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Welcome to Begg Bagpipes


                           ------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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                                                Newsletter - July 2011


Dear Piping Enthusiast,

July is here with a swing and we are now gearing up for the Scottish peak month of August. To get me fitter for a busy August, I have been doing more hill walking - this time it was Dumgoyne which is a volcanic plug on the end of the Campsie Fells. It is not that high but quite steep so it was a sharp and quick climb. Although oxygen wasn't required, I had to put a manly face on things to impress my girlfriend! (Dumgoyne as viewed from the east.)

We have lots of combos these days regarding pipes with orchestras, folk bands and any thing else that makes a sound. It's worth remembering that bagpipes are fundamentally an individual instrument. It doesn't need a plug - it's healthy and unique so whilst playing in groups can be good fun, it ultimately stands alone. It was just before the First World War that pipe bands took off with the military and whilst prior to that I am sure players would play together on occasions, it was nothing like the scene we have now. So playing as a complete single piper is the way to go - lonely for sure but when it goes right, you can knock the socks of a 60 piece orchestra! However, piping must evolve to remain fresh and that is certainly the case now, but let's not forget our great traditions.


Yours aye,

James C. Begg




I played recently for the Xtra factor at the Scottish Exhibition and Entertainment Centre - for those of you outside of the UK this is a leading TV talent show and my job was to set a Scottish theme and a "Welcome to Glasgow" at the start of the show. It was a rather brief appearance particularly when I originally thought they were going to do some actual filming in my shop. The Director didn't help matters with his lack of interest generally in piping and negative comments - anyway, if I find out when the show is to be aired, I'll let you know.





As I mentioned last month, I was out with 1st Lenzie Boys Brigade band with whom I have enlisted my son Gavin at the start of hopefully a long piping career. It's been a while since I played with a band and since they had a decent turnout, I was happy to fit into the back rank. It was good fun and the boys did a great job - thanks for the invitation.







A-Z of Piping - a Personal View by James C. Begg


L is for Learning

Customers sometimes ask me where they can learn to play and how long does it take. I suppose I used to have fixed views but it really depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. Not everyone aspires to be a great player and in fact, most people that start to learn have all sorts of reasons for doing so. Piping today is far more available and accessible than it was in the past and this is certainly the case in Scotland. We have schools throughout the country that tutor -The National Piping Centre and The College of Piping are two obvious examples but piping is still a poor relation when compared to our orchestral counterparts. We have bands that have realised the only way to survive is to teach within the band and to build the future through juvenile bands - well done to the SFU who instigated that trend. We have more strength now as can be seen by the likes of Boghall, The Vale and so on but in a different way, its hats off to the Boys Brigade - I recently played with the 1st Lenzie BB band led by Ken Roberts. In addition to instilling piping into the boys, he also provides a direction in life and builds the boys' character. Ken has maintained the band almost single handedly with his persona and his love of developing others. He is a school teacher in history and amongst his many skills, teaching is clearly at the forefront. Skype and summer schools are also now widespread so tuition for foreign students is well catered for. I heard recently that W MacCallum did a skype lesson to Thomas Schalla (sorry Thomas if my spelling is wrong!) in Germany -how good is that!! So tuition is now better than ever and more informed. We have books with supporting cds, allowing you to be self taught and actually it's easy to start learning. So get your order in for a starter kit and remember we have our own hand made blackwood chanters made on our premises, but if budget is an issue, the alternative is a good quality synthetic chanter at an extremely low price. I generally talk about my direct experience from a Scottish perspective but tuition is sound world-wide. There may not be a great volume of teachers globally but the quality is good and is some cases great - consider the likes of at S Liddell, A MacColl , I Tannoch, P MacInnes and I MacFadyen and you will be confident that the future of young pipers is secured. So much more could be done if the resources are made available. A shocking example of a lack of resources and low priority can be seen in Strathclyde. This huge Region has only 1 full time instructor and that is my friend Peter MacInnes. This is our national instrument and it wouldn't surprise me if the mandarins in government place the recorder and recorder teaching higher up their list of priorities than piping - they should be ashamed of themselves! Practice and more practice is the key to learning and with hindsight, I wish I had done more. It's tricky to focus and find the time, particularly when you are past your teens. I did enjoy the Gordon Stevenson story that he started learning at 59 years old and continued playing into his 80s. I haven't seen him for a while but what a great guy. As he was long time student of Duncan MacFadyen, I believe he received Duncan's practice chanter when Duncan left us for the "Band in the Sky". It's crucial you find a teacher you get on with -Duncan Johnstone and Eddie MacLellan were guys that were not only good teachers but great people as well and I had so much fun with them. After the lesson with Eddie, he usually offered me a quick beer and I would then jump onto my raleigh moped with my pipes strapped to my back and head back from Cathcart to Hillington - a fairly hairy journey I have to say. So in conclusion, you need to practice to learn and the more you practice and improve, the greater the enjoyment will become but make sure you find yourself a good tutor.


Technical Academy - Hemping

Be careful in your hemping of your pipes. This is a crucial part of playing bagpipes and particularly hard for a novice player to understand how to achieve the correct effect. Stick to hemp is my mantra - it moulds to your joints and is natural and kind to them. Without a smooth and moderately secure fit, your pipes will be unstable and hard to play. Conversely, we can over-tighten the joints and end up requiring a pal to hold one part whilst you manhandle the other section - all very unbecoming. However, get the twine on correctly and your drone slide tuning pins will glide when you want them to. You want the stock joints to be a bit tighter than tuning slides but we still have to take them out at points to check the bag or alter the reeds. It's tricky to suggest one fits all but I supply waxed hemp, plane hemp and black waxed linen thread - perhaps a combination of one or other is ok but generally one should be used throughout. The overriding criteria is to achieve a robust joint that is not wobbling and one which will let your bagpipe be solid. It also has to let you have control of the various sections that you will need to move at some point -tuning slides are the most obvious but don't ignore the equally important other sections.

Online Special Offer - HEMP Buy anything online in July and receive a free ball of hemp


If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, we'd be pleased to hear from you. mailto:bill@beggbagpipes.com



Begg Bagpipes
202B Bath Street | Glasgow, STRATHCLYDE G2 4HF
This email was sent to: wgbegg@hotmail.com


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