Practice Chanters Up!

November 30, 2023 on 11:59 pm by Michael Grey | In Stories, Tips | Comments Off on Practice Chanters Up!

There are apparently no fewer than 19 musical instruments that can be played with one hand (or no hands!). Among them, as you’ll likely know, are the trumpet, trombone, harmonica and didgeridoo.

I’ve made, and recorded, a jig called “The Left-handed Piper” that can be played with just one hand – the left – here from “Cuts from Traditional Cloth” recording – 2’48” mark. But even then, two are needed with one hand to cover the bottom holes of the chanter – barring the use of a few pieces of tape. But, really, a two-parted jig. Who would bother taping up the bottom hand holes of a chanter just to do that!

One truth of the bagpipe is that two hands are needed to play. Sure keyboard players can get away with one hand to bring to life compositions like Coldplay’s “Clocks”, Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” and even, “Happy Birthday”, but that neer-neer na-neer neer-neer-neer-neer tune – “Scotland the Brave”, of course – just isn’t going to happen with one hand on the chanter and the other waving to the people.

In acknowledging the need for two hands – I point to the obvious, I know – its what I do – I (firmly) suggest we don’t need any other supports. Barring a piper afflicted with physical challenges – so I generalize: we don’t need a wall to lean on to play pipes. We don’t need a chair to sit and play pipes.

And. We do not need a table or similar flat surface on which to rest our practice chanter while playing. Chanters on tables: the refuge of the insecure.

In my travels teaching, from Hesse, Germany to Hamilton, Canada I have found with few exceptions, pipers are resting their practice chanters on tables or knees when they play. All these pipers in these places will know my feeling on the matter: practice chanters are NOT to rest on any surface. They are to be held in the air, proudly, with sureness, with elbows-out confidence; the only kind to have.

I know at a recent band practice there were scant chanters in the air – one – and I don’t want to give their identity away (initials: IanK) – gave me hope.

I’ve written a fair bit of my experiences as a young feller taught by the great maestro, John Wilson. He would simply not have it; that is, chanters-resting-on-table-while-playing.

He never said why – that was his style: “just do what I say”. He wasn’t the most analytical, maybe, but he could damn well play and had an impeccable piping pedigree (see here). His background was not chanters-on-tables.

For me, having the “chanters in air” beaten into me (figuratively) I think it all comes down to a savvy method to:

* Strengthen finger technique
* Support overall physical composure
* Nurture confidence in physically embracing the instrument
* Enable a piper to easily lead a group while standing (or sitting)
* Portray complete mastery of the instrument

Practice chanters up!


No Comments yet

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Dunaber is using WordPress customized and designed by Yoann Le Goff from A Eneb Productions. feeds rss Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.