Who I am:
An “elementary” bagpipe teacher. My students are all new to playing the bagpipe. I specialize in teaching beginners to intermediates.
A Bagpiper is:
A person who can play a list of tunes on the bagpipe by memory, can learn and develop their own music, and set up and maintain their own bagpipe, I talk a lot about tune development and memorization.
The Tune Train
You might think of tunes as passengers on a train. The “tune train” stops and picks up it’s first passenger. In my book, that would be the first tune, which is Scots Wha Hae. Because I use tunes to introduce and develop technique, we are going to learn the technical things we need in order to play Scots Wha Hae. As my goal is also to keep that student engaged in the learning process, we might pick up another passenger, perhaps Amazing Grace, before Scots Wha Hae gets to its destination. Following this process we might just have 6 to 10 passengers on the train at any given time. When a tune is memorized, it gets off at its stop.
In your bagpipe lifetime, the tune train will keep picking up and dropping off passengers. Over a period of time that could be scores of tunes that you have memorized to play. A lot will depend, however, on how you use the train.
How to Practice on the Tune Train:
When you practice, you should always start with the first passenger and then play down the list. When you feel like you are able, you can then add more passengers to the train.
If you are trying to memorize a tune, playing it “big, slow and open” and the same way each and every time will make it happen sooner. Your brain is confused when you play the same tune 20 different ways. Developing technique is also about “muscle memory”. If you play slow enough, you will play all of the grace notes and doublings and then eventually play the tune at parade speed.
Over a period of time, you will have a long tune list that you can use to play for any occasion.