------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
Welcome to the autumn season in the northern hemisphere and our October newsletter. We continue to receive positive emails from our readers and it is really heart-warming that the newsletter continues to be well received.
I have been out and about again this month and the Munich Beer festival was my destination. The Oktoberfest, as it's called, is a bit misleading in some ways as it starts in September. A few, fearless friends, including one of the finest from the ranks of the Strathclyde Constabulary, decided to join me on a trip that was eventful, to say the least! We decided to take on the tartan army football image, with boots, socks, kilt and t-shirt which were worn all the way from home to Munich and back again. It wasn't quite the etiquette that is expected at the Northern Meeting but according to some press reports, we may have won the prize for being the best dressed on the day. I felt quite at home as it seemed to resemble a pipe band contest with oompah bands replacing pipe bands - essentially much the same principle with plenty of tunes, beers and a good time to be had by all. The events were all held in huge tents which made me wonder if this would work at the World Championships. How many of you have had the "pleasure" of Glasgow Green when the Scottish monsoon is raining down in all its glory??! These tents are massive and can hold 10,000+ so maybe the RSPBA should look into this. As you see from the photo, I look rather fetching in a hat belonging to a band from Cologne. Could this be the next Glengarry or the fashion for 2015?
James C. Begg
We welcome Calum Galleitch on-board as a new retailer. His business, Meldrum Bagpipes, is U.K. based and launches in November. We wish him every success. In the near future, look out for new adverts from us online, with the excellent Pipes Drums and The College of Piping We are moving more and more these days to becoming an online business. We still have our shop in the centre of Glasgow but with people's busy lives and the convenience of the internet, there is less throughput of customers in the shop - it's a shame in a way not to have as much piping banter on a daily basis but this is more than made up for with our global reach through the website and online shop. Times move on and if our ancient art of piping is to survive and develop in our modern world, it needs to maintain its relevance and fit in with our changing lifestyles.
The Merits (or otherwise!) of: Learning the Pipes, Young or Old?
It is a question that I'm often asked and indeed most people have a yearning to know the holy grail of "what is the ideal age" to pick up the Great Highland Bagpipe. Am I too old or too young? The answer is hard to say but certainly starting at a young age is advisable. Piping takes time and dedication. This well known quote is great:
'To the make of a piper go seven years ... At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear to the drone he may have parley with old folks of old affairs. Playing the tune of the 'Fairy Harp', he can hear his fore folk, plaided in skins, towsy-headed and terrible, grunting at the oars and snoring in the caves, he has his own whittle and club in 'The Desperate Battle' ... where the white-haired sea-rovers are on the shore, and a stain's on the edge of the tide; or, trying his art on Laments, he can stand by the cairn of kings, ken the colour of Fingal's hair, and see the moon-glint on the hook of the Druids.'
NEIL MUNRO (1864 - 1930)
Poet, writer and journalist from Inveraray
However, you can spend a few years and enjoy a few tunes and this is why most people want to start to learn. I have had customers of 60+ that start to play and many go on to enjoy learning a new skill and facing the challenge. Although tough in some ways to start at this age, these learners usually have the time to devote to the necessary practice. At the other end of the scale, we have John D Burgess and Gordon Walker starting at some 4 years of age and they both turned out to be not too shabby!! I would suggest 10 to 12 years of age is the ideal for most people. 8 to 9 is ok but due to size of hands and concentration levels required, it can be challenging for both student and teacher. This is where the junior chanter comes in and can assist young learners. I currently have a more mature student who is in his 40s, and is struggling with remembering tunes - of course that's not a problem normally for younger students. If any reader would like to suggest some techniques or methodologies to help in memorising tunes, then I'm sure it would be most interesting for all of us. The nice thing about piping is that it's a life-long learning curve and you never will know it all. We might eventually forget more than we learn particularly if you a penchant for the odd drop or two of uisce beatha. The brain becomes saturated with too many tunes or too many fine malts and it is well known that practice makes perfect on both counts! However the moral of this story is you can take up piping at any age - you're never too old or too young.
As part of our Merit series, we would like to invite nominations from our readers as to who within their piping/pipe band community deserves a special mention in our newsletter and who will go on to being considered as the candidate to receive the Begg Bagpipes 2014 Merit Award. The person can be a player or an administrator/back room supporter but should be someone who has gone way beyond the call of normal duty to advance the cause of piping and/or pipe bands within their local community. In addition to a handsome trophy, the winner will receive a voucher for £250 to spend with Begg Bagpipes, either online or in our shop. Please email your nominations with a short write up and photograph if possible to firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two versions of X-TREME Drone Reeds - Standard and Premium - both precision engineered to exacting standards making them extremely air efficient. The design proﬁles a carbon ﬁbre tongue which will give you a tailored, stable and rich tone. The Premium version comes with the added benefit of being moisture resistant, and this is due to the hydrophobic nature of the material from which they are manufactured. X-TREME drone reeds have been engineered to essentially be ‘plug-and-play’ and have been tested extensively in a wide variety of bagpipes. Varying bore sizes between different makes of bagpipes and individual chanter reed strengths mean you may need to make slight adjustments to achieve the best results.
YouReport - Which is the hardest instrument to learn?
It is the general perception that the violin, oboe and french horn are the hardest instruments to learn but an interesting piece of research by physiologist Geoffrey Walsh of Edinburgh University casts a different light on the subject. As one of the world's leading experts on the human hand and as an accomplished flautist himself, he undertook a five year project to answer this question. He tested some 2000 musicians including some of the world's best soloists and orchestral, band and group members. Using specially devised tests and aids, he was able to measure the dexterity of the fingers of each of his subjects. Dr Walsh concluded that overall, woodwind instrumentalists came in third behind string and keyboard players but for superior finger dexterity, players of the Great Highland Bagpipe were the clear winners. It was of particular interest to him, that in a piobaireachd, the player could execute up to 8 grace notes between the main notes in less than a second and this dexterity therefore puts pipers amongst the most skilled of all musicians. Some would conclude that in fact, the Great Highland Bagpipe is the most difficult of all instruments to learn and master. I play a number of instruments including the violin and pipes and I would say that no instrument is easy to master. Some are less difficult than others in the early stages but they all require a great deal of time, application and innate ability if you are to achieve any sort of decent standard. What do you think?
If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you would like to comment on any articles or issues, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Email to email@example.com