The study of piping involves use of a "practice chanter" -- a quiet practice instrument having a soft plastic reed which is directly mouth-blown. This is used initially for learning the fingering and grace note patterns, and then throughout the piper's career for learning and memorizing new tunes and improving finger technique.
A practice chanter will typically run about $90-110 and tutor books range from $30-65. The student is expected to purchase his or her own practice chanter (see below) and tutor book. I utilize an excellent tutor book by Dr. Peter Heineman which I sell for the printing & binding cost of $15. Click on the image of the book shown on this page, which links to Peter Heineman's website. Here you can view the contents of the manual.
The Course of Study:
Prior to even picking up a set of pipes, a student will typically be on the practice chanter for 1 to 1-1/2 years (or in the case some young enthusiastic and musically inclined kids, maybe 6-8 months). During this time you'll learn the proper fingering for the 9 notes on Highland pipe scale, then go on to learn the various ornamentations characteristic of the pipes. In addition to the repetitive exercises necessary for becoming proficient on any instrument, I introduce simple tunes early on in order to stimulate interest and to stave off the boredom that sometimes comes with routine exercises. The tunes become more challenging as time progresses.
When the basics of learning are under control and the student finally picks up an actual set of pipes, the 3 drones will usually be corked off until the student gets used to handling the bag and builds up stamina for blowing a rather stiff cane reed in the chanter. The drones are then uncorked one-by-one over a period of a week or more while the new piper builds up to blowing what amounts to 4 wind instruments at once.
I give lessons at my home in Chelsea for $25 for a 40-45 min. lesson. Times are scheduled on an individual basis during week days. Alternatively, arrangements can possibly be made for me to give lessons in your home, instead.
A new set of pipes will range in price from just under $1000 for an all-plastic set to $1800+ for sets made of African blackwood and engraved nickel ferrules. Perusing the websites of various dealers will give you a good idea of what is available for the price. A good dealer will also have a knowledgable piper on staff to advise the best reeds, bag size, etc. and to set up your new pipes before shipping them to you.
Regarding Ebay, Amazon, and similar sites: Avoid anything that is extremely low priced. These products are usually of poor quality produced in Pakistan and are a waste of money unless you want something to hang on the wall as a decoration.
Sustained enthusiasm is the key to success and opens up a wealth of opportunities for piping in a band, competing both as a solo piper or with a band, piping for paid engagements, participating in workshops and piping camps, and more! -- Piping brings a whole new dimension to life!
Links to a few Suppliers of Bagpipes and other Highland Items:
Henderson Imports, Traverse City, MI,
800-931-5010 (Steve MacNeil)
J. Higgins, Lenexa, KS,
866-319-9167 (John Higgins)
The Piper's Hut, Pickerington, OH,
614-828-8210 (John Maffett)
Duncan's Highland Supply, Royal Oak, MI,
248-397-8315 (Drew Duncan)
Purchasing a practice chanter:
A practice chanter is not just for beginners but is an instrument that will be used throughout your bagpiping career for both learning new tunes and improving fingering speed and accuracy.
New chanters are continually being produced so any advice stated here can easily be outdated. Get recommendations from your teacher or speak with someone at the shop. The main things to keep in mind are,