Volume XI Number 4 - April 2003


And it's messy and getting messier. Keep ALL our Coalition servicemen in your thoughts as this exercise hopefully grinds to a close this month, especially Maj. Jim 'Stretch' Kennedy, one of the Marine pipers currently over there. Support ALL our servicemen and women who are now In Harm's Way.

After corresponding with a customer who has very recently taken up the pipes, I thought I should offer this:

I get a lot of questions from adult students, mostly asking, "How good will I get?"

Not an easy answer to this one, so let's break it up into components:

Age IS a factor in learning pipes - but hell, it's a factor in learning ANYTHING. IQ scores are actually based on age comparisons; as we get older, we find it difficult to assimilate and remember strings of details. After all, pipe music of any kind is a detailed data stream; easy to learn as a child, difficult to put into 'hard memory' as an adult. So it takes most adults LONGER to learn the same process that a fifteen-year-old can pick up in five minutes. Sheesh. Whatever happened to that 'old age and experience...' line?

If a student has prior musical experience, that's a big advantage. Why? DISCIPLINE. Knowing that only practice produces results makes a big difference in the student's attitude toward the craft. There is also a certain amount of respect for the instrument that prior experience infers. Knowing up front that 'Hey, this is HARD' can make the instructor's job easier - AND the student's progress more gratifying. Discipline also ensures that the student WILL practice, and, obviously, will progress faster than the student who only practices sporadically.

Last, there is talent. Face facts: not everyone is cut out to be a musician, even less a piper. Desire to succeed will help overcome a lack of musical talent, but it can't make up for it entirely. There are levels of competency that can be achieved, but without some innate musical talent, there's no way to reach even the 'middle rank.' Not that someone can't be happy without winning medals; the last thing I want to do is discourage people - BUT there is a limit that some students can't get past. One of my old students, and a really good friend, has real problems with rhythm. He even asked his church choir director if there was any way to learn, and was discouraged by what the choir director told him. Because of this 'disability' he can only play rudimentary tunes - BUT he's happy playing anything at all!

SO as an adult learner, remember that kids have all the advantages - memory, dexterity, open minds - and that for many of you learning pipes will be a long and slow process. Even accomplished professional musicians who have taken lessons from me have often said - 'THIS IS REALLY HARD!'

DON'T be discouraged - just work harder at it. If you can practice thirty minutes a day, every day, you WILL see improvement on a monthly basis. And that's how you can best judge it. Learning repetitive finger movements, reading music, putting it all together to make MUSIC not just a stream of notes - this is all far above the abilities of most people. Be proud of what you accomplish, no matter how slowly you do it, it's better than you did it yesterday, or last week, when you thought you'd never be able to do it.


I am now also writing an occasional column for the 'Marine Pipers Newsletter,' available at . The first installment is about beginning competition. I will try to NOT duplicate my efforts here, but if either column starts to ramble, jes' let me knoooo....

On the 29th of last month Black Part and I ventured into the depths of Ess-Eff to Coast Recorders, where we spent a long day laying down tracks. Many thanks to Thom Canova and his minions who made the experience easier than we thought it could be (not to mention the great acoustics in the studio - EVERY one should have a cathedral ceiling), and thanks also to Jennifer Dale for providing support, lunch, and the blackmail photos for the liner. Even though it looks like I'll have to do a couple of retakes, the overall experience was fun. At the end of the day we both felt like we'd been dragged butt first through a knothole, but it was worth it.

We'll be doing cover art later this month and we'll let you know when and where the 'release party(?)' will be held....

BLACK PART is taking some time off to do some REAL work (as in day job), but I'm sure we;ll hear from him after he gets back from the Piob Society AGM.

ONE LAST THING: Dear customers, when you call me, please try to remember the time zone differences. I am on Pacific Time. If you're in Noo Yawk and ring me up at 9.15 your time, I will most probably be extremely grumpy, BECAUSE IT'S THREE HOURS EARLIER HERE. Likewise, if you're calling from Oz, or Hong Kong, or Japan, please adjust your calling to account for the time zone differences. You will get much friendlier telephone service if you do. Thank you, and enjoy flying Air Cuillinn...Thus endeth the sermon.




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