What You Need to be a Better Bagpiper
Have you ever asked yourself this? It’s a fair question and one that might make you uncomfortable to think about. We tend to be stuck in the present when it comes to piping. Cramming on tunes, hammering your repertoire, all keep us focussed on what we might be doing at any giving moment. But where is it all taking you? How much better do you want to be? Progress, potential success, and the unknown future itself can be scary things. A lot of us just “go through the motions” in quite a bit in our lives and playing bagpipes can sometimes be no different. You might be just starting out and only have a few tunes under your belt or you might be far along as a player with some piping “chops” to show for it. But the answer to this question is the key to moving forward as a musician and as a bagpiper. The important thing though is that you answer the question honestly and not be afraid of what that answer might be.
While you dwell on your answer to this question, consider the distinction between what you want and what you need. You may want great things, but you will only get them if your focus is on what you need to achieve those things. It’s easy to be flip with the answer to that initial question and lazily and unconsciously steer yourself away from the implications of the real answer. Because any way you slice it, the answer to that main question is going to mean work. Any goal you might set for your bagpiping is going to mean setting up a plan for the action to achieve it. For example, your initial answer might be, “I just want to play a few tunes in holiday parades with my band.” or “I want to win 2/4 march competitions.” While all of these are fine and can be legitimate goals by themselves, they don’t get to the heart of the matter nor do they zero in on the specific things you really need to progress, develop, and achieve.
So how do figure out what you really need once you answer that main question? Your desires might be lofty and grandiose, but it is only by asking yourself further, more pointed, questions—questions that get to the heart of matters and focus on you as a person—that you will gain the insight you need to even come close to them. Here is an exercise to help you get specific and put yourself on the right path.
Mark off three columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, write each question below. In the second column, write down the answer to each. Think about the specific things or tactics you will need that match up with getting you more of, or closer to your specific answers from column two and write those in column three.
- Question 1: What do you think you are best at in your bagpiping right now?
- Question 2: What do you love about playing bagpipes?
- Question 3: What part of playing bagpipes now that you wish you could change or do less of?
- Question 4: Fill in the blank: You know it was a good day piping when ________.
- Question 5: Think of a time you were happy with your piping.
How did you fare? When you finish this exercise, you should have short list of specific and actionable things, each different yet tailored to you personally. It will be those things that will get you what you need from your bagpiping. You can then use them to forge meaningful goals. Measuring the effectiveness of what you’ve come up with is as easy as answering the question, “Am I closer to having more or less of [insert answer to Question X from column two]?”