What's the best way to practice/learn?

When beginning to learn a mechanical task like playing the chanter, many teachers will recommend two practice sessions each day of about 10 to 15 minutes each: one in the morning and one in the evening. This gives the brain a chance to work with fresh muscles and then to store the success of the session for several hours before repeating it. In this process, it is not uncommon to improve between each session as each movement is more firmly "remembered". Once the mechanics of individual movements are under control, a longer session will be more useful as it will allow greater focus on the execution of a specific tune.

It is most important to be sure that the movements under study are being performed correctly each time they are practiced to build up "engrammic" memory. This is the so-called muscular memory that is essential to playing the bagpipe. Because errors made in this kind of memory are hard to change, it is important that the student use all resources at their disposal to diagnose their own playing. For this reason, frequent use of a tape or CD recorder (especially one capable of playing back at 1/2 the recording speed) and reviews of the lessons and practice sessions will help develop the critical ear essential to rapid development of the self-motivated student. Books and supplemental audio or video aids may also be useful between lessons. However, the student should check with the instructor regarding the appropriate use of the materials.

Commonly, most students are on their own six days a week and receive a "course-correction" from the instructor on the seventh day. To avoid the difficulty involved in having to un-learn a bad habit, most instructors are happy to take a phone call between lessons to answer any questions.

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016