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.