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Canberra Celtic Pipe Band Bagpipe learners guide

A knowledge of some Music theory is important for ALL pipers and drummers as you need to read music - there are many theory books at good music shops for AMEB examinations Try free webpages at www.musictheory.netWe expect everyone to be able to clap rhythms, tap feet and march as we are a marching band.Pipers needs to sing, hum or scat tunes!

Learning the Bagpipes with the Canberra Celtic Pipe Band

The Canberra Celtic Pipe Band would like to extend you a warm welcome.

The Canberra Celtic Pipe Band strives to provide the Canberra region with a responsive, community based pipe band with a fresh, innovative repertoire and talented associate performers.

We provide bagpipe, drumming and Celtic dancing tuition to young people and adults at no cost apart from an annual band fee and venue hire fee. Our only expectation is that you are keen to perform with the band in the future. We promote Celtic culture within the Canberra region. Our aim is to foster an interest in achieving a high standard of individual and group performance. You will not have the same tutor at every practice but all tutors will follow the same programme. If you have any problems or concerns please feel free to talk to your tutor or the Pipe Major.

As a learner you can expect to make a steady progression that will lead to you acquiring the skills to play and compete with our band - like all musical endeavours, this will not occur without a commitment to regular practice. Once you have acheived a basic level, we then encourage you to participate in workshops, seminars, attempt your first solo and enter occasional competitions. The Canberra Piping Club has formal lessons on a Saturday. There are some excellent Tutor books for self learning and Internet methods for on-line individual lessons - see our links page


You will need to practice at least 20-30 minutes a day, 5 days a week to keep up with the training program – this could be 10-15 minutes in the morning and 10-15 minutes in afternoon - consider while the jug boils - snatches of 5 minutes a few times a day also works.

You will need a tutor book (see below) and you will work through it systematically, learning the standard embellishments and tunes that the band plays as you progress.

You can expect to commence playing with the band when you are able to play three band sets to the satisfaction of the Pipe Major. Depending on age, aptitude and regular meaningful practice you can expect to be playing the bagpipes within 6 months to a year. For younger or small children this may take longer as a full size set of bagpipes can be quite a handful. Smaller sets of pipes are not recommended. However, a practice "goose" can be useful in transition phase or even for accomplished players.

Regular attendance and practice by learners is expected. Our tutors give freely of their time so, should you not be able to attend a lesson, it would be appreciated if prior notification can be given.

Required Equipment


All pipers require a practice chanter. Like all musical instruments these come in a variety of qualities that is reflected in their pricing. The Canberra Celtic Pipe band recommends a full size poly chanter. These are a good all-round chanter and can be purchased for roughly $90. A wooden chanter is another option – these range in price from $50 to $500, and one gets what one pays for – so beware- but a "name " brand Moose, Hardie, Naill, McCallum.
Bagpipes generally come with a chanter however the band generally requires a specified chanter to ensure a consistent tone when the band performs - this can be supplied from band equipment when you are performing with the Band.
Practice chanters are invaluable for every piper. When just starting out, they are used to learn proper fingering and basic tunes. After moving on to pipes, they are used to learn new tunes as well as for practicing when a full set of pipes is impractical. When selecting a practice chanter, there are many things to consider: Size, Material, Make, and Cost.

Size- This will depend on the age of the student. Children with small hands will not be able to reach the required finger spacing on a full sized practice chanter, but can still learn basic fingering on a shorter chanter with spacing closer together. A regular length practice chanter is most commonly used for youth pipers or pipers with smaller hands. Hole spacing is slightly different than that of a pipe chanter. The long practice chanter has the same finger spacing as a pipe chanter, so the transition between the two is much easier. This is recommended for most adults.

Material- Wooden practice chanters offer a high quality sound, but may be prone to cracking due to moisture. Practice chanters with a plastic mouthpiece and wooden chanter body will reduce this issue. Plastic practice chanters are very durable and offer good tone. You do not have to worry about cracking.

Make- Each manufacturer is different. Some offer counter-sunk holes to make it easier to feel where the holes are. They also feel larger which is similar to the bagpipe chanter. Some chanters are quieter than others, and some offer water traps.

Cost- This is dependant on the material of the practice chanter as well as any ornamentation. Imitation Ivory and Nickle engraved soles and ferrules will add to your cost. Plastic practice chanters start around $70 and go up to around $150 depending on ornamentation. A wood/plastic combination is around $225. For an all wood practice chanter, you are looking at over $300.

Tutor books / Cd's DVD's

As a beginning student the Canberra Celtic Pipe Band will ask you will be provided with a Tutor book we have developed.

