Colin McFee: Bagpipes Are Still The Coolest Thing

When I was a little kid, I would completely come unglued when the pipe bands would go by at the parades. Dad bought me a chanter for my twelfth birthday, my first lesson was the next day.

Fortunately for me, I knew I was going to be a piper from the first time I heard the pipes.

Bagpipes were just the coolest thing ever. Still are! I just wanted to play, mostly because of Saint Patrick’s Day parades. I remember feeling like my body didn’t know how to be when the pipe bands would go by. I recall just running around and around a mailbox. Bagpipes just did something to my soul unlike anything else.

Early on, managing cane reeds was a nightmare. I had a great teacher, but looking back, there was much about the instrument that was shrouded in mystery, and myth. I even put the pipes on pause for a while. There were years during college when I didn’t play much. There were a few times when I just burned out a bit. But, I know I will pick them up again.

I've known about the Dojo for a long time. The Piper’s Dojo was my Celtic connection while I was putting a youth pipe band together. They were primarily a supplier for pipes and reeds at that point.

I’m still trying to learn how to do the computer thing. However, I really enjoyed what I have found on the site. Especially, many of the videos which demystify, and clarify, parts of the learning process I have had trouble explaining to my students. I have also been having a lot of fun reengaging piping from a a new point of view.

Mostly, while I am still learning the computer part, the small amount of dabbling I have done has gone a long way toward reinvigorating my piping. I am completely thrilled with the reintroduction of cane reeds into my piping world (growing up, cane reeds were the bane of my existence). I have definitely become less tolerant of air leaks and miscalibrated drones. My teacher growing up gave me a pretty good start learning to tune. I’d say my biggest barrier to tuning now is hearing loss, I have a hard time hearing the bass anymore.

I’d definitely say the Dojo has improved my life. Practice now has a point. My approach to my piping has become a bit more serious, allowing for more freedom on the other end. Since piping is life, I’d say both have improved.

And that damn manometer! I require all my students use one. This is one tool I wish I had thirty years ago, when my pipe major was yelling at me to “blow steady!”

All in, you guys have put together a cool thing here.

Colin McFee, Colorado, United States

Related Articles