Now that we're past Thanksgiving and Christmas – which are traditionally times to reflect on and appreciate what we have – we now start to prepare for the New Year, and with it the new opportunities and exciting new possibilities it brings.
Over the coming week, I'm sure this article will be one in a tsunami of advice you'll be seeing in your inbox, Discord channels, and social media feeds about how to set yourself up for 2022 – if yours are anything like mine, they'll be overwhelmed with a deluge of gym memberships and weight loss apps, so hopefully some piping advice is a welcome relief!
As we all know, keeping resolutions is hard... because developing replicable systems and making small, incremental improvements are the best ways to set yourself up for long-term improvement, and ultimately, success. And usually, resolutions aren't really either of those things – they're decisions made without SMART, actionable goals to back them up (but more on that in a minute...).
However, given everyone is excited during this time to prepare for the coming year, here are some ways I would suggest you can use the next week to make sure you're as prepared as you can be for a successful piping year.
If you've got a bit of downtime between Christmas and the New Year, now is a great time to tear your pipes down and do that maintenance you’ve been putting off.
Oil the wood and polish the metal. Replace those strands of hemp that have been added over time with a fresh wrap.
You could check out our Transitioning to the Bagpipes course if you're interested in some detailed instructions on how to rehemp your bagpipes the right way, as well as comprehensive advice on the best way to set up your pipes from scratch, if you feel like giving them a full overhaul.
Experiment with your setup
Been using the same bag for years? Looking for a different drone sound? Are you always seeing moisture buildup on your reeds? Take this time to research and purchase that new equipment that will improve your setup and your sound.
Bagpipe manufacturers are constantly innovating and improving on chanters, reeds, and other items, and new stuff may be just waiting help you achieve your goals.
We recommend you get rid of anything that's been 'Too Long In This Condition' and replace any part of your instrument (apart from the wood of the pipes themselves!) that you've had for more than a few years.
Vary your repertoire with some new music
Again, I've spoken at length on the importance of constantly varying your repertoire – it's covered at length in my book, my 11 Commandments of Mastery course, and in past emails and articles at length, too.
The more you can mix up the combinations of notes and embellishments that you tackle, the more 'fluent' you'll be at sight-reading and general musicianship! If you're a competitive piper, sticking to the same repertoire for too long can also mean you get stuck in a rut with bad habits and repeating the same mistakes and issues.
A new tune can be the perfect way to capitalize on your gains in the past year by applying them to new musical scenarios. The downtime over the holiday can be a great time to find and start to work on some new tunes that will excite you, and with luck, complement your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.
Start now and you’ll have that new tune ready for the spring (or fall, if you're on the other side of the planet).
Check out the Dojo’s Tune Index if you need some inspiration – it’s HUGE! If you're a Dojo student, you'll also know that the best way to embrace constant variance is to participate in our Bagpipe Freedom process, where we tackle two new parts of a tune every single week (though remember, if you're a student, you'll need to have completed the five challenges before you can do this).
At this time of year, I like to sit and reflect on the previous season, both in life and in piping.
What went well? What worked? What didn't? Did I see the results I expected?
Before the new year, I try to whittle these pros and cons into a concrete list of actions, which show in SMART terms (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) what I want to see happen next year.
Your goals might be big (some people call these BHAGs – big, hairy, audacious goals, such as moving up to the next level – coincidentally, Dojo U has a free course to help you achieve just that, or learning your first full piobaireachd – again, we have a comprehensive piobaireachd course that benefits beginners and experienced players, if that's your cup of tea).
If you're a band leader, maybe you're looking at your practice scheduling and music selection for the next season – if so, you'll definitely want to join us for the 2022 Dojo University Pipe Major's Symposium.
Or, you may set yourself some small goals that are realistic with your schedule, like improving your rhythm or perfecting your birl.
No matter how you spend this limbo time over the holidays, though – I hope you have a safe and happy start to 2022.
And if you're not yet a Dojo U member, hopefully we'll see you around Dojo U in the coming year!
If your resolution is as simple as wanting to improve at the bagpipes, of course my best advice would be to join us here at Dojo University and see how our hundreds of global piping students have seen incredible results. Why not sign up for your first month of Dojo U premium membership, and get instant access to all of our courses, classes and materials?
New Year's Resolutions also often revolve around learning and trying new things. If you or someone you know has always wanted to learn to play the bagpipes – our Dojo U Beginner's Tutor is a proven way to 'teach yourself' to be a piper, with the support of our entire world-champion teaching team on hand to help you along the way!
If you're not quite ready to sign up, but curious about what we do here at Dojo U, you can visit our 'About' page to check out our offerings, teaching team, and membership options.