Your Practice Checklist -
Your Practice Checklist


People who consistently perform to their fullest potential leave nothing to chance. They know to prepare for everything both mentally and physically in all possible scenarios. But while preparing for an upcoming performance or competition, how do you know if you are fully prepared? How do you make sure you have covered everything in your practice routine? I’ve developed a single thorough checklist based on my decades of performing experience to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

Your Practice Checklist

This purpose of this checklist is to help you make sure you are playing your instrument consistently well in all skill areas and to make sure you are thoroughly prepared for any upcoming performances or competitions.

As you read through the list, keep track of your score and give yourself ONE point for each Yes answer. 

Your ultimate goal is to be able to answer each question with YES!

Maintenance & Pipe Set Up
1. Are your pipes comfortable to play?
2. Do you play your pipes regularly (3-4x/week)?
3. Do you have a moisture control system?
4. Do you brush your drones out after playing?
5. Can you take apart and reassemble your pipes in less than two minutes?
6. Do you cap your chanter?
7. Is your chanter reed fresh, with no cracks or chips or mold?
8. Are your drone reeds set up efficiently?
9. Are your drone reeds less than three years old?
10. Are your drone reeds seated firmly?
11. Are your drone reeds clean?
12. Are all of your hemped joints tight but not too tight?
13. Is your pipe bag airtight?
14. Is your pipe bag less than three years old?
15. Do you have a separate pipe chanter and reed for band and solo playing?

16. Can you tune your drones easily on your own?
17. Do your pipes stay in tune?
18. Does your chanter sound full and bright?
19. Can you select a good pipe chanter reed?
20. Can you adjust the strength of your chanter reed?
21. Can you tune your pipe chanter with a tuner or by ear?
22. Do you know how to balance the High A and Low A on your pipe chanter by positioning the reed in the reed seat?
23. Do you know how to adjust the tuning of the individual notes of the chanter using tape on the holes?
24. Are you confident tuning your drones?

25. Are you comfortable and confident with your starts?
26. No extra drone sounds prior to the state?
27. Do you feel calm and controlled (not frantic)?
28. Do you always blow through the entire E?

29. Are you comfortable and confident with your stops?
30. Do you keep full pressure and tone to the cutoff?
31. Do you maintain strong expression and control of your playing while squeezing on the arm?

32. Do you always blow through the long notes in the breaks?
33. Is your blowing/squeezing steady?
34. Do you practice enough to have the stamina to play for the entire band practice with control?
35. Do you practice with a Bagpipe Gauge regularly to ensure that you continually improving your steadiness?
36. Do you regularly verify your posture by playing in front of a mirror or camera?

37. Do you spend at least one hour per week working on technique on your practice chanter?
38. Do you play clean with no crossing noises or false fingerings?
39. Do you play the correct doublings and grace notes in all of your tunes?
40. Do you know your weak areas and have them written down in a list so you can refer to it when you practice?
41. Do you have a list exercises that you play every week?
42. Do you play with loose but strong hands?
43. Do you keep your fingers from lifting too high off the chanter?
44. Do you consistently play with loose, relaxed hands?
45. Do you have consistent and confident execution of all 13 primary embellishments?
46. Do you have strong, consistent GDEs?
47. Are your doublings clear and controlled, with two strong, crisp, well-separated grace notes?

48. Do you maximize the dot-cuts in all of your tunes?
49. Do you hold the beat notes in all of your marches?
50. Do you hold the beat notes in all of your reels?
51. Do you hold the first and third beat notes in all of your strathspeys?
52. Do you keep a controlled, even eighth note rhythm in all of your jigs?
53. Do you keep a controlled, even rhythm in all of your hornpipes?
54. Do you wait for anything fast, like tachums, birls, grips, taorluaths, doublings, etc.?
55. Do you play controlled and calmly at all times in all tunes?
56. Are your strathspey triplets consistently timed and executed?

57. Do you have all of the competition and performance tunes memorized?
58. Do you play through all your tunes at band practice with no mistakes?
59. Do you play through your tunes at home with no mistakes?
60. Do you play through your tunes with no cut-outs?
61. Do you regularly review the sheet music for tunes you memorized to verify they are 100% correct?
62. Do you have a system to learning and memorizing tunes efficiently and correctly?
63. Do you have a system for managing your complete repertoire of tunes?
64. Can you sight read new tunes slowly with ease?
65. Do you highlight all of your sheet music?

Band Focus
66. At band, do you keep your eyes focused on the Pipe Major at all times?
67. Do you listen to your own playing and that of others around you, making adjustments to fit in?
68. Do you respond to changes in tempo and breaks quickly?
69. Do you remain silent and focused while the Pipe Major is counting off the start of each set?

70. Do you feel proficient and confident with all tunes at full performance tempo?
71. Do you work on your band tunes at home at a slower tempo?
72. Do you practice with your metronome to work on steadiness and control?
73. Do you tap your foot to the beat when playing on your own?

Performance Skills
74. Do you feel confident and relaxed while playing?
75. Do you practice centering down every week?
76. Can you play in a variety of situations without the negative effects of nerves?

Staying on Track
77. Do you have a system for tracking your practice to ensure you get enough time in each week?
78. Are you attending enough band practices and performances?
79. Do you take full advantage of all opportunities presented to you to maximize your enjoyment and progress?
80. Do you reward yourself for your efforts regularly?
81. Do you regularly review your long term and short term goals?
82. Do you seek guidance from your band mates and mentors for any skill areas you feel might be improved?
83. Are you more skilled, confident, and satisfied with your playing that you were 12 months ago?
84. Do you have a teacher or mentor that you check in with regularly?
85. Do you regularly listen to recordings and videos to learn from others?
86. Do you regularly record your own playing and listen critically to make a plan for success?
87. Do you keep track of your practices with the Daily Success Log?

I hope this checklist helps you prepare and feel confident going into your next competition or performance event! I recommend my students revisit this list regularly.

What was your score? What would you add to the list? Send me an email to tell me what your score was, and if there were other topics you’d suggest including. 

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Practice

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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.