Answers to Your Bagpipe Questions About Anything!

Ask Me Anything!

by Jori Chisholm, Founder of
Last Updated: May 8, 2024

In today’s live video, I’ll answer your more of your emailed questions about many important bagpipe topics.

I started 25 years ago with the simple goal to provide high-quality information and inspiration for anyone, anywhere in the world who has a dream to learn to play the bagpipes. Thanks to you support, my business has been able to grow and help thousands of pipers of all levels. Join me and help me determine the future direction for Thank you!

Watch the video and scroll down to read the full video script.

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Video Transcript: Thanks for tuning in to watch me on on YouTube. So this is the third one of these that I’ve done in the last couple weeks and they’ve been really fun. So if you’ve been following and my YouTube channel, you may have noticed that I’ve been doing more videos this year. 

So this is a really fun thing that I’ve been doing and I’ve got some help with editing my videos so the videos are looking better and easier for me to get them out. But a couple weeks ago, I just threw the camera on and just went live here on YouTube and just answered some questions. 

So I get a lot of questions emailed to me through the website, comments on social media and on YouTube here. So it’s just kind of a fun thing to go through some of these questions and hear questions from you. 

Anybody who’s watching live, just go into the chat there and say where you’re from and if you’ve got any questions. As always, check out for all the latest stuff that I’m doing. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram and see what’s happening here on YouTube. 

I launched a new online class a couple months ago called the Bagpipe Essentials Masterclass. So as pipers, you never are finished working on your technique. Take it from me. I’ve been playing for a long time and I know that top players in the world, all the way down to beginners, we’re all working on our technique all the time. 

It’s just such a big part of piping. So what this course is, is 31 videos, high quality videos, everything from how to put your hands in the chanter for perfect finger position with your thumb and everything, all the way through all the doublings and bottom hand embellishments, tachums, GDE’s, all that stuff.

So it’s one of the coolest things that I’ve done in 25 years of teaching bagpipes and teaching online is this Essentials Masterclass. So check it out. I think you’ll really like it. Even if you’ve got a lot of experience and some really good technique, you might benefit from some of the ways that I think about these things, and different ways of approaching some of your fingering. 

So check it out at Cool, so let’s get into the questions here. First question is, “The biggest long-standing issue I have is the death grip on the chanter. No matter how hard I work at relaxing my fingers, they tense up, not just on the pipes, but the practice chanter as well.  Not so bad on slow tunes, but terrible on fast tunes.”

So this is a really common issue that a lot of pipers face. I think generally the tendency when you first learn and you’re first starting out is to be too tight.  I’ve been teaching a long time and I’ve taught a lot of people at different levels, and that’s definitely the beginner sort of default way of playing.  I think it makes sense because you’re trying to find the holes, you’re trying to cover the holes, and you’re trying to get control of these fingers, and you’re trying to get your fingers to do certain moves with a lot of precision that you’re not used to doing.  So one of the things that we do is we engage all the muscles around those fingers to hold them in place to get them to move.  So one of the things that I’ve been reading about is, why is it that we engage all of our muscles around a joint when we’re trying to control it?  Well that makes sense for certain types of large motor movements, you know they tell you if you’re going to lift something heavy, you know engage your core so you don’t throw your back out.  That makes sense because when you engage muscles around a joint, it stabilizes that joint.  But that’s not what you want to do on your fingers on your piping because here we’re not talking about lifting something heavy, or swinging a sledgehammer, or throwing something, really what we’re talking about is fine motor control.  That requires a lot of precision of timing.  

Also we’re talking about something that we want to be able to do for many many repetitions over a reasonably long period of time.  So think about just moving your index finger on your bottom hand to play a D gracenote.  I mean you might do that hundreds of times, even in a single tune, certainly many many dozens of times.  So we’re talking about fine motor control, small movements with a great degree of precision and consistency.  So the best way to do that is to have relaxed hands.  So there’s a really cool book that I read years ago called Passionate Practice, and this is about practicing to learn a musical instrument. The author has this exercise, it’s called “puppy dog hands.”  So the idea is, if you think about a little dog, a little puppy, how relaxed its paws are.  And so that’s sort of the thing that you want to get in your mind, keeping your hands really, really relaxed. So just take your hand now, make a fist, and relax it. Make a fist, relax it. 

