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 STRIKING-IN  PROPERLY

by Chris Hamilton

This article is reproduced with the permission of Chris Hamilton. Chris lives in Maryland, USA, and plays with the City of Washington Pipe Band. He operates a piping supply store, ToneCzar Inc.

The article has appeared on the newsgroup, rec.music.makers.bagpipe and in Bob Dunsire's Bagpipe Forums

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Make sure your strike-in technique is good. Do other pipers have the same problem when playing your pipe? Do you have the same problem when playing other bagpipes?

The proper strike-in is a learned skill that only experimentation and practice can ensure. The key is Strike, Blow, and Maintain.

A major pet peeve of mine is the unprofessional strike-in !!!!

Assuming that your reeds are properly adjusted in the first place (bridles not too low or too tight)  . . . .

Fill the bag as much as possible, until just about when the drone gives a little toot. If you have plugs, valves,  enhancers or whathaveyous, this is an easy step.

Strike / spank the bag firmly with your open palm, using your (left) forearm as an anvil to the palm’s hammer. You’ll need to experiment to find the “sweet spot” on your bagpipe where the reed. The anvil concept is very important. If you let the left arm move with the spanking motion, you will get a howl.

Blow immediately thereafter (i.e., a nanosecond later) to maintain the pressure level just created by that strike.

If you reverse the order of the above, it will howl every time.

Keep the pressure level the same as you push the bag up under your arm, via a combination of blowing and arm pressure. Do NOT let the pressure drop, or the howls will begin. Do NOT increase the pressure, or the chanter may sound early.

Once you have the bag solidly under your arm and both hands in place on the chanter, sound a note (preferably “E”).

If at any point during this process you get a howling tenor, a roaring bass, an early chanter, or a false note, STOP. Try it again. Continue until you master this. It's a learned skill and can be mastered by anyone with enough work.

Pipers who strike in their bagpipe in a howling uncoordinated mess of random notes and squeals will always project a very, very unpolished image to the general public, let alone to the piping community. Even someone who knows nothing about piping can figure out that it’s not supposed to sound that way.

When a professional musician on other instruments commences to play, it’s in an orderly and controlled fashion. Why should we as pipers tolerate anything less?

Granted, in a solo contest this is not part of the score, but a poor strike-in certainly does not project an aura of competence or confidence to the listener.

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Bagpipe Reed Selection, Manipulation, and Tuning

You can read or download Chris’ presentation on these topics at the 1999 Delco Workshop. Covers cane and synthetic drone reeds, chanter reeds, band and solo tuning techniques. Read it online, or download it from Chris’ web-site in PDF or zipped HTML format.

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Last Update: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
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