Michael Swan: I Didn't Know What I Didn't Know

I was always looking forward to seeing the bagpipes in parades above anything else. I really wanted to learn and it just so happened that my high school offered a class, so I made it a top priority and signed up at first chance.

I started learning in 2000 through a class in junior high. I then played with the high school band and then concurrently with a community band in town.

I wanted to play with the high school band and to be the best of my peers.

I can remember being a child and thinking that the sound was absolutely amazing. I once heard bagpipes in my neighborhood and went racing around on my bike to try and find them. The sound is magnetic in is draw to me.

in my first couple of years I had a difficult time with setting up a comfortable instrument. later on my struggles were with playing cleanly.

I didn't have limiting beliefs, I did however self doubt in my ability and for a very long time was just coasting instead of improving.

As it seems with bands there can be an atmosphere of politics. I left a band for my being too immature to handle this silliness and then as life went on and I went to college I set down my pipes for many years before life events reminded me how much I loved playing.

In 2019, a good friend and piper passed away. He had formed his own band where most of my old piping and drumming friends had migrated to. Playing at his funeral, I realized how much I missed playing and what my friends meant to me.

I was browsing around YouTube listening to pipe music and looking for information on instrument setup when I noticed that the Dojo was producing a bunch of vlogs and video content. I put a few of the suggestions into my own instrument/playing and proved to myself that Andrew knew what he was talking about!

I took about a year and a half to become a member. I was finding little gold nuggets in all the free content that was available but soon decided that there had to be a mountain of information for paid members and I needed it.

The Dojo community is awesome, all the members are so encouraging. Everyone one from the newest member to the world champions are open to conversation and lending a helping hand

I didn't know what I didn't know. With the Dojo's help I now have set goals with clear pathways to progress my piping. It's made playing enjoyable and instilled a love for the instrument even greater than I previously had.

I was classic to play "gut busters" as reeds, and with no concept of maintenance other than seasoning a bag. Learning to properly hemp up the pipes, and playing at the sweet spot on a reed with comfortable strength has been revolutionary.

Tuning is also way easier! Tuning my chanter actually makes sense. Before I was trying to memorize a perfect pitch to get the intervals correct. Nonsense!

Memorizing tunes is easier and I've only just started with the method. Most of my focus has been on fingerwork and instrument setup so i'm excited to get the ball rolling.

I didn't know what a crossing noise was. This was the biggest revelation to me and my improvement.

I'm currently soloing, playing in a grade 2 band, and playing for enjoyment outside of rehearsal. None of these things were happening before the Dojo. I've said it before, I didn't know what I didn't know and now I have improved 10 fold and am having more fun than I have had in 15 years.

My biggest accomplishment to date since coming on with the Dojo is to improve to the point that I am playing with a Grade 2 band.

It has also given me the opportunity to steward for Stuart Liddell for a weekend back in the fall that I would have never dreamed possible.

Michael Swan, Utah, USA

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