I had always wanted to play the bagpipes since I can remember. I was born and brought up in St. Thomas, a small city in southwestern Ontario. One of earliest memories was going downtown with my family to see the annual Santa Clause Parade. Not sure whether it was more exciting to see Santa and the reindeer or the pipe band that preceded Santa down the street. In 1961 or ’62, the band was sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion and became one of the best bands in Canada.
After 52 years and a couple of false starts, I started my piping journey.
In the summer of 2007, I was on a consulting assignment in Pittsburgh, PA working for the Siemens Large Drives Division and staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Monroeville four nights per week. Once can only watch so much CNN – this was the perfect opportunity to learn a new musical instrument.
I started by hunting around on the internet and ran across Oliver Seeler’s The Universe of Bagpipes website (http://www.hotpipes.com). This site has lots of info on how to get started and I highly recommend it (after of course, reading this blog).
As per Oliver’s recommendation on his site, I ordered a Dunbar long delrin practice chanter and I went with the first book of the John Cairns’ Bagpipe Solutions series. That July 4th weekend, I was down at the Jersey Shore. When the others went to the beach to roast in the sun, I kept my pink British skin indoors and learned all the notes.
For those of you who have used the Bagpipe Solutions series, they are clearly written and great for those who think they can at least get started without a tutor. By the end of the weekend, things were going swimmingly. I had banged the notes and fingerings into my head and could basically sight read the drills and do what I thought were great G, D, and E gracenotes.
And then I turned the page, and it was the D throw.