The 3 P’s: Practice, Practice, and Practice

So, the recordings in this post are more pedagogical than for entertainment. Given that there are only 2 recordings totaling about 25 minutes of music, you might be surprised to find that I only play one tune, and no, it’s not a Piobaireachd. Bob Worrall will be judging a solo competition down in Austin in October and I would love to make it. There are only 3 competitions: Piobaireachd, MSR, and 6/8; no HJ :o( <- sad face. So, I don’t play Piobaireachd and let’s just say my 6/8 march needs a revamp. It has always been my last tune type to work on. My last competition down in San Antonio with Albert McMullin judging drove that home. I didn’t even need to see it written on the score sheet. If you listen to this blog regularly, you already know what is coming. I play them too round and while I tried to add some swing during the competition, it was inconsistently applied throughout the entire tune. I’ve also always played The Sweet Maid of Mull, which is a lovely tune I got hooked on from Hugh MacCallum’s World’s Greatest Pipers album. Of course, the words of Sandy MacPhee to me last year at the Salado competition (he wasn’t judging) have been at the back of my mind since: “that’s an easy tune.” Yup, no doubt. It’s easy. If there ever was a 6/8 march for a grade 4 band, this is it. I digress, so with a looming competition with only MSR and 6/8 events for me to be competing in I figured I needed a new 6/8 march. Donald Cameron’s Pipes it is! I first heard, and have only heard this tune, on the Controversy of Pipers album played by Duncan MacGillivray. It can be found in Duncan Johnstone’s book, volume 1.

Moving on, I have talked with someone who has trouble getting through tunes and I tried to offer some advice. What I hope to show in the recordings below is the typical process I go through when learning a tune. You have to play through the tune quite a bit. Find all the spots where your knowledge of what is coming next is weak, make a mistake, accidentally of course, fix it, keep going, and hopefully the next time you’ll make a new mistake but not the old one. You do this until you’ve made just about every mistake you could have and then you’re good to go, as long as you fixed them too. This idea of how to practice has further been on my mind because of Jim McGillivray’s blog on which in 3 consecutive posts he has addressed the issue of practicing. Here is a link to the 1st post. One of those pieces of advice is to make sure you play the tune A LOT. Recently, Bob on the Dunsire Forum posted a link to another website with a violinist talking about how to go about practicing, which contains some useful information. One key thing I think to do is record yourself playing, if for nothing else to ensure the phrasing and execution of the music is really as you hear it while playing. This blog serves me in that purpose, I upload tunes here and listen to them while I work, making mental notes of what I need to work on. The recordings below represent the first day of playing my new 6/8 along with the very next day, all without sheet music. The first recording was done with the tune fresh off the page and in my brain, so if you’re just looking for entertainment, skip to the end! :o)

Day 1 – Gellaitry’s

Day 2 – Henderson’s

One thought on “The 3 P’s: Practice, Practice, and Practice

  1. Hi Patrick,
    I have stayed away from comp most of my time as I always feel that I need more work even after I feel that the tune is down. It’s just a confedence issue and more like a rejection thing.
    So at my age of 60 the solo / band comp thing is a vision of the past likely laid to rest forever more. A few of my friends , my age and above do get together in the park, the church and our yards up here in the mountains of NY and zip along a number of the standard traditional tunes. We like to keep it safe to some extent but we do zero in on a few new tunes every other session.
    We all come to the point the we feel that we ned to try even harder to learn the newer tunes as we know we must play the new tunes now so many more times than we would years ago. We tear out the melody first so we get a quick ear for what the tune should soung like and we build on that by phrasing. We will then go into bar by bar correcting each mistake and when that is finished we jump off the chanter and apply it to the pipes.
    When we start out on the new tune on the pipes we work it into a set or make up a few new tunes into a set and follow almost like above but again we play the tune over and over and stop correct and restart.
    Now just to drive ourselves a bit mad I purcased “The Lost Collection” some of the tunes are like our older tunes but arranged with a lit of zip added. It’s a blast, a lot of work but sure as heck fun.
    So practice practice pracitce is what is needed. You have to dedicate the time at any stage, at any age and at anytime needed to learn. “Perfect Practice makes Perfect” as my old PM use to say,
    All the best,

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