Or just take your hands and just shake them out, and then just look at them. So they have a nice relaxed curve to them. It actually takes a lot of tension on your ligaments and your muscles to get them to be straight.  So you want to avoid that. So here’s the puppy dog hands exercise modified for pipers: sit in a chair with your practice chanter on the table or in your lap, and rest your hands in your lap facing up.  So I’m standing here at my studio, but just like this in your lap. Now take a couple of deep breaths and just let your hands sink into your lap.  Let them feel heavy. Now, slowly raise your hands up, and hold your chanter, and place your hands, grab my chanter here, and place your hands gently on the chanter. 

Place them really lightly and loosely. So what you want to do is just be free of all tension. If you find yourself grabbing, just try again.  Put the chanter down, relax your hands, take a couple breaths, and then gently place your hands on the chanter. 

Find your holes with a minimum amount of tension, nice soft hands, I’m always thinking about soft hands. Get your hands on the holes and then blow low G.  Now if you find you’re not covering the holes, you might have to try that again and try to find that position. 

But what you don’t want do to get that low G, is engage a lot of muscle and squeezing and tension and rigidity. I’ve been talking for a long time about the two pillars of bagpipe form, which are keep your hands in close to the chanter and keep your hands as relaxed as possible. 

I’ve sort of edited that down: keep them in close and keep your hands soft. So the opposite of soft would be tight, hard, rigid, stiff, tense, we want them to be soft. There’s a really cool book written by a golf teacher named Harvey Pennick, and he has several books. And this first one was called Harvey Pennick’s Little Red Book. And it’s got really interesting tidbits of wisdom in there from a lifetime of playing and coaching golf. I don’t even play golf, but I find the book fascinating. 

One of the things that popped out when I read it is he tells his students, gently place your hands on the golf club, gently place as opposed to grab it. And I think the same thing here, gently place your hands on the holes. So that’s the puppy dog exercise. When you sit down to practice, you’re bringing a lifetime of experience and habits and your personality and maybe also some of whatever happened today and in the hours or minutes leading up to your practice. 

So just take a minute if you’re going to practice, take a couple deep breaths, close your eyes, shake your hands out, lay your hands gently into your lap, and sort of get centered and ready to have a nice practice with relaxed hands. 

So that can be very helpful. I’ve emailed that puppy dog hands exercise out to my email list and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people: they find that really helpful. Okay let’s keep going here.

Okay, Ralph’s got a question in the chat. “What are your thoughts on strong, medium, medium-strong, idioms for strathspeys?”

So if you ask most pipers who have some experience, “Tell me what you know about the expression of strathspeys,” and people will almost always say, “strong, weak, medium, weak.”

Strong, weak, medium, weak. So what they’re referring to are the four beats in a strathspey. Strathspeys are a type of bagpipe tune that are for a dance, like the Highland Fling or the Sword Dance or a strathspey in a reel. 

It’s in 4-4, but an interesting thing about how we express strathspeys when we play bagpipes, is that we want to emphasize certain beats over other beats. So the typical pattern that people refer to is strong, weak, medium, weak. 

We’re saying, “make the first beat strong, make it longer, make the second beat weak, (which means make it a little bit shorter,) and then make the third beat medium, and make the fourth beat weak.” Strong, weak, medium, weak. 

Now, I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think that the more accurate way to think about it is strong on the first beat and also strong on the third beat. I don’t like the term weak, but if you were going to use this terminology, I would say it’s probably closer to strong, weak, strong, weak, as opposed to strong, weak, medium, weak. 

If you listen to really good players and pick your favorite top bagpiper, it’s very clear everyone holds the first beat, so that’s strong. Most of them hold the third beat equally strong. So I would say don’t worry about the medium. 

