Ken Allan: Hope Is Not A Methodology

I always wanted to learn the bagpipes since a young child. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Had my first lesson at 23 (just after I was married). My poor wife!

My initial goal was similar to many other new pipers. Basically to learn a few tunes and eventually join a band. A non competing band, followed by a competing band. My Dad was in the military and played pipe band records often. These listening sessions are some of my earliest memories.

I had far too many struggles as a learning piper. No knowledge of how to tune. Pipes were often too hard to play. Playing ahead of the beat in a band setting. Playing in bands that just hoped for unison within a pipe corps without using tools or strategies to achieve the same.

I also had many limiting beliefs such as starting too late (23 years old). Although grateful for my early instruction, the direction received did not form a strong foundation and continued for at least 10 years before finding suitable tuition.

I never thought of quitting, although I took many breaks throughout the years to address work and family needs.

I stumbled upon the Dojo website in around 2016. Read up on it and thought this might be interesting. I had played at the grade 3 band level in Ontario for many years and thought the tuition may help improve my playing.

I signed up immediately. No waiting time. Just jumped in with both feet!

It's a fantastic community of like people who want to improve their knowledge and skills. One of the perks is making friends online that you would never otherwise get to meet. The technology is amazing at linking players together around the globe.

Did I mention the great value? Instruction delivery is wonderful. You get access to top players and the opportunity to play form them and receive feedback. You never have to leave your home.

Without a doubt, I've learned more about the instrument, tuning and playing to the metronome on the click. Excellent stuff!

I've definitely learned more about how to select a chanter reed to suit the individual and certainly the idea of calibrating your drone reeds to the strength of your reed. Additionally, moving from a synthetic pipe bag with moisture control to a hide bag. I now play goatskin with a water tub. Much more enjoyable sound.

I also attended a few tuning clinics. These session removed the uncertainty around tuning and provided me and other students with knowledge, process and strategies for tuning that actually work. Sight reading is much easier. The approach to learning a tune helps you focus on rhythms, immersion and of course learning the tunes in two bar phrases, then four bars and eventually the whole part. The outcome avoids just plowing through the tune start to finish hoping you will improve over time. We all know that Hope is not a methodology!

The approach to playing embellishments is very helpful. The strategy raises awareness and understanding regarding the approach, strategy and mechanics of (grace notes and melody notes) within an embellishment.

I definitely feel much better about my playing and overall knowledge gleaned through the Dojo. The teaching methodology has made me a better band player and overall contributor to the band!

I have met some great people all over the globe that I would never had met if not for the Dojo!

Ken Allan, Ontario, Canada

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