Gordon Carter: Piping in God's Own Country

Piping was something that I always wanted to do. The sound of the pipes in a band piqued my interest to learn.

I am originally from Australia, but I decided in 1976 to go to New Zealand for a working holiday. While there, I met my now-wife and have lived here ever since, obtaining New Zealand citizenship about 10 years ago.

As for my pipe band background, my first band was the Australian Scots Association Pipe Band in Brisbane where I started as a learner tenor drummer. Following my move to God's Own Country (New Zealand), it wasn't until moving to Hamilton in 1981 that I joined the City of Hamilton Pipe Band as a learner side drummer. During this time, I started having piping lessons.

I moved to Cambridge Band when my middle son Mark started piping lessons with the former pipe major of City of Hamilton who had been asked to pipe major the Cambridge Band. I joined as a piper, being elected as pipe sergeant at a previous AGM. I feel things have stagnated somewhat in my piping as Cambridge Band is only just managing to stay afloat as a performance band due to the aging nature of our members and the lack of younger people being interested in pipe banding. I have also done some solo piping gigs e.g. some weddings, funerals and piping for an annual event for the NZ Cancer Society for the last 4 years.

So, I have made a decision to give Dojo U a shot to see if I can make an improvement in my piping for my own personal satisfaction and improve the band's playing performances.

Having to start learning to read music, coming to grips (pardon the pun) with grips, doublings and assorted other embellishments, then getting to speed. As well as those technical aspects, it was also learning how to get a sound out of them without blowing out a foo foo valve.

Sometimes I had doubts about being ever able to play the pipes with a half decent performance. I was a late starter in my mid 30s when I started.

I recall seeing that the pipe major of the band I belong to had shared something on Facebook about Dojo, then sometime later I saw Andrew Douglas's book advertised and decided to get it as the brief overview I read had a lot of things that made sense. Getting it in the mail and reading it spurred me to get a Dojo membership and following the Dojo principles.

The Dojo community has shown itself to be an excellent community of like minded people from across the globe, and finding people from my home country and where I live now to touch base with. The tutors are clearly competent and professional and always giving good feedback with constructive criticism that gives encouragement to improve rather than discouragement. They couldn't be more encouraging and one always feels welcome to their classes.

I have learned so much in a short time of things I was totally unaware of, e.g. learning with simplified settings, tuning drones, calibrating drones, manometers etc. Having never learned about, let alone calibrating drone reeds, has been a complete revelation and made it so much easier that blowing reeds that don't shut off.  Learning by phrases, and with simplified settings with gradually integrating embellishments is such a logical progression.

With what I have learned so far, I am hoping that when our band can reform after what has been a lengthy hiatus due to Covid lockdowns, that my newly acquired skills will be of help to our struggling learners and also be an improvement to the band's performance abilities.

Gordon Carter, Waikato, New Zealand

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