Just go strong, weak, strong, weak. In fact, to me, it’s more clear just to get rid of that terminology entirely and just say, “emphasize the first and third beats.” First and third beats are both strong, they’re emphasized. 

So here’s an example, if you’re going to play, well, a really lovely strathspey, Orange and Blue.  It’s a nice little two-parted strathspey, that’s the first part. 

That lift comes from that dot cut feel. When we emphasize the first and the third beats, it sounds like this: one, two, three, and four, one, and two, and three, four. So emphasizing by lengthening the first and third beats of every bar. 

I think if you do that with your strathspey, you’re there. If you just do strathspey with a lot of dot cut, meaning the dotted notes are long and the short notes are really short, and keep a steady tempo and do everything else right, it’s going to sound good. 

If you do all of that and you lengthen the first and third beats a little bit or a lot, it’s going to be even better. So I think if you start talking about making that third beat medium, it overly complicates things. 

And I actually think that’s not how strathspeys sound best. They sound best when you emphasize the first and the third beats. So Ralph is saying, “what are your thoughts on strong, medium, medium, strong?”

Well, when I’m competing, at the level that I’m competing, you have to have six march strathspeys and reels to submit. So the way it works is that you submit your tunes with your entry. Or if you don’t submit your tunes in advance, you walk up to the judges table and you give them all six. 

And then they pick what you’re going to play. They pick one or two for you to play. And in all of the competition tunes that I’ve ever played, I do strong on the first and third, except for on one beat in one of my tunes, ever. 

I play a first and fourth. So in one place, in all the tunes I’ve ever competed with, there’s a single beat where I don’t hold the third beat of that bar. I hold the fourth one instead, and that was a particular tune in a particular bar that was suggested to me by Willie McCallum who said, “Oh in this part, in this tune, in this bar, I hold the fourth beat of this bar a little bit more than the third one, and it sounds really cool.”  And I tried it and I thought, “Oh, yeah but that’s the only one.”  So stick with your first and third, you’re going to be fine. Thanks Abba Ralph 2011, cool.

Let’s get another question here and this is, “I’m having a hard time finding a good practice space to play full pipes. I live in a semi-detached house in the city.  In the summertime, parks work.  In the winter, the Legion Hall But.  I just can’t pick up and play.  As I practice a new tune, it does not provide good listening for the neighbors. If I had the tune up to snuff, I might just let her rip regardless.”

Great topic. It’s actually a fairly common challenge that pipers have because we play a loud instrument. And the practice tenor is great, but you do need to play on the pipes. And unless you build a soundproof room in your house, if you live near other humans, they are going to hear you play. 

So I live in my house.  I’m in my studio here in my house. I play here. And if you’re outside, you can hear it. It’s not super loud. So a couple of things to think about. Playing in a park is great. If you have or if you can find a place that’s convenient to practice outside your house.  I know people who work in a building, and they can stay late when everyone’s gone from the building, and they can practice. 

I know people that have worked in places where there’s some kind of storage or maintenance type of buildings which are vacant for storage of stuff they can play there. A church is a great idea. Churches are great because often they know they have all this space, which is often underutilized. And a lot of churches, they love music. And if there’s an opportunity to have some sort of, what do you want to say? You offer to play for them. If they have something that’s coming up, if you’re at that level where you can perform, that can be a cool deal. 

So I’ve suggested to a lot of pipers over the years, if you belong to a church, check in with your church. If you don’t belong to a church, to a local church, check in with them. They might be very happy to have someone there using the space.  And often churches have a big space that has really great acoustics. So check that out. 

The other thing I would say is, you may be making a bigger deal in your mind about playing and what it sounds like to other people than you really need to. And what I mean there is, you’re probably not going to be playing your pipes that much. Even if you played one hour a day, that’s just one hour a day. So you’re not going to be playing late at night or the middle of the night. 

Maybe you can find a time during the day where it’ll be less noticed by your neighbors. You know, find a room inside if you have a room with no outdoor walls. Walk-in closets are great for that because you can close the door.  There’s lots of clothing hanging in there to absorb some of the sound. Keep your windows closed. And I found that actually the neighbors often like it, even when you’re just practicing. 

