I’m cautious to give tips — not because I don’t have any, but because of the ever-so-fun debate that all too many people in Highland piping get into. If someone has a different opinion, fine, let them, and get over it. That said, following are a few ideas to consider. If you have some tips you think I should know about &/or add to this page, please contact me.
I attended a series of workshops at SFU called Highland Arts Festival (2004?). These workshops were lead by the likes of Bruce Gandy, Neil Dickey, and members of the SFU pipe band. It was an invaluable weekend indeed; if you get the opportunity to attended something of this sort, go for it. While in a workshop with Jori Chisholm, I adopted his suggestion of using highlighter-pens to colour-code the parts of the pipe-tunes that have the same phrases. This seems to help speed learning; further, when you’re playing the tune from memory, you can tend to remember the tune visually by its chunks of colour.
Around 2005, out of having a lack of a personal printer with my computer, I started notating my sheet music by hand. As a side benefit, I found I gained a better understanding of the tunes I was learning. It can take a lot of time, but I believe its worth it. In the cell to the right, you can download a file I’ve used for blank staff paper — what I do is print one and then photo-copy it (usually costs less). Notebooks of blank staff paper are often available through normal-instrument stores. You may find through hand-notation that you start to compose (hopefully more) of your own music. I carry a small supply of blank staff around in my sheet-music notebook — if inspiration hits me, I’m ready to go.
When seeking an instructor I suggest considering the following… Often enough its possible to find someone who is a very good piper who is available for instruction; remember though that just because someone is a good player and teaches doesn’t mean that they’re also a good instructor. Some instructors don’t teach much during lessons — instead they get distracted by telling you about &/or bragging about their piping accomplishments over the course of your lesson; remember that it is YOUR lesson and that they need to be teaching you how to play, not telling their stories about this ribbon & that trophy. It is 160% okay to stop working with one instructor and start working with another — it can be awkward to leave one since this tends to be a small community, but pull up your kilt and go for it. Its 160% okay to work with multiple instructors at the same time. Whenever you get the opportunity, get a lesson with a different instructor as they may & probably-well introduce new ideas to you and/or introduce something you’re already familiar with in a different way and open things up better to you. Make sure that there is a good fit between student & instructor — you’re going to spend a lot of time learning piping, and likely a ton of money, so be sure that you and your instructor can communicate — if you find that there isn’t a fit, feel free to move on to another instructor. If this person is the only instructor in town, you’re stuck, but if you’re really passionate about piping you’ll look for work-shops you can travel to and attend &/or move to a different place where you can get good instruction — no, I’m not joking about moving.
Blank staff paper
The same as what I use when composing, arranging &/or hand-notating my music
(Word document in RTF)