Barry Gray Sydney School of Piping has launched 2009 Millenium CD/dvd with Tutor bookwww.pipersofdistinction.comwww.sydneyschoolofpipinganddrumming.com.auThis could be complemented by personal lessons with Barry in Sydney or visits to Canberra.

A Canadian source -we would also recommend consider purchasing the John Cairns Books - series so far 7 in total

Older tutors include the Piping College Tutor Part 1 (green book). This book also comes with a CD ROM that will augment your tutoring. The green book costs about $35 if purchased through the piping college. http://www.college-of-piping.co.uk.
Everyone should also consider when advanced various Standard Music books The Scots Guards Volumes 1 and 2 are classics and the College Piobaireachd Tutor Book and CD

For more advanced beginners or ALL playersJim MacGillivray's "Rhythmic Fingerwork" book is excellent


Musical instruments are not cheap. You should consider the overall cost of piping before you make a decision to learn.
Good amateur/semi-professional pipes will cost you at least $1500 and probably more likely $2000. Secondhand pipes can sometimes be purchased – however you may wish to have an experienced piper look them over. Bagpipes that are under the $1000 mark new, are probably not of sufficient quality to be played in the band and should be approached with care. Wooden insrtuments do warp and crack. Old is not always better in bagpipes!
When you feel the need to purchase pipes, discuss this with the Pipe Major and be prepared to spend a bit of serious dosh! Beware of Internet purchases - fakes and poor quality instruments abound. New purchases of a name brand are often the wisest long term choice.

Bag, reeds and other stuff

The Canberra Celtic Pipe band prefers its players to use a synthetic Ross bag with the Ross kittylitter
system. This ensures your reeds stay dry and tuning issues are reduced. The band has also standardised on Omega drone reeds.
Chanter reeds are provided for competing pipers.
Below is a list of bits-and-bobs that you will probably need and their approximate prices.
Ross bag and kitty litter system $300
Omega drone reeds $250
Band pipe chanter $220
Korg Chromatic Tuner $50
Metronome $50+ - a must for all pipers to practice with
Software tuner/metronome www.pitchpipetuner.com
Maintenance kits $50-100


Like all other instruments, bagpipes require constant maintenance so you will need to spend a bit of time and money on maintenance. As part of the tutoring, we will teach you how to maintain our pipes.


Members of the Canberra Celtic Pipe band are supplied with most of their uniforms depending on availability when ready to perform with the band. Our full uniform can cost about $1000 and long term members often purchase some items -discuss with Quartermaster or Pipe Major

On-line Lessons

Broadband and IT is allowing major changes in the way lessons can be given - it is now possible to get on-line lessons with world experts e.g. National College of Piping www.thepipingcentre.co.uk and Jori Chisholm email jori@bagpipelessons.com or bagpipelessons.com

Canberra Piper's Society commenced in 2006 and The aim of the Society is to bring pipers and piping enthusiasts together, away from the competition platform, and enjoy playing and listening to piping in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. No matter what your level of piping, EVERYONE IS WELCOME and ENCOURAGED TO PLAY - Consider the Canberra Workshop annual in September at Burns Club - international Piping and Drumming Tutors and Recital open to Public on Saturday night

Updated 23/1/2011

Latest News

contact us
email to Alex canberraceltic@gmail.com

The Band is using an App as link for routine communications rather than this website - go to your APP store - search for stack team app and install - then search for CCPBand - apply to join - select which teams you want to join - can also access TEAMAPP via website; there is a closed Band Facebook page where also posted activities and more general information - ask for invite

What is on soon......
Band Practice is usually Wednesday nights from 5.30pm for learners / dancers; Band 6.30 pm;Church of Christ, Weston - practices match ACT school term dates - website not updated PLEASE CONTACT TO CONFIRM if you would like to observe or have an interest in learning

Our Band Facebook Page
There is also a unlisted private Band Facebook page - please ask for invite to access

The Piobaireachd Society
Become a member to access downloads

Try Our Haggis Recipe
Exact proportions up to the cook - if in doubt add more Drambuie to recipe or your glass

Band practice is 98.7dB; recommended to reduce exposure to below 85dB - wear your hearing protectors!

Irish anthem played by the Army Band of Amhrán na bhFiann

Drummers Rudiments
Please use Youtube link https://youtu.be/e6JtBbgYMwY or access from Bands Facebook page or dropbox - the exercises are in pdf link - please ask if unable to access

Contact Us: email canberraceltic@gmail.com

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