Troy Aitken: It's Going to Take Time

When I was a child I would rush to the parade to hear the pipe band. As a teenager I joined the local pipe band as a drummer. One step closer to the beautiful pipes. I knew I wanted to play the pipes some day, but it wasn't till my late 40s when I started chanter lessons.

Playing the pipes was goal of mine for many years. Originally I wanted to make it into the local grade 5 pipe band. Now I have more personal goals of being able to compete and play solo events.

I knew I wanted a personal relationship with this instrument and the beautiful sound it creates. I remember as a teenager my friend playing the pipes very well and it always felt like he was dancing with my girl. My friend sold these same pipes to me 2 years ago and now I have started my journey.

The struggles with pipes have been many. I am sure I am not the only one. The pipes I purchased had not been played in many years. I tried to set them up the best I could. Learning everything the hard way. Everything from the first bag not being airtight, hemp on tuning pins not even/rocking, constantly dropping drone reeds in the bag, and the hardest part, trying to blow this set up with a hard chanter reed trying to make any consistent sound at all.

I have had many discouraging moments in my bagpipe journey, but I have never wanted to stop proceeding forward. The small achievements along the way have been enormous motivation boosters that surpass any limiting beliefs. I know I can do this. It is going to take time.

I first found out about Dojo University on YouTube while trying to find out information on how to set up my bagpipe.

I watched all the videos I could find from Dojo on YouTube, and signed up to Dojo U the next month.

The in-class sessions are fun and interactive, and I see a lot of regulars in class, and everyone is encouraging. This helped me build confidence and give me a sense of security as I strive to learn the tune of the week. I have learned how to tie in my first sheep skin bag. Woot! My blowing and squeezing has become more steady. Playing to the beat is still challenging. The good thing is, I am not alone on this journey. Dojo is with me each step of the way.

My bagpipes are more comfortable and easier to play. I have developed more stamina by consistently playing small amounts every day. I have learned the comforts of a sheep skin bag. The systems in place for quality bagpipe sound, set at the Dojo, is paramount for success as a piper.

Tuning my bagpipes is still an ongoing challenge for me. I am having greater success using the Dojo method. I know with consistent practice I will be able to perfect my tuning ability.

The system Dojo has for learning new tunes has made this process much easier for me. It is a way better method than the old way of hammering through the whole tune.

My finger technique has improved substantially. I found because I am focused on timing and accurate grace note quality, this has also improved my over all finger technique. When I do mess up, the instructors guide me back to positive objectives.

The Dojo has been a life changer for me. When I started at Dojo it gave me a sense of focused purpose. I began to develop a consistent schedule. With so much to learn on my journey to bagpipe freedom. I feel Dojo has empowered me to be the best version of myself I can be. I changed bad habits for good and over came a 30 year addiction. As a bonus I get to hang out, learn, grow, be inspired and challenged on learning to play the bagpipes with people who care enough to share their knowledge of this wonderful instrument.

Recently, I had the opportunity to play the bagpipes for my first memorial service via zoom. The memorial service was for my cousin who passed from COVID-19. She was a McLeod, so of course I played Morag of Dunvegan and Amazing Grace. I was mostly concerned about my strike in. That went fine. However as I played, I began to get super nervous. I began to feel a tremor that started well below my knees and shook my core all the way up and through my pipes. I experienced something I didn't think was possible on the bagpipes. A tremendous vibrato unmistakably pronounced as though I had perfected this. I was disappointed for sure. But I laugh because I know who I was playing for and she would be giggling right along with me.

Troy Aitken, Alberta, Canada

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