Get the Most out of Online Lessons

10 Ways to Get the Most Out Your Online Bagpipe Lessons

Jori Chisholm •

Bagpipe lessons by online instruction are a great way to learn from a world-class instructor right from home. I’ve been teaching bagpipe lessons online since 2003 to students of all levels around the world, and I’d like to share a few ways you can get the most out of your lessons.

1. Show up early and take time to get organized. 

Use the half hour before your lesson to get your lesson space ready. Gather your sheet music, notes from previous lessons, your instrument, Bagpipe Gauge (if using), metronome, tuner, audio recorder, Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker, or anything else you’ll need during your lesson. Clear away any other distractions.

2. Get your fingers and pipes warmed up. 

One big advantage of online lessons is that you can take the time before your lesson to get your pipes set up and tuned properly. You’ll be able to spend your lesson time with your instructor working on your playing, not putting your pipes together and tuning.

3. Send copies of your sheet music to your teacher. 

It helps me as a teacher to look at the exact same piece of music that my student is looking at. Don’t worry about any highlighting, writing or crinkles. I prefer to see your working copy of your music with all of their annotations, rather than a clean copy. You don’t need a scanner — just a simple snapshot with your camera phone is perfect. Dropbox is a great way to share files.

4. Take notes. 

You are spending valuable time working on the important details in your tunes and piping skills. Mark down your trouble spots in tunes or suggestions for improvement. Colored highlighters are great for marking up your sheet music. Keep a journal. Use this Tune Success Log or another note-based system for tracking your progress.

5. Have a plan.

I’ve found that the most productive lessons are those where students have a clear sense of what they want to accomplish in their lesson. During the days between lessons, keep a list of questions you want answered and bring those to your lesson. Here’s a list of pre-lesson questions that I ask my students to complete and email to me prior to their lesson.

6. Make sure that your computer and internet connection are working properly. 

Check that your microphone and camera are working with the programs you are using to connect. Verify that everything still works if you’ve made any recent software updates. You might want to have a backup device, such as a phone, iPad, or other device, with your video conferencing software installed. To ensure the highest quality connection, you may need to quit any other programs that might be using up your computer’s power or internet bandwidth (Netflix, streaming videos, etc.).

7. Use a calendar to keep track of your lesson times and to make sure you can fit in time for practice. 

We all live busy lives with family, work and other commitments. But don’t be a victim of your own lack of planning. Make the choice to set aside time for your personal practice. Set twice yearly reminders to look out for when clocks change for daylight savings time. To confirm the current time at your teacher’s location, you can simply Google search “What time is it in Seattle?” (or wherever your instructor is located).

8. Set long-term goals that inspire your daily practice. 

I’ve never believed in one single approach to learning the pipes. Rather, I strive to work in partnership with students to help them reach their individual goals and fulfill their aspirations. As your playing develops and your skills expand, work with your teacher to continually look for exciting challenges and ways to explore your piping in new and interesting ways.

9. Be honest. If you haven’t had much time to practice since your last lesson, let your teacher know. 

If you’ve lost interest in practicing a tune or exercise, share that with your teacher, too. Don’t be embarrassed or fear judgment. Your teacher’s advice will be best when it is based on what you are really doing between lessons. Give your teacher your honest appraisal of your challenges and they can give you their best advice to help you through it. It’s okay to struggle, express frustration, and to say “I don’t know.”

10. Enjoy the process.

Learning to play the pipes can be exciting, rewarding, challenging and frustrating. It takes time to get to the point where your playing gets to the level that you hope to achieve. Don’t give up. Practice hard and smart, trust your teacher and try to find joy in the pursuit.


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