Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because you won't always have Donald McLeod around to tune them...


Here is the legendary piper Donald McLeod tuning the drones of one of his pupils.

How often do pipers neglect the importance of always presenting a well tuned instrument when performing? I remember reading an article by Ian Whitelaw years ago in which he discussed the acceptable standards for performing that classical musicians have. Whenever you hear piano or violin, etc. on a movie soundtrack or on television there is always a certain standard that the listener expects to hear. How often do we as pipers hear the public say "I can't tell the difference between a good piper and a bad piper"? This is because the average listener has only had experience listening to poorly tuned and played bagpipes.

If we as pipers are to be respected as musicians and not just a novelty act we must strive to always present our instrument at the highest level that we are capable. This takes practice. Never just rely on your band to always tune your bagpipes. Have a separate solo chanter and get used to setting up your own chanter (messing with your band chanter is not a good idea usually). Tune always and often during your private practice, never settle of anything less than in tune. It may be hard at first, but each time it gets easier.

When performing, don't have the attitude of "It's just a funeral", or "It's not a competition so it doesn't matter". As a piper you are perpetuating a very proud tradition. Make sure that those who hear you have a positive imprint left upon their mind. Of course, we all have those days when things just go wrong, but practice, practice, practice, and just caring will make those times the exception rather than the rule.