I started piping as a teenager. I had played many instruments but I really felt a connection with the bagpipes.
My first inspiration was and still is my first Pipe Major. He is now a retired teacher but I lost my father quite young and he had a material impact in my formative years. My main goal when I was learning was simply to be a better piper. I wasn’t that keen on competition but we did it as it was great to work toward a goal.
We had the usual issues that are present for lots of pipers. Reeds were hard, I didn’t really have a good understanding of maintenance and of course we had cane reeds! Lots of my hair has been slotted in many cane drone reeds. Learning tunes has not been a major issue but often I didn’t really read the music, I just copied other pipers.
I knew that I wasn’t a strong piper, it was a bit of a negative cycle because I knew it would require practice but I didn’t really know what or how to practice. I spent time on drills but nothing made me objectively better.
I never “quit” in the complete sense but I did put my pipes away for a significant time (18 years). I would pull them out for parties but it was always a disappointment.
I started in the Dojo in early 2022. I had joined a band a year earlier and spent one year getting the material and pipes up and running. Thankfully I had a great instructor. I attended one of the seminars that covered off the 11 commandments and I signed up on the spot. It was the start of the recognition of my passion.
I signed up immediately. I could see the value straight away. Courses with world renowned experts. Plans on how to get better. It was an easy investment for me. The Dojo is amazing. Initially it can seem daunting, but having everyone working toward a common goal is truly fantastic. The Discord community is my first and last place I check every day.
The biggest improvement has been via the five phases of bagpipe freedom. I am currently in Phase 4 and it’s very challenging. However as I progressed, the list of things that I have achieved is getting longer and longer. My improvement was also noticed at my band and I was appointed to the role of Pipe Sergeant.
I am a gadget freak, I ordered synthetic bags, reeds galore, moisture control ‘tone enhancers’ etc. However the Dojo taught me the key is simplification. I have really simplified my piping setup. I have gone to a hide bag, calibrated drone reeds. Moved up from easy chanter strength to medium strength. I can play comfortably for an hour. I also have a fantastic set up, so I pick up the pipes and can record really easily. I don’t use a tuner much anymore either. It’s really just a FYI to see where the pitch is at. I tune my drones by ear and I am getting quite good at that.
Doing the five phases is a fantastic method for constant variance (new tunes or part every week). I now really have great sight reading capability now. My main area I was getting into trouble was that I really didn’t have a great understanding of embellishment mechanics. Going through the fingerwork fundamentals course really helped me.
I love piping, I always loved piping and it’s now my complete creative outlet. I play almost every day and I am now doing solo competitions and piping in our band for lots of events. My pipes sound fantastic and I get lots of compliments on the sound.
Mike Taylor, Victoria, Australia