A huge number of us are stricken with the chronic challenge of trying to find a suitable place to practice the big pipes. If a single chanter can reach 122 decibels and a pneumatic drill can reach 104 decibels, well, then, we all know we need some fairly sound-tight space to rehearse our tunes of glory. Hell, we didn’t need to know about the drill statistic; it’s simple, we need space to play our pipes. Period.
I’m lucky to live in a detached house. For the most part, I can play my pipes whenever I like – sort of. Even at the best of times, I shut the windows and generally make sure I don’t play after 9:00 pm. My neighbours say they like the pipes but I really think they mean they like them played “Far, Far Away” – at a distance.
When it comes to productive practicing I can tell you one big truth I’ve learned: the best practice on the pipes happens when you know you’ll not be interrupted and when you’re sure your tunes are not intruding on the peace of any one person in earshot. I’ve always found my mind wanders and worries and just gets distracted when I know I am annoying people or getting on their one frayed nerve. Lack of focus and distraction: surely the biggest enemies of a fruitful practice session.
The practicing piper’s reality? We take what we get.
I’ve practiced — and tuned up – in some weird and not wonderful places in my life. The weirdest might’ve been the reclined front seat of a Renault 5 (on Dunollie Terrace in Oban in the pouring rain). The urinal-caked echo chamber, the toilet, is another that I suggest is common for us all. Outside of home, the second most common practice space for pipers, or competing pipers, might be the toilet. The perennial room-next-to-the-final-tuning-room – a truth the world over.
When I did live in an apartment and worked in downtown Toronto I can clearly recall begging the Property Manager (named MacPherson, for what that was worth) of the Bay Street office tower where I worked to find a room for me to play at lunch hour. I thought myself lucky to be given the keys to a storage room adjacent the third sub-level of the underground parking to use as I liked. A festival of echoes, for sure, but I may’ve only bothered the rats.
Finding a suitable place to practice the sweet music is a constant challenge for pipers everywhere. I think we should embrace this challenge as an integral and seldom-said part of the bagpiping fraternity. It’s a real and serious common struggle that binds us. In fact, drummers, too, feel our pain, I’m sure.
Practicing: If it doesn’t make us deaf or cause riots in the streets it’ll make us stronger.
Have you ever considered the oddest place where you have tuned up or practiced (that you’ll admit)?
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