Playing the Practice Chanter

I'm just back from bagpipe practice, we're actually supposed to call it "rehearsal" because we "practice" at home. Or so our Pipe Major says. But this week I've barely gotten any practicing in, so it really was practice for me.

Fortunately, we just played on practice chanters tonight. Sometime, maybe this weekend if I remember, I'm going to take a bunch of pictures of all my bagpipe gear so you can see some of the things I talk about on here. Like the practice chanter. You're probably wondering what that is. It's basically the glorified recorder you played in elementary school, except it has a reed.

At any rate, we're winding down our parade season so at practice/rehearsal we got a bunch of new tunes to work on. Whenever we get new tunes we always start on the practice chanter. It would be next to impossible to just launch into a new tune on the bagpipes. It takes a lot of energy and focus to play the bagpipes and I can pipe along on the practice chanter while I'm watching tv.

So I start out on the practice chanter and just learn the tune, then I start trying to memorize the tune and slowly start working on it on the actual bagpipes. All of the tunes have to be memorized and it's far easier to memorize them right from the start when I'm still on the chanter. And it's important to memorize them correctly which is also easier to do on the chanter. I've memorized a couple of tunes wrong on the chanter and it's so hard to unlearn wrong notes.

One more parade to go and then I need to get down to the work of learning and memorizing new tunes.

Pipe on!


Rosehaven Cottage said...

I just have to tell you how much I admire you for taking up the bagpipes. I bought myself a practice chanter years ago and haven't had the nerve to take it up (mostly because it scared the dickens out of the cats when I played it). Good for you! Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Piping Girl said...

You should give it another shot, my dogs got scared when I first started playing but now they just lay down and go to sleep when I start playing both the actual bagpipes and the chanter. Thanks for visiting my blog!

ivanvibart said...

hy i am ivan vibart from argentina and y just bought a practice chanter but i dont found notes for the practice chanter if you know any page tell me....thanks

Grin At Ya said...

hey my name is Calvin and ive been trying all over to find a set of highland pipes to learn so i can play for my Scottish grandfather before he passes away. kind of a family tradition, so to speak. do you know anywhere i can find a good retailer in Connecticut, or surrounding states? Mass is good too, i just moved from there and have lots of family in Boston area. i just wanna get a decent rig to play on the side. nothing too too expensive, but something that isn't complete shyte in case im actually good at it someday.


Piping Girl said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. You really need to find a teacher, they'll guide you in making good choices in the bagpipe world.

Andrew Lenz offers a great entry on finding a good bagpipe teacher:

His whole site is really great.

The Bob Dunshire forum is also a great place to start in terms of finding a teacher:

You should also be aware that you start on a practice chanter and typically play on that for 6 months to a year before you switch over to the bagpipes. Your teacher can help you buy this, but you can also pick one up on ebay for under $100.

I know you're eager to go out and buy the first set of bagpipes you see, but if you want to be able to play them decently you have to start on a practice chanter and find some kind of teacher. On the practice chanter you learn the notes, embellishments and memorize everything, than you add in the bagpipes.

You'll also find that a good set of bagpipes are expensive. You don't want to invest the money until you know that you really are committed to learning how to play them. I know you'll find cheap bagpipes all over the place but they're made out of inferior wood, they'll sound cheap and the wood will crack.

Good luck and don't hesitate to post any other questions you have.

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