By Scott Williams

Bagpipe Teacher: The Easy Way to Learn - DVD

Hats off to Invermark At Home for developing an absolutely wonderful instructional DVD for the beginning student of the Great Highland Bagpipe! Ideally, a student of piping should be in the hands of a competent instructor but this is not always possible. In fact, good instructors are fairly hard to come by. This DVD goes a long way towards giving a good start to those who cannot have regular weekly lessons with an instructor.

The program is hosted by Donald Lindsay, Director of the Invermark College of Piping with musical demonstrations by Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies or Frances Adams. The method of instruction presented is designed to bring students on quickly. Simply pop the DVD into your computer and you are presented with a main Menu that allows you to select Practice Chanter Lessons or the documentary program, "American Piper", which is very well done and will likely be viewed many times by the student piper. The main program, however, is the instructional program, so that is where you should begin.

Click on Practice Chanter Lessons and you arrive at another menu that lists an introduction, some maintenance advice, and a series of ten lessons followed by a summary, and some lesson notes that unfortunately are not formatted to be printed out. It is a good idea to view these sections in the order in which they are presented. In fact, if you start at the Introduction, you will be led through the program in the proper sequence. The menu, however, allows you to stop and start and to return to specific lessons from time to time until you are able to perfect the skills taught.

You need to use both hands to play the practice chanter. By the end of the first of the programís ten lessons, the student should be able to use the fingers of the top hand to play the simple folk tune, "Merrily We Roll Along". Additional notes and new skills are added sequentially and so are the tunes to be played using the new notes and skills as they are learned. By the end of the ten lessons, the student has been put through the complete scale with a number of gracenotes and some of the more technical movements as well as another folk song, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", a march called "The Rakes of Mallow", two versions of "Amazing Grace", a jig called "Rocking The Baby", and two more marches, "The Blue Bells of Scotland" and "Mairiís Wedding".

By the end of the program, it is not likely that the student will be ready to switch from the practice chanter to the full Highland bagpipes, but he will be well on his way. It takes a lot of time to learn to play the bagpipes. Indeed, many people say that it is one of them most difficult instruments to master. Each lesson may take some time to complete, as frequent repetition is needed to get the fingers moving correctly on the practice chanter. That is one of the beauties of this program, however. The student can stop and start whenever he wants to, and can repeat directions as often as necessary to learn the skills. In a way, it is like having an instructor with you whenever you want him!