The Learning Process

All you need to get started is a practice chanter and a tutor book.  Beginning pipers start on the practice chanter, a reed instrument that looks like a recorder.  It is much quieter than a full set of pipes and lets the student focus on learning the basic fingering.


I prefer to teach from Sandy Jones’ “Beginning the Bagpipe” tutor book.  David Naill & Company make a great practice chanter as does McCallum Bagpipes.  I recommend the long plastic, although wood works just as well.  “Long” models approximate the hole spacing on an actual pipe chanter more closely than “short” or “standard” models.  Depending on finger and hand size, younger children may be better off starting on a short or child’s model practice chanter.


A beginner’s package with chanter and tutor book is available from Lauree Palmer at The Scottish Piper.


Most people spend 6-12 months learning the notes, gracenote embellishments, and a handful of tunes before progressing onto the pipes.  The time spent perfecting your fundamentals on the practice chanter will pay off in the long run as you move onto the pipes and broaden your repertoire.


Before starting on the pipes, you need to master all of the embellishments in the tutor book as well as memorize 6-8 tunes on the practice chanter.  At this point, you can start on the pipes confident that you have the raw materials to become a competent piper.


The pipes bring their own set of challenges which you will work through in time.  The pleasure and sense of accomplishment that playing pipes well will bring to you is priceless!