So I would say, “I wouldn’t get too worried about the idea of playing when you’re just working on tunes. Just go for it.”  Several years ago, before I had kids, I was living in Europe for six months with my wife and we were in an apartment in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark on the fourth floor.  And we’re going be there for six months. And I was going to play my pipes.  And I was thinking what you were thinking, which was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m not in my house in Seattle. I’m in an apartment building in a very busy downtown part of a city with a lot of people around.  Am I ever going to be able to play my bagpipes here?”  

So what I decided was just like “pull that band aid right off.” My very first day there, I got my pipes out and I played. And I played and I kind of peeked out the windows.  I was listening for someone to be beating down the door, I peeked out the windows again. Nobody knocked on my door. Nobody looked up at the window to see where the noise was coming from. And I played almost every day for six months and had absolutely no problem. 

So I would just say, go for it. Probably your neighbors won’t notice or if they notice, they won’t care or they might even like it. So just do it. And if it’s really a problem, you can come up with plan B, but don’t cut yourself off before you’ve given it a shot.

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Okay, next question. Thank you. “The dreaded sharp high G. What do I do: sanding, taping, soaking?” So we’re talking about the high G note on the pipes.  Probably the most problematic note I would say. And for most people, most setups, the high G is just a note that can be unstable, it can be sharp, it often has a lot of tape on that note. 

So there’s a couple of things to look for. The first thing to look for if you have sharpness on your top hand, especially F  high G, is dryness. A really good reed that is dried out will often get very thin and very sharp, especially on the top hand notes. 

So that’s where you want to have your Tone Protector. So it’s my humidity controlling chanter cap, very popular, award-winning product used by pipers all over the world. But especially important, if you want to have a consistent sound, you want your reeds to last longer, and to deal with changing humidity conditions around you, especially dryness. 

So get that Tone Protector on there. That would be the first thing.  I would not soak the reed. I would not lick the reed.  Since I invented the Tone Protector, I have eliminated all licking and soaking because what that does if your reed is really dry and you have a super sharp high G. That’s a problem which obviously you need to address. But if you lick that reed or you soak it, you are now shocking the reed.  It was a little dry piece of wood, and now you have shocked it with a lot of moisture.  It may alleviate some of that sharpness problem, but now you have introduced other problems. The reed is going to be very unstable, it may be on the flat side, and people who lick or soak the reeds need to pinch the reeds.  So you’re introducing all kinds of instability to the reed which you don’t want to do. Much better off to keep that reed from drying out in the first place with your Tone Protector Chanter Cap. If you have other reeds that you want to protect as well, get them in the Tone Protector Reed Case. All my extra backup new spare chanter reeds are in the Tone Protector Reed Case. And then of course all my chanters, you can see over my shoulder there my rack of chanters. They’re all capped with the Tone Protector at 84% humidity.

Next thing to check: so we got moisture, note not overly dry. We’re at the optimal moisture level.  Next thing to check is, is the reed too easy? 

So that you just have to feel based on your blowing strength preferences.  If you’re striking in your pipes and the chanter reed comes in kind of early early, chanter sound possibly too easy.  Maybe you just can feel that the reed was a good strength previously, and now it’s eased up on you, a little on the easy side. That can cause sharpness on the top hand as well.  So check for that if the reed is too easy. 

Otherwise you need my Pipers Ultimate Reed Poker.  So this is a specialized tool, it goes in the bottom of the reed and you just push it in a millimeter or two.  It opens up the reed from the inside. Check out the video on my YouTube channel about working with chanter reeds and there’s a demonstration in there for what a reed that needs to be poked sounds like, and how the poke will fix it.  So the poking just opens up the reed a little bit, making it very slightly stronger.  But it can solve some of the sharpness problems that you get on the top hand, especially high G. 

