Learn to Play Bagpipes

Philosoraptor Bagpipe Meme

Setting Goals in Bagpiping

The most successful bagpipers are driven by goals. Right now I have several goals in piping. I have an intermediate term goal (get into Grade 1 solo bagpiping by next year); a longer term goal (get admitted into a high calibre pipe band); I even have a dream.

What are your goals?

If you’re a beginner, it might be to play the bagpipes one day. Maybe you wish to march up 5th Ave. on St. Patrick’s Day (which is a lot of fun), or perhaps you want to play Amazing Grace on bagpipes.

If you don’t think you have goals, you probably do but don’t realize it. Regardless, focus on your goals or what might be your goals! Write them down. After all, you’re here for a reason.

Once you do that, break it down. How do you accomplish these goals? Come up with a plan. One powerful way to do this is to work with an instructor and make sure that they understand what it is you are trying to achieve. The chances are they’ve already accomplished the same goal. But more importantly, they’ve already been through the process. And a competent teacher is able to lead you through the process because they’ve gone through the experience and overcame the obstacles. Therefore make sure you share your goals with your bagpipe instructor and make sure they are on board and aware of your goals so they can help you come up with a plan.

If your goal is to make it into a band, then you may want to improve playing on the bagpipes as part of your plan. Perhaps you also get nervous when performing in public or with other players who may be way better than you, a.k.a. obstacles. Therefore you may come up with a plan to commit to playing the bagpipe 30 minutes a few times a week. By coming up with a plan you seek to overcome the obstacles that come between you and your goal.

Another goal/obstacle would be achieving your goals within a time frame. For example, your goal may be to play the bagpipes in a year.

The thing about time is that time is a double edged sword. Setting a deadline is good because it keeps you more grounded in accomplishing your goals and makes you more accountable (assuming you won’t make excuses), but on the other hand it can be discouraging if you don’t reach your goals in that time frame. The time frame itself then becomes an additional obstacle since there is a time factor involved. Additionally it also may make you take shortcuts to reaching your goals in time but time frames can also be counter-productive or hurt your playing in the long run. An example of this would be playing a tune too fast before you're ready to. In trying to play the tune too quickly, your playing suffers. The worst example of this would be that you get discouraged and quit because you don't hit your goal when you want to.

However I might add that those pitfalls you hit are like additional obstacles that you can overcome. These obstacles might even be more internal, because remaining persistent is psychological and tests your endurance.

This is what makes a strong player stronger, their ability to never give up. So even if you don’t reach your goal in time, you can eventually reach it if you don’t give up. And that takes courage.

The more obstacles there are, the more you overcome, the better a player you become. It’s quite Zen.

Every now and then it is good to revisit your goals. Have you come closer to achieving them? If you have come closer, that’s good. Perhaps you didn’t realize initially that there’s more work involved to reach them. That’s OK too. Perhaps you realize there are more obstacles to overcome, like fixing up certain things in your playing. But for each obstacle you overcome you get better, only to reveal other issues. The cycle therefore doesn’t end. And even the best players always find ways to improve themselves by finding and fixing issues. It’s a journey and a process. If it wasn’t, what would be the point? So don’t give up. And don’t lose track of your goals.

All in all, your bagpipe goals will make you not only a better player, but a better person too. As you get better you’ll hopefully have more fun. Remember not to take it too seriously though, because we all started this for enjoyment.

Lastly, if you have been piping for a while, perhaps your goals have long been achieved. A lot of players can lose the hunger that they once had. If that happens, you may want to seriously consider setting new goals. After all if a goal is surpassed you need new ones in order to keep growing. Growth isn’t constant. It tends to ebb and flow. Think about how you can give yourself a new beginning.

Happy piping.

Published: December 2nd, 2021

Have any questions? Shoot me an email.