So Many Tutor Books!

A few years ago, when we did the North American Piping survey, one of the questions we asked was, “if you had to restart your learning process, what would you do differently?” Overwhelmingly, respondents said that they would have started when they were younger.  Unfortunately, we can’t put the water back under the bridge on that one.  The two next two most popular answers focused on either having better individual instruction or being more focused in approach and having used a good tutor book as a guide.  This blog post focuses on the second part of that answer.

As a beginning piper, or even as an intermediate looking to apply a bit of ordnung one’s learning, the number of tutor books available is a bit daunting.  While none of them promise a taller, slimmer you with crisper grips, it becomes fairly obvious that there are some significant differences between the offerings.

Over the next few months, I will review most of the major tutor books out there and try to provide some guidance on the pro’s and con’s of each.  I’ll be using the following criteria:

  • Basic music theory.  How extensive is the coverage of music theory?  Is the book oriented towards beginning musicians or does it tend to assume that the bagpipe is a second instrument and give theory a quick once-over?
  • Technique.  How is the teaching of the basic movements covered and are there a good set of drills and etudes to help cement good technique?
  • Explanations.  Are they clear and executable for the student without the help of an instructor?
  • Tune Progression.  Does the book get into playing simple tunes early or is technique heavily “front-loaded”?  Is the progression of the level of difficulty of tunes appropriate for the student?  (College of Piping Tutor 1, I am thinking about the you with 79th’s Farewell!)
  • Videos and Sound Files.  Are they an integral part of the instruction or a “tacked on” repetition of the book?  Is the presenter’s voice and accent understandable by non-Scots?
  • Format and Price.  Does the tutor represent good value for money?

If you have any other criteria you think are important, shoot me a message in the comments.

At this point, I plan to review the following offerings:

  • Tutor Book 1 from the National Piping Centre;
  • College of Piping Tutor 1 – the iconic Green Book;
  • John Cairns Piping Solutions series;
  • Rob Wallace Tutor 1 and Tutor 2;
  • Sandy Jones Tutor 1.

7 thoughts on “So Many Tutor Books!

Add yours

  1. Very daunting amount of tutorials available like you say. After trying the green book amongst many others from peoples personal ones to the local piping society, I think it boils down to what works for you. I recently got Gail Browns tutorial and it is superior in every way for the way I like to tutor. Covers everything in depth very simply. I won’t be looking for another after looking for the ultimate tutorial for 10 plus years.


  2. Hey Bruce any ideas for our aspiring drummers. There are some on line learning offerings and ‘Taking No Shortcuts” is a good drumming primer.
    Rhythm Monster is an on line drumming course that is available for beginning and accomplished drummers.


    1. Pat, I looked at several drumming tutors in the fall to see what I could teach myself. In general, I thought they were pretty bad. They had lots of drills but no real direction of how to put together a learning program. I did subscribe to Rhythm Monster and thought it was pretty good overall but having done all of the basic tutorials was not sure how to put together a longer-term program. got too busy with other stuff. Actually, what would be really fun would be a Scottish drumming version of Wii Rock Bank that can evaluate and score your accuracy and timing by reading the impulse’s from the drum pad.


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