Studio Policy

STUDIO POLICY

The Scottish bagpipe is a challenging instrument which can be a lot of fun to play. I will start by saying, however, that it takes a lot of time to develop the group of very specific skills needed to perform music well. A great deal of patience and directed practice in several disciplines is required - from rhythm and sight-reading to coordination of blowing, squeezing and air pressure to technical and memorization skills. It can take six months to a year before one is even playing a bagpipe, and it will take a lifetime to master it. Each person learns in a different way at a different rate. The key is to work regularly, to enjoy the process, and not to be concerned with how much time it takes.

The goal I have is to make learning how to play the Great Highland bagpipe an enjoyable experience and to help the student progress at the best possible rate. I will do my best to understand each individual's learning style and work from that perspective. I will use various materials and resources to approach piping from several angles, including understanding how the instrument works, understanding music as a whole, as well as reading music and proper technique.

As my teaching curriculum I will be using the Bagpipe Solutions by John Cairns tutor books. I have these books available for purchase at a discounted price, and though there are several books to purchase, the material in them, much of which the student can go through repeatedly on his or her own, will be useful in cutting down on time needed in lessons, thus saving on lesson costs and allowing the books to pay for themselves in a short time. If a student is unwilling or unable to purchase this series of tutors, I will do my best to teach from this curriculum, while supplementing with other materials. I am not able to copy or distribute materials from these books, so it is in the best interest of the student to purchase them.

SCHEDULING LESSONS:

If it is possible, please schedule lessons for a month in advance around the end of the previous month, before, but no later than the first week of the month in which the lessons are to take place. If your schedule requires you to schedule on a week-by-week basis, I am happy to work with you, but there is no guarantee of a regular lesson time each week.

Payment is due at the first lesson in the month. If payment at that time is not possible for financial reasons, we can certainly work out payment for a later date in the month.

If you have to cancel a lesson for a non-emergency or scheduling oversight or if you miss a lesson, the fee for the lesson will not be credited back, even if the lesson has not been paid for yet. If the reason for missing the lesson is an extenuating circumstance such as a medical emergency or death in the family, I will work with you to reschedule the lesson for sometime before the next lesson, at my convenience. If this cannot be accomplished the lesson will not be credited back. If I have to miss a lesson for an emergency, I will make up the lesson as soon as possible, or if this cannot be done before the next lesson then the missed lesson will be credited to the student for the next month.

Weekly lessons are the ideal for the greatest amount of progress, however, if finances or schedules don't allow this, I recommend that a student take no less than two lessons a month. If taken less frequently than this, lessons will do little more than to maintain a level of playing with only very gradual, if any, improvement. If, however infrequent visits are all that is possible, adequate practice and dedication can make the difference, and I will do my best to make greatest use of the lesson times you are able to attend.

I am also aware of the possibility of unforseen conflicts, summer/holiday vacation times and other scheduling difficulties which might cause a break in the regularity of lessons. Despite my own recommendations, I am willing to take people on their own schedules.

ATTENDING LESSONS:

Please arrive as close to lesson start time as possible. If you are early and there is no one ahead of you, I will gladly get started a few minutes early, but if I am with another student, please be patient and wait outside until I can let you in. Also if there is a lesson after yours I cannot run over to make up lost time if you are late.

Please arrive with all assignments for the time between lessons completed and all materials required for the lesson. have your practice chanter, goose or bagpipe in working order. If there is a problem you need help with, then have the instrument ready to be looked at as soon as the lesson starts so we can solve the problem quickly and move on to the lesson material.

It is recommneded that you take notes - either on your music or in a notebook, and you are always welcome to record the lesson or portions of the lesson to use later in practice.

CHILDREN:

If children who do not have their own transportation are taking lessons, parents are required to remain on the premises with them at all times. There will be a place in the studio area where parents can sit and observe, or they may wait in another room. I encourage parents to sit in on at least some lessons. Observation by a parent can benefit the student by giving the parent an understanding of the complex learning process that is taking place and why a certain amount of practice time is needed. This can also equip parents to encourage and guide their children between lessons.

LESSON COSTS:

The current fee for bagpipe lessons is $35/hour. This amount is subject to change or increase based on inflation or any increased costs I may incur from changes in my overhead. Any price changes will be within reason and students will be notifed of them well in advance.

UPDATES TO THIS POLICY:

I may change, add to, or update this policy at any time. As soon as any updates are made, I will immediately notify all students of the changes.

WHAT A STUDENT WILL NEED:

  • Bagpipe Solutions by John Cairns bagpipe instructional books. This is a series of method books from which I will teach. Books 1-6 are the text for beginning through actually playing the bagpipe. It is recommended that the student buy the first 2 to 4 books to start. They are $30 each if purchased through me at a discounted rate. For more information see http://www.bagpipesolutions.com
  • Practice Chanter. This is the basic instrument used to develop the fingering techniques and pressure needed to start on the bagpipe. Practice chanters come in a variety of makes and models and start at around $80 for a quality plastic model. Students are required to order a practice chanter on their own, and I am happy to recommend a couple of reputable dealers for this purchase. See the links below.
  • Metronome. I use a metronome to keep time from the very first lesson. The best one I have found for the money is the Korg MA-30. It is small portable electronic model. This can also be purchased from the same dealers which sell bagpipes and practice chanters or at a local music store.
  • Music stand. This is just about the best way to get the music where you can see it. I recommend a music stand that can telescope up to a good height so that the student can use it for certain exercises which require standing and marching in place to the metronome. Also when he or she starts to play music on the bagpipes (which requires the student to stand up) the music stand will come in handy
  • Folder or notebook. It's also good to have a place to write down notes or keep track of any material I might hand out as assignments.

As lessons progress there will be other items which will need to be purchased, such as maintenance items for the practice chanter, possibly a new reed or two and then eventually the bagpipe itself.

The practice chanter which I use and think is a good deal is the Dunbar Millennium 2000 long poly practice chanter. It is a durable plastic chanter which has a nice tone. It can be found at a number of bagpipe dealers. A couple which have a good price and dependable service are

If you use any other dealers or want a different model of practice chanter than the one I have suggested, feel free to ask me if what you are looking at will be a good purchase.

For much more information on the Great Highland Bagpipe and how I teach, please contact me or explore my website. Or if you have any questions about any of the above information please call or email me.

performing with USM's Pride of Mississippi Marching Band in Edinburgh
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