Uilleann Pipes


One of my vices is playing, teaching and performing on the Uilleann (Irish) bagpipe.  I have been at it since 1999, and serve as the chief scribe and bottle washer for our regional piping club --

 

Capitol Region Uilleann Dilettantes (CRUD)

No dues, No stupid by-laws – there is too much bureaucratic crap here in Washington already

We meet during the afternoon of the third or fourth Sunday of each month at various locations here in the greater Washington D.C. area.  Simply e-mail me for directions to our next meeting:


Some sample clips (.wma) of my piping

A Planxty (450k)            An Air (490k)            Gander in the Pratie Hole (360k)

 


I am available to teach lessons on evenings and on weekends.  One of the most significant hurdles to learning the Irish pipes is finding a serviceable instrument!   To remedy that sad state of affairs, I maintain several practice sets to loan to active students until they are able to procure their own instrument (pictured at left). 

Tis a joy to teach students that practice diligently and are honing new skills.   Trying to teach a student who fails to practice regularly is an exercise in frustration for both of us.   I hate frittering away precious time, so I strictly enforce a sliding scale for piping lessons:

 


 

$20/hour for students that have practiced five or more days in the previous week

$35/hour for students that have practiced two to four days in the previous week

$50/hour for students that will only practice with the instructor

 

There are two other instructors and several accomplished pipers in the greater Washington D.C. metro area.  If you find the quirky lesson fee scale at all objectionable, I will happily provide you with their contact information and encourage you to thoroughly explore other tutelage options.

 

What are lessons like?

After undergoing the stern curriculum practiced by Highland instructors, I was surprised at the flexible approach many Uilleann pipe instructors pursue.  Teachers usually begin teaching tunes during the first few weeks of instruction (on the highland pipe, students must usually complete a 6-12 month apprenticeship drilling on ornaments and scales).    Instead of a mouth blown practice chanter, the beginning Uilleann piper starts immediately with the bellows, bag and real chanter.  The Irish tradition is to teach the instrument by example and by ear instead of insisting students learn to read music right off. 

 

I prefer to teach aurally, but will willingly teach students to “read the dots” off the written page if that is their desire.   I loan CD’s from my library to students and encourage them to actively listen to a broad range of pipers and to identify tunes that they would like to learn.   I urge students to visit local sessions or take advantage of summer camps and Tionols where they can learn at the knees of world class pipers. 

 

Buying a practice set with a wooden chanter from a reputable maker costs $1,200-2,000 and the expectant piper will need to wait 12 months to several years for his instrument.  I use the David Daye Penny Chanter for my loaner sets and I have helped several beginning pipers build their practice sets using the Penny Chanter.   This is a quick, cost effective way for the student to have a nice, playable practice set for as little as $300 in 8-12 weeks.  I have found the Penny chanters are well behaved – better than about 2/3rds of the “real” wooden chanters I have played.  


 

If you have read this far, then you must really be afflicted with by Uilleannis Morbus.1  To get started:

Basic background on the Uilleann Pipes

Visit the Irish Piper's club, Na Píobairí Uilleann

Subscribe to the US journal on Uilleann Piping, The Piper’s Review

Read the archives of a Uilleann Pipe Discussion Group

 

 

Find a set of pipes and get some basic instruction:

David Daye’s Penny Chanter  -  David and Beth sell chanters, sets, kits, and components.  I played for my first two years on a Penny chanter and use them for the loaner practice sets

Seth Gallagher (East Coast Pipe Maker)

Bruce Childress (East Coast Pipe Maker)

You can learn an awful lot by listening closely to other pipers.   I collected piping recordings and identified the pipers I wanted to emulate.  Thee Amazing Slower-Downer software is an invaluable tool which allows any piper to slow tunes down and adjust their pitch so they can precisely replicate different piper’s ornamentation and style.  

 

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CRUD making reeds and some mischief at Mark Hillman’s old shop

 

1 Uilleannis Morbus; The peculiar affliction of wanting to play or learn about the Irish bagpipe to the exclusion of other normal activities, a specialized strain of OCD, see DSM-IV. 

 

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