Okay, next thing to check is, “Is the reed too far into the reed seat?”  Meaning, is it too deep? So what you can look at, get your Braw Tuner out, get your InTune Mic, check the tuning. If things are in tune at the bottom, and then they start to get sharp when you get to the top hand, like maybe D is a little sharp, E is even more sharp, F is even more sharp.  So as you go up, the sharper it gets, then that’s a really good candidate for raising the reed up a little bit. So if you have a pipe chanter that has a threaded reed seat, you can maybe just raise the reed by untwisting it counterclockwise, a quarter or a half turn. 

It may be too loose there, or if your reed seat is not threaded, you’re going have to pull it out and put a little bit of hemp on there. Maybe just one wrap of hemp and then put it back in. So that raises the reed in the chanter, which then lengthens the distance from the reed to each of the holes, which then flattens all the notes because of the pitch of a note.  This is my practice chanter here, but the pitch of that note, that high G note, is determined by the distance from the top of the reed to the top of that hole. 

So when I raise the reed up, it lengthens that distance a little bit. So it’ll flatten every note, but the top notes, it flattens the most. So it’ll flatten the high A the most, high G second most, F a little bit less, and as you go down.  And the reason that it affects the lower notes less, is that the distance from the top of the reed to that bottom hole isn’t that affected by little changes in the reed position, whereas the shorter distance, it’s affected a lot. 

So that’s how it works to flatten the top hand. The last two things, like if you’ve sorted all that out, it could just be that the reed is toast. Maybe it wasn’t a good reed to start off with. Maybe the reed was fine, but it’s old.  And there’s only so much you can do with Tone Protectors and pokers and tuning to save a reed that really is dead because a reed is made from cane, which is a natural material. And after so many million or billion times vibrating back and forth, it just loses its springiness and its resilience. 

And it’s going to have to be replaced. So the Tone Protector really helps lengthen the lifespan of your reeds because the reeds are not getting super dry and super wet through this drying out process and slobbering, moistening process.  And the other thing the Tone Protector does is it significantly reduces the amount of wear and tear on your reeds, not only through those humidity swings, but because you’re not having to do so much to it. 

You’re not having to shave it, pinch it, poke it. All that stuff is reduced. So that also lengthens the lifespan of your reeds. But sometimes reeds, they’re just done. One of the signs that suggest to me that a reed is starting to go is if it loses pitch stability.  So a really great chanter and reed combo, in addition to being efficient and having a nice balanced tone and staying in tune, is very pressure stable.  Meaning, you play a note and it makes the pitch of that note.  And then even if you blow slightly harder, or slack off slightly, the pitch of the note doesn’t change very much or at all. That is a great reed. It’s stable. It doesn’t change based on pressure. 

You can hook up your Bagpipe Gauge.  And of course, we’re really trying to get really steady on the blowing, but you’re human. And so we all have little fluctuations in the blowing pressure, but you can’t hear any changes in the pitch of the note.  That’s a great reed. And that starts to deteriorate when the reed is starting to go. So what ends up happening is that the reed will be in tune if you’re blowing at exactly the perfect pressure, and if you slightly over-blow or under-blow, the pitch really changes. 

So that can also happen as the reed gets too easy, and gets too old, and starts to die. I will notice it when I’m tuning, I’m playing, everything’s really good, and all of a sudden, the bottom-hand notes kind of go… 

They kind of start to sag and dip. And I think, “Oh gosh, this reed is starting to go.” Sometimes a poke will help with that, but if it’s been poked a couple of times and it still does that, I chuck that reed and go to my Tone Protector Reed Case and get a new one. 

The other thing to look at is the pipe chanter itself. Pipe chanters are not all the same. Even if they look the same on the outside. That’s why pipers these days love these modern pipe chanters. My favorite, of course, is the Infinity chanter from R .G. Hardie. You take these older pipe chanters, you just take a Hardie chanter, a Henderson chanter from 50 years ago, high G is horrible, it’s really sharp. 

