Presenting Piping Girl

So how did I come to be the only girl in my pipe band, and, let's face it, one of only a few girl pipers in a predominantly male activity?

It started with just a general interest in Scotland. The brogue, the country and its history, and more importantly, the music. It moved on to a love of bagpipe music after going to some local Scottish festivals.

My love of Scotland and the bagpipes became a sealed deal after I had the opportunity to live and work in Scotland for three months when I was in college. There's absolutely nothing like actually living in another country and culture. It was an amazing experience-castles, the Royal Mile, bagpipers in the Streets, Robert Burns dinners-I came home immediately wanting to go right back. Unfortunately, I've never made it back but I have had one of my Scottish friends visit me on several occasions.

After I returned I started thinking about how I could create a piece of the country that I had grown to love in my own life. Of course playing the bagpipes was right up there on my list of ways to do that. But finding a teacher for this pretty unique instrument was not easy to do.

Finally, about three years ago now, I happened to be leafing through my town's community education catalog and it was like those epiphany moments you read about in books or see on movies. A class was offering six bagpipe lessons for $90.

I signed up and off I went to my first lesson. The lessons were held at a local church. About twenty people signed up for the course, only one other girl besides me. At our first lesson we were treated with a bagpipe performance and a general overview. Basically, the band was looking for a way to increase their numbers and if we stuck with it beyond the six lessons we'd paid for, they would continue to teach us for free. Yes, you read that right, FOR FREE. The $90 we paid for the class covered the cost of our practice chanter and an instruction book, so until we bought the actual bagpipes, there would be no other costs.

This was like a dream come true. Until I got my practice chanter that is, and tried playing it at our first lesson.

In the pictures at the top of the post you will see my practice chanter. The picture on the top shows my practice chanter broken down so you can see the reed inside of it. I had never played an instrument with a reed in it before and I couldn't get the blasted thing to make a single note!

The picture on the bottom is the chanter all put together and ready to play. It sits next to my tv chair so that I can play whenever the spirit moves me. But I make sure to pack it up with my bagpipes each week for practice, our Pipe Major gets angry when he wants us to have a chanter practice and we don't have our chanters-for obvious reasons. It has seven holes on the top of it and one hole on the bottom of it.

It isn't an exact replica of the chanter I play on the actual bagpipes, my bagpipe chanter's holes are a bit further apart. But I start out learning any new tune on the chanter, and after it's memorized, I typically move it on to the bagpipes.
And that's the origin of Piping Girl!

I have a question for anyone that wanders on to this blog that I'd like you to comment on:

Have you ever wanted to play the bagpipes? If you've been able to follow through and play the bagpipes now, what's your finding the bagpipes story?

If you haven't been able to follow through, what has stood in your way?

Pipe on!


Anonymous said...

I love listening to bagpipes and pipe bands and I like your blog because it is very educational. You explain things very well, thank you very much.
To answer your question, I never fancied playing bagpipes myself because I assume it is very difficult and hard physically. You are very brave.

Piping Girl said...

Hello there anonymous,
Thank you very much for stopping by my blog. And thanks for answering my question, you have the distinction of being the first one to answer it, so bravo. I will say that it is a hard instrument to play, but all the work is totally worth it when you're marching down a street in a parade or when people start clapping at an event before you've even started playing, that's just how much they enjoy the music.

Bird said...

I do have a thing for the pipes actually, but I've never considered playing - never thought I'd have the lungs for it! But your lovely story reminds me of the first time I saw Samba played and how I yearned to play the biggest loudest drum in the band... and I got my wish :)

Piping Girl said...

Thanks for stopping by bird. It's always lovely to hear how people fulfill their musical dreams.

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