Million Pound Record Deal

This is the off season in terms of my bagpiping. My band has no upcoming gigs and we are focusing on learning new tunes for our next season. It's hard to keep myself motivated both in practicing my new tunes and in regularly posting here!

At any rate, I ran across an interesting article by Adam Sherwin in the Times Online about the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are a cavalry regiment in the British army and the most senior of the Scottish regiments.

Their Pipes and Drums recently signed a 1 million pound record deal with Universal Music. This is the same record company that puts out music for Amy Whinehouse and 50 Cent so it's a big deal. And it shows that bagpipe music is a serious force to be reckoned with in the music world.

Their album will include traditional Scottish tunes as well as Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Sailing by Rod Stewart. So it sounds like it will be a diverse album with something for everyone.

This quote from their Pipe Major Derek Potter is great, “The pipes are an integral part of our regiment and we take huge pride in our music. We’ve even had to impose a curfew on pipes practice, as the rehearsals disturb the nonpipers among us.” It reminds me of the curfew I put on myself when I'm practicing as I tend to practice in the evenings.

Although I've pretty much paraphrased/summarized the article you can read it in full if you like.
Pipe on!


How Braveheart Should Have Ended

I have mentioned previously that I lived in Scotland for 3 months. The town that I lived in was Stirling. Stirling is just north of Edinburgh and Glasgow and pretty much sits right between them. It was about a 45 minute train ride to Edinburgh and Glasgow from Stirling. Head north of Stirling just a little bit and you hit Callander, Rob Roy country.

But Stirling was definitely William Wallace country. The battle of Stirling Bridge took place here as did the Battle of Bannockburn. That large rocket ship looking monument jutting into the skyline of Stirling is none other then the William Wallace Monument. Outside of the monument is a statue of William Wallace that looks suspiciously like Mel Gibson. Inside you can climb a series of winding stairs up to the top of the tower and take in the view of Stirling. Along the way you can check out Wallace's sword.

I ran across this entertaining video on youtube called How Braveheart Should Have Ended

"Sons of scotland, I am William Wallace...William Wallace is 7 ft tall -Aye, so I've heard, kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse."

I hope you enjoyed it, and Pipe on!


Bagpiping Blogs

One of the first things I did when I came up with the idea for this blog was to try to look for other bagpiping blogs. I wanted to make sure there was room out there in cyberspace for Piping Girl.

I searched using search engines and blog networks. I also set up a google blog alert that would e-mail me on a daily basis when blog posts mentioned the bagpipes. I found very few blogs entirely devoted to the bagpipes, but they are out there. So, in the interest of spreading the bagpiping love around, I thought I'd share (in no particular order), what I found:

First up is A Bagpiper’s Journal. It seems like he's played the pipes just a little bit longer then I have. This is a journal of that journey going all the way back to his chanter work. He's taken part in some competitions as well which makes for some interesting reading.

Next is So You Think You Can Pipe. This blog was started this past summer, around the same time as Piping Girl. So You Think You Can Pipe is written by Brian who just started on the chanter this past summer. It will be interesting to see how he does and when he graduates to the pipes.

There is also The Voice. This blog is written for a magazine called The Voice which represents The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. This blog gets into a lot of good history, mechanical, and academic things relating to the bagpipes. But it's written for anyone to read and understand.

We also have Piper Pride. This blog is written by a professional and very experienced piper.

The Irish Piper’s Blog is written by Tony who is learning to play the Irish (Uilleann) pipes.

Now, don't go off and leave Piping Girl for these other blogs. But think of them as part of the greater virtual bagpiping experienced offered by the Internet. And if you know of any other good bagpiping blogs that I've overlooked, be sure to comment on them below.
Pipe on!


Bagpipes Rock in the New Millennium

When most people think of bagpipe music they envision a marching band playing traditional tunes like Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave. But there are many nontraditional ways to incorporate bagpipes into modern music. Rock music in particular seems to have made good use of the bagpipes in their musical genre. Bagpipes are loud, rock music is loud=some very fine music.

The first band I'll mention here is Dropkick Murphys . This is a Boston based band that formed up in 1996. They've got a pretty big following because they tour all over the place. I'm actually going to get to see them before this year is done so I'm sure I'll be posting more on them in the future. One of their songs, I'm Shipping Up to Boston was featured in the movie The Departed. I'm not posting that one here though because the song doesn't feature bagpipes. James "Scruffy" Wallace plays the bagpipes. This song, entitled Tessie features the bagpipes:

Another interesting use of the bagpipes is seen here on Madonna's Re-invention Tour in 2004. Her show was split into five acts, each of which had a different theme and, guess what, one was a a tribal Scottish theme:

Another group that I recently found is Flatfoot 56. This is a Christian punk band from Chicago, Illinois that formed up in 2000. Josh Robieson plays the pipes here:

Finally, here's the band Needfire . This is a Texas based band and it has some world class musicians in it. I also like this band because they really integrate the pipes in with their music, you really have to listen for them:

I certainly haven't covered every band out there that uses the bagpipes. If you have a favorite band that uses the bagpipes please comment, I always like to listen to new bands.

Pipe on!


Finding my Bagpipes

I have written before about starting my bagpipe lessons on the practice chanter. After a year of playing I knew that bagpipes, kilts, and sporrans were in my life to stay.

A year of playing the chanter is quite normal. You never, ever want to just race out and buy a set of pipes after your first chanter lesson. Starting on the chanter helps you learn the notes and all of the embellishments like D throws, grips and doublings. Once you've got the notes down your on your way to learning tunes like Scots Wha Hae (my first tune!) and Amazing Grace (my second tune!).

Even though a year is a long time, I guarantee you that I needed every minute of it. Switching to the real thing requires more then just learning the notes and a few tunes, you also have to be really confident in your playing.
Once I was ready for the real thing, my pipe major borrowed a few sets of pipes from pipe stores he frequented (they wanted our business afterall), and we spent a night listening to him play each one. Although you might not think it, each set of bagpipe sounds different. Even bagpipes from the same maker can sound different.

The bagpipes that I chose really and truly seemed to pick me. The sound just hit me and I knew I had to have them. I know it seems strange to say, but they had a subtle mellow sound to them. The other pipes sounded big and bold, but my soon to be pipes sounded cleaner and sharper somehow. Or maybe I just had some strange existensial moment with my bagpipes, like I said, I think they chose me.

When myself and a few others were choosing our pipes, my pipe major was pushing for Kron bagpipes. Several other pipers in the band had them and liked them, and they were kind of hte next big brand when it comes to premier bagpipes. In fact, some people were able to get a really good deal on actual Kron bagpipes on e-bay. I was freaked out about buying something like this on e-bay. And, in general, most of the bagpipes that you see for sale on e-bay are pure crap. A while ago I found this great posting on youtube from this Scottish guy ranting about how so many people are being ripped off by sellers claiming to be selling real Scottish bagpipes on e-bay. This video is totally worth watching just for the Scottish brogue, but the video has real value if you are looking at bagpipes on e-bay:

And in this video he actually shows you a crap set of pipes he bought on e-bay just to prove his point:

This guy's so awesome!

The guys in my band that bought e-bay pipes were very careful to ensure that they were buying actual Kron pipes. And, the price matched. A lot of the poor quality bagpipes advertised on e-bay are less then $200. A good set of pipes is going to cost you upwards of $1,000.

The pipes I bought are Kintail bagpipes.

Their site goes so far as tell you how they hand-craft each set of pipes. They have quite a nice history on their company as well. They are made in Glasgow and one of my dear wishes is to go back to Glasgow and visit where my bagpipes were born.

Pipe on!
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