So that may be a combination of an old chanter with a new reed, and they’re not compatible. Yeah, but even with the old reeds, you listen to those old recordings, sharp Ds, sharp Gs, flat low Gs. They didn’t have the sound that we love today, which is a nice balanced sound. And by balanced, we mean that the pitch is sort of equivalent from top to bottom. The top hand is not crazy sharp or crazy flat. Also balanced means volume. We want an equal volume projection up and down the scale.  We don’t want really loud and honking on the bottom hand. And then when you go to the top end, it’s really thin and quiet. So modern chanters with a good modern reed, like my Foundation reed, are going to give you that balanced sound that’s efficient, that’s pitch stable, that stays in tune through your performance. 

But finally, I’ll say, “Tape is fine. Tape is great.” Putting tape over the holes to tune the notes on the chanter, nothing wrong with it. There’s a lot right with it. If you want to have your pipes be in tune, you need a lot of tape on your chanter. 

Even a chanter that is technically perfectly designed, like the Infinity chanter, every reed is different. So by getting that reed in the chanter at the right depth, you are still going to have to tape things up to get every hole perfectly in tune. 

If you hear a piper, and their pipes sound amazing, and they are in tune, and every note is just dialed in, 100% guarantee there’s tape on that chanter. And here’s why: every reed is different, and every reed is changing. 

Even with Tone Protectors, and moisture control systems, and synthetic bags, and InTune Mics, and Braw bagpipe tuner apps, and Bagpipe Gauges, and even with all the tools that we have, and you have your iPhone and your iPad to record yourself, all these things that help us play better, and pieces of technology that help our pipes be more stable. 

The pitch that’s coming off of your chanter changes. It not only changes as you play, as it warms up, it also changes based on the conditions, temperature, humidity, playing in the sun, playing in the shade.  It also changes as the reed evolves and breaks in over the lifespan of the reed. So things are way more stable than they ever have been because of technology, and because reeds are getting better. But still, things change. 

So even if, hypothetically, you found the perfect reed, and you stuck it in your perfect chanter, and it was perfectly in tune on every note with no tape, well, how long is that going to last? Well, it might last for a few minutes.  But it’s not going to last for an hour. And if it’s that way today, it’s probably not going to be like that tomorrow. Or if it’s that way in the shade, it’s not going to be that way in the sun. So what that means is you’re going to have to be compensating for those little changes with tuning, just like we tune our drones. 

We’ve got to tune every note on the chanter, and we do that with the position of the reed in the reed seat and also with tape. So there you go. OK, well, I think we’re getting kind of close to wrapping up. Let’s see if we got one more here. 

Yes, OK. I get a bunch of questions about confidence and competing, and how do I build confidence, or how do I get the courage to go out there and compete? And this time of year, if you’re playing in a pipe band, or you’re a solo piper and you’re going to be competing at the Highland Games this summer, you’re starting to think about that, and what’s coming up, and what tunes am I playing, and what events am I playing, and what do I need to do to be ready to compete this summer and to have a positive experience? 

I’ve been competing for a really, really long time. My first bagpipe competition was I think in 1989 and I played through all the amateur ranks, and at the professional level, and at the U .S. National Championships in Kansas City, and at the gold medal in Scotland, and Australia and all over.  And I also played with pipe bands locally here and at the highest level. I played with the Simon Fraser University pipe band for 19 years, a top-level band.  We won the World Pipe Band Championships three times when I was in the band. 

So I’ve seen the whole range of things, and one of the lessons I’ve learned is that it’s really important to have the right mindset about what competition is and what competition isn’t. And it’s taken me a while to figure this out but I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I think it’s really important to use competition wisely, and that is to use it as a way to set a goal. 

It’s a specific goal. You’re going to play these tunes and these events on this date in this place, and you use it to try to prepare, and you use it to try to be your best. But whether you win the prize, or placing, or the medal, or the trophy, or you don’t, is not important.  Of course, we all want to win when competing. I want to win. But when you focus on that, it takes your mind and your ability to win. And that’s what I’m going to talk about.

There’s an amazing video that you can look up. I’ll put a link here. And it’s to the actor, Brian Cranston, a highly respected and award-winning actor, Breaking Bad, Seinfeld, a whole bunch of other stuff. 

