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 Post subject: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2019 6:06 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 7:13 pm
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Hello there,

I'm a complete beginner and am looking for a mentor/some guidance. I recently bought a practice set off eBay and got some reeds. Currently can only get a honking sound like a stepped on a goose. Not sure what I'm doing wrong.

I reached out the maker of the pipes but apparently he is no longer making any due to illness.

I'm in a tiny Alaskan bush town so I'm not near any major cities to take lessons (although even that would be hard to find, considering I picked such an obscure instrument)


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2019 11:30 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:00 am
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Location: US West Coast
Welcome! I'm only about five months ahead of you, but here are some points that have been helpful to me.

The operation of the instrument is not as intuitive as other instruments. There is a lot more physical coordination involved. If you can get a sound out of the chanter at all, then that's a start! Don't worry about trying to play any tunes just yet. A good beginning exercise would be to work on sustaining that chanter sound for a longer time period. Seamus Ennis advised starting by just holding the chanter steady and not fingering any of the holes, and squeezing the bag while working the bellows. This will sound a note close to back D.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when it comes to the bag and bellows. You will need to find the right level of pressure to apply to the bag: not enough pressure, and the note stops up, while too much pressure will result in a high-pitched squeak. Sound the note by squeezing the bag, not by trying to force more air with a lot of bellows action. Don't try to keep the bag absolutely plump with air. It doesn't need to be 100% full. You will also need to coordinate the movement of both arms so that you slightly relax the pressure on the bag when you squeeze the bellows. This goes against the instinct to squeeze both arms into your torso simultaneously.

There will be a lot of wavering in the tone at first. But with practice and muscle memory, you will eventually be able to keep the note steady. Ennis said to work on this until you can sustain the note for one minute. Once you can do this, then you can work on proper fingering and playing up and down the scale.

An important consideration is the chanter reed. The reed needs to be adjusted properly so that it produces sound at a comfortable level of air pressure. Reeds made from natural materials are also sensitive to climate. Ideally, you want to use a reed that was made locally. Where did you get the reeds from?


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2019 3:25 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 25, 2002 6:00 pm
Posts: 2745
Location: Sweden
Welcome G.

Watch all the 12 videos here: https://pipers.ie/source/section/?sectionId=2041

Online lessons here: https://www.oaim.ie/uilleann-pipes/

Also listen and watch youtube videos of solo uilleann piping.

Listen as much as possible to recordings of solo uilleann piping

For ex. here's a clip for beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fl0OObBWCe8

If you are isolated then you will find help on the internet until you can make a trip to a tional (uilleann piping gathering).

Who made your chanter? Was there a reed in the chanter when you bought it? Who made the reeds you bought? The reed sounds like it could be too open if it is making a honking sound, but it could also be because of your inexperience. Can you send a photo of the opening of the reed, or describe how far apart the lips of the reed are in the middle of the reed?


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2019 6:46 pm 
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I got the reeds from eBay, a seller in Great Britain.
The practice set was made by Patrick Sky a few years back, got it from someone who just 'never got around to' playing them.

The original Reed was dried out and cracked so I needed to replace it.


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2019 12:12 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:53 am
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Location: Burgdorf near Hanover, germany
Uilleann pipe reeds are much different from GHB reeds, you can't buy them off the shelf and have a more than 90% chance that they wil fit your chanter, they need to be made specifically to suit your particular chanter. In fact, GHBs are pretty much the only bagpipes that have been standardized so that mostly any reed will fit any chanter.
Plus, the reeds offered on Ebay are most likely from Pakistan - if you got something like 6 reeds for 30 GBP they are, a well made UP reed will cost in the range of 50 to 80 $, for one, due to the amount of work required.
I guess there are a couple of pipe makers in the US and Canada who are familiar with Pat Sky's chanters so they can make you a reed - but be prepared to send the chanter off to get the reed customized.
In the meantime, examine all the other parts of your instrument - check bag and bellows for leakage, check the clack valves and the hemping of the joints, and watch the videos and listen to pipers' recordings... if you don't know who to listen to, Liam O'Flynn is always a good starting point!


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 3:27 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:00 am
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Location: US West Coast
Also, in the absence of in-person lessons (or Skype lessons as offered by some instructors), Na Píobairí Uilleann's "Art of Uilleann Piping" DVD series is a very good resource.
In the US, you can order them from Ossian USA: https://ossianusa.com/
They seem to be out of Volume 1 at the moment, though.

Edit: spelling :oops:


Last edited by RenaissanceGuy on Wed May 29, 2019 3:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 3:30 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:25 pm
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RenaissanceGuy wrote:
Also, in the absence of in-person lessons (or Skype lessons as offered by some instructors), Na Píobairí Uilleann's "Art of Uilleann Pipping" DVD series is a very good resource.
In the US, you can order them from Ossian USA: https://ossianusa.com/
They seem to be out of Volume 1 at the moment, though.


I ordered my copy of Volume 1 directly from NPU in Ireland. That worked pretty well, and it came quickly.


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:55 pm 
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I started some time ago and have forgotten what I started. However I am picking my practice set up now and starting again. Here is the book that I have been using and I like it.
https://www.amazon.com/New-Approach-Uil ... 1900428512


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 Post subject: Re: Help for a beginner
PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:08 am 
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fftoto wrote:
I started some time ago and have forgotten what I started. However I am picking my practice set up now and starting again. Here is the book that I have been using and I like it.
https://www.amazon.com/New-Approach-Uil ... 1900428512

Yes, Heather Clarke's tutor is a very good resource.


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