Ian Carmichael: What's Not To Like?!

I had always thought about learning the bagpipes ever since I was in my teens. My Dad was from Scotland. He always had music playing around the house – all kinds of genres. A couple bagpipe compilation cassettes often made their way into the rotation. I enjoyed listening to them from the first time I heard them.

I was at a local Celtic festival, and saw a "Free Lessons" information sheet in a pipe band's seating area. I took their contact information, and reached out about getting started.

My original goal was just to learn the instrument. It is loud and Scottish – what's not to like?! The band I was joining did a lot of parades – not something I was excited about, but I was looking forward to doing them as part of learning the instrument.

Tuning wasn't really part of the learning curriculum with the free lessons, so that has always been a blind spot. I also found the pipes hard to play when I transitioned to them – the band reed was a medium strength. It was not ideal as a first reed.

I have quit the pipes a couple times, mainly because of long hours at work, and young kids at home. The time to devote to properly learning the instrument simply wasn't there.

I googled about bagpipe lessons, and found the Dojo website. I signed up after taking a couple of the free promotional classes offered on the site.

The community is a great place. The staff are all knowledgeable and very supportive. They are able to tailor their skills from helping everyone from beginners, to very skilled pipers. I've also learned from other students in the community.

The Dojo has helped me learn the basics that I never learned when I first started getting lessons. It is helping me un-learn the bad habits, and build good habits. My bagpipes are much more comfortable to play now. The Dojo has taught me much about reed strength, posture, and setting up my drones. My bagpipes are now a joy to play.

My pipe tuning skills have improved the most with the Dojo. Their method is a time-tested one, and uses the best tuner available - your ears - to get your drones and chanter in tune. My sight reading has improved greatly since joining the Dojo. I believe this is a result of two things: constant variance from learning parts of a new tune every week, and also learning arpeggios. Plus Learning Tunes of the Week, along with doing exercises in the Dojo Tutor, has improved my finger work.

The Dojo has improved my confidence on the bagpipes in a great way. The skills gleaned from the online courses and live classes have made me a better piper. I can now set up my instrument so it's easy to play. I no longer dread going to band practice and flubbing a part of a tune – if I do, I use it as a learning experience.

Ian Carmichael, New York, USA

Related Articles