaded by thousands of pipers around the world.
Here are some of types of the pipers I’m currently teaching:
• Adults taking up pipes as a hobby
• Kids of all ages
• Pipers looking to advance in competitions
• Pipers who play with their local pipe band
• New pipers with who have extensive musical experience on another instrument
• Pipers who have never played any instrument before
• Pipers who have previously tried learning on their own
• Pipers who are looking for instruction from a world-class player
• Pipers who are serious and driven
• Pipers who are interested to learn mostly for personal enjoyment
• Pipers who have wanted to learn for a long time
• Pipers who have taken lessons but are looking for a better approach
At BagpipeLessons.com, I have everything you need to get started out right. My beginner lessons are designed to be clear and easy to follow. You can learn at your own pace with my high-quality video and audio lessons that you can access at any time, anywhere. Join the Inner Circle to and learn with me, live, every week!
The best part? You can start learning right now. Learning to play the pipes can be exciting, rewarding, and challenging. But mostly, learning to play the pipes should be fun! Practice smart, trust your teacher, and find joy in the journey.
If you want to learn to play, I would be honored to help you reach your dreams!
Join me as a member of the BagpipeLessons.com Inner Circle and start your piping journey right! Includes weekly live, interactive live lessons with me, Jori Chisholm, plus access to my huge Lesson Library with multimedia resources on every piping topic imaginable. Plus, meet and connect with other pipers of all ages and abilities from around the world in our exclusive Facebook group. Join on a yearly or month-to-month membership.