Pull your finger out

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Pull your finger out

Postby workers and drones » Wed Apr 16, 2014 4:08 pm

Pull your finger out!

by workers and drones » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:14 am

W&D again!
Ok I think I've now reached the point where I can play most of the notes (jury out on this though!) and have started to look at some of the more challenging finger work needed for some tunes. So what are the secrets behind getting your thumb out in time to play some of the lower keyed notes and to return to base before the chanter disappears down your trouser leg!?. I can't hover my thumb in a tune like Bill Charltons fancy for example because when playing the upper G both thumbs leave the chanter and it wants to disappear down your trouser leg!. Another problem occurs when there are a number of repeated notes C to A for example (but not the only combo of notes) with many rapid alterations between the two. It would seem to make sense to leave the finger off the A and waggle the C. Pulling your finger out of the way by removing it from A altogether avoids the difficulty of co-ordinating and alternating between one off whilst the other one returns or has just returned and vicci versa. Are there any tips out there for the next level? I find myself posting on here quite a bit to find help - any other avenues available?. Another issue I have is the ability to stand whist playing. Most seem to do this effortlessly however I began playing with support to my chanter on my leg - this would seem to tie in with the above bit on thumbs!! there is very little support to the instrument when standing if you have to remove thumbs and whoops there it goes again down the trouser leg!. I tend not to go to groups session playing where maybe these sort of tips could be given and problems ironed out however the sessions I have attended focus solely on playing and little or no time is dedicated to playing technique and the issues surrounding this. Perhaps the best players in the group sessions could demonstrate particular playing exercises which could be practiced and worked on to help in the overall progress of players such as myself and others - I might be even tempted to attend more often than I do at present. All technique tips welcomed!.
workers and drones Posts: 16Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:18 pm
workers and drones
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby workers and drones » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:17 pm

Hello Workers and Drones! Workers and Drones here!!
I thought I had better reply to myself as the other 75 views didn't bother (75 views without a reply; is this a record?) - is this because they don't know the answers to my queries I ask myself. The one thing that stands out above all others is that in pipe playing/technique; there are few if any willing to share their views and I again find myself having to plough a lone furrow to find out what works for me!. Take up the flute and you'll have numerous books to pour over about embouchure and playing technique. Take up the NSpipes and its a case of do it yourself.
W&D :o
workers and drones
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby GrahamRB » Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:02 pm

Hi WaD
It's probably an age thing but I find blocks of text very hard to read... 4 or 5 lines then a paragraph (hit 'enter') makes it so much easier. It's about communication rather than semantics.

You're right of course it's something of a lonely furrow unless one's fortunate to be near a group or able to pay for tuition provided there's a competent teacher nearby. You've given no indication of your location in your profile which makes it difficult for those in the know to recommend a nearby source of help.
I'm still trying to find that 'sweet' position, standing or sitting when playing the pipes. playing when standing doesn't bother me that much prob. because I'm used to standing and playing a melodeon. ..it's back to the 'practising' issue once again.
I'd love to help but being a perennial learner (nowt that practising regularly couldn't sort) I'm in need meself ;)
Hopefully I can learn a little more at the Rothbury piping weekend in September. Good luck with your search and don't be sweer to share :)
N. Cambs/S. Lincs
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Full Name: GrahamRB

Re: Pull your finger out

Postby edric » Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:54 am

I may as well stick my oar in and say what works (or doesn't) for me.

I started playing the NSPs about 5 years ago, having learnt the GHBs many years previously - and at first I found it really tough to play sitting down. This was less to do with the fingering than just a more general posture thing - I think going from playing sitting to standing takes some adjustment.

Taken together - the fact that you sometimes play with the chanter wedged on your leg, and the fact that you struggle to play with the right thumb off the chanter, perhaps you're gripping the chanter too tightly and therefore having to brace it hard. I find that in a comfortable playing position (seated or standing), my fingers are touching the chanter, but the chanter is "balanced" so that none are pressing hard. When this is achieved, you can play with the right thumb off most of the time - except when playing a top G of course. In this way, the right thumb can "plan ahead" for keyed notes.

I think tunes like "Bill Charlton's Fancy", and anything with "gbg" patterns in general, are simply really hard to play smoothly. Perhaps in another 5 years' time I'll have mastered Bill Charlton and will post again with how I'm playing that.

Finally, in order to get the really pleasing "popping" attack to each note (even if you're not aiming for each not sounding completely stacatto), it's important that you don't leave any lower fingers off the chanter while playing upper notes. Any patterns involving the right-hand ring finger always take me a lot of work to get running smoothly (e.g. Peacock's March, B-part of Alston Flower Show, etc.), but I think it's worth persevering.
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:35 pm

Well, I started "ploughing the lonely furrow" about 25 years ago , with no prior experience with any musical instrument, and no music reading skills. I bought a G chanter because in my limited dot reading the music was in G, then turned up for a course where everyone else was playing in F! I was seriously confused, got an F set and ploughed on anyway. With no group near me, and no experienced piper to show where I was going wrong I essentially taught myself by listening to recordings and learnt lots of mistakes which I'm still trying to eliminate!

In retrospect, I wish I'd concentrated more on practising clean staccato finger exercises as a prelude to learning tunes, but naturally, we pick up an instrument and the motivation to continue comes with getting a tune out early. As a result, I made reasonable progress but grew bored by the same tunes and was deterred by attempting the old variation sets because they looked too difficult, and coupled with a frustrating set of pipes, only played intermittently over the next 15 years. Inspired by a new set of well tuned pipes, and realising I needed to improve my technique I looked again at the variations and set myself the challenge of learning one. Concentrating on Jacky Layton was a revelation. Although my fingering wasn't that good it highlighted shortcomings that I could focus on, and demonstrated the need for clean fingering. By breaking them down and concentrating on tricky patterns, first slowly then building up, meant a dramatic improvement. Suddenly, after a few months I could get through tunes that I found impossible previously. For me it's meant almost re- learning the pipes and trying to break bad habits. Unfortunately with the pipes there's not enough focus on developing good technique as courses tend to play tunes of varying degrees of difficulty as a measure of ability, and group playing makes it even more difficult to hear the notes played cleanly or separated out.

So, my advice would be;

Pick a variation set you like but is above your level and with no keys.

Find the hardest strain, break it down into playable bits and build it up from there. Start slow and keep the notes separate!

Once you can play a set without keys your confidence will be boosted and it will seem less of a challenge tackling one with keys.

Don't waste practise time playing stuff you can already play easily, just because you can play it!

Having started playing sitting down, that's what I'm comfortable with and tend to do. Neither sitting nor standing is compulsory, but for me the pipes are a solo instrument and who wants to stand up in their living room playing when you can sit down!
Wallie Ogilvie
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:40 pm

Forgot to mention that you may get more of a response posting on the Northumbrian Piping Newsgroup page on Facebook, as sadly, the NPS forum seems to be forgotten nowadays.

PS, what's your location?
Wallie Ogilvie
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby Vic Hill » Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:14 pm

I can't imagine why any sensible person would prefer Facebook to this kind of forum. Just like any other Facebook group, the Northumbrian Discussion page looks chaotic to me. Perhaps someone could explain it's advantages to me.
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Re: Pull your finger out

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:38 pm

Me neither Vic. I only joined Facebook because TOTM seemed to have migrated there from here, but the sad truth is that only a handful of pipers ever contribute to either, although more regular activity takes place on the Facebook page, and W&D's original question may have elicited a faster response than on here.
Wallie Ogilvie
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