And someone is asking him backstage (he’s just won an award) “What advice would you have for aspiring actors?” And this video is like a minute long, and you’ve got to watch it. And he says something that just made so much sense to me as someone who competes in a competitive art form, like bagpipe competitions. 

So he says, as an actor, you have to know what your job is. He realized that for much of his career, the early part of his career, before he was successful, he was going into auditions trying to get a job. 

But that was the wrong approach. Wrong approach. He says, what an actor does, is to create a compelling, interesting character based on the text, and then go and present it in your audition, and then walk away.  And that’s it. Everything else is out of your control. So don’t focus on it. Don’t go to the audition to try to get the job. Go to the audition to do what you do, which is to act, and then walk away. 

And then he says, there’s power in it. It gives you confidence. And it also is saying, “I can only do so much.” So he says for him, it was just a revelation, this idea of trying to go out and win a job, or a role, is it doesn’t make any sense. 

And he said that was really important for his success in life. And when I read that, I saw that. I thought, “Oh my gosh. That’s so wise.” And it’s saying, focus on your job. So if you’re a piper and you want to compete, what do you do? You play bagpipes. You take the written sheet music and you bring life to it in a musical, beautiful way on a wonderful sounding instrument. And that’s what you’re supposed to do. Even when going into a competition, you can’t win the competition.  There’s nothing you can do to get that gold medal, to get that trophy. That’s somebody else’s job. That’s the judge’s job. Don’t take away their job. You can’t take away their job. Don’t even think about it. 

So you don’t want to think about playing other than,  “This is when I’m going to play.”  You don’t want to obsess, or think about, or waste any energy on who else you’re competing against, and how good they are, and who they are, and who their teacher is.  And you don’t want to think about who the judge is. Oh, what is that judge? Do they like me? Do they not like me? What did they give me last time? That’s not your job. Your job is to do the best you can do with your performance. 

So focus on the technical aspects of your performance, memory, technique, tuning, phrasing, expression. Focus on that. Do what you do. Go to that place on that day, on that stage, or that platform, or that piece of grass, and do what you do. 

And then walk away. I think that’s a wonderful mindset. And it helps you focus on what you can do, and the other stuff, it’s out of your hands.  It’s not just irrelevant. In my experience, it’s actually a distraction and a detriment to that.  So as we go into competition season, if you’re going to be competing, the other thing to remember is: you’re lucky you get to do this super fun/amazing hobby/ pastime/way-of-life, which is play bagpipes.  Whether you’re doing it on your own, you’re doing it in a band, in the summertime, going to your Highland Games, get to see your friends, get to get dressed up, get to listen to great music, get a chance to go out there and show what you do, the luckiest people in the world to get to do that.  So remember, you don’t have to do it.  You do it because you want to do it.  You’re lucky because you get to do it.  Go out there and do the best you can, and walk away.

All right folks, I think we’ll wrap it up here.  This is really cool.  I’m going to keep doing these, and thank you for your questions.  Thanks to everybody who’s watched on the live stream.  If you like what I have to say, and you’re interested in learning from me, check out my Inner Circle: it’s  I do weekly live zoom classes for my members just about every week, and you get access to all of my recorded live sessions.  There’s hundreds of them now, and hundreds of other lessons in my exclusive lesson library with tunes and videos and product demonstrations and lessons and exercises and so much more. And you get that all with your membership.

Check out my Essentials Masterclass at  By the way, that entire master class is included with your Inner Circle membership.  And if you’re looking for some more free stuff go to  It’s got links to all my videos and free guides, and you can download all kinds of other cool stuff.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel here. Subscribe and click the bell icon so you’ll get notified when I post a new video when I go live like today.  It really does help, as more people subscribe, YouTube knows that you like my videos, and they will show these videos to other pipers, who I think will like them too.  So thanks again, happy Friday.  We’ll see you next time, and Mahalo, Thank you

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These tips are based on my 30+ years of experience as a piper and teacher to pipers of all ages and ability levels from around the world.