Teach Yourself Smallpipes by Lindsay Davidson

bringing quality 'piping instruction to you for free
Welcome to the Smallpipe Section of the E-School of 'Piping.

This is a partly experimental project aimed at allowing aspiring bagpipers with no local teacher to learn by themselves with the confidence that the method has been created by a reputable and highly experienced teacher, Lindsay Davidson. Likewise it is hoped that teachers may come to this resource for ideas, materials and to offer their own suggestions and exercises.

The vast majority of people come to smallpipes via Highland Bagpipes, but not everyone. For those who play highland bagpipes, there are few surprises regarding some of the technique - most of the highland technique has been incorporated in smallpipe playing. However, there are embellishments which have come from other musical traditions which have a place here. It should be considered that smallpipes are loudest on the top notes and quietest on the bottom - exactly the oppoiste of highland pipes, and this means that the language, with its different accents, has a minimally different structure. You can think of this as being like the difference between Danish and Swedish, or Polish and Slovakian - clearly much is the same or so similar you can understand, but for true eloquence, the differences should be recognised and used.

A small library of tunes for smallpipes can be found by clicking here.

Before starting smallpipes, one needs a practice chanter; that is a very quiet and inexpensive instrument for practising at home. There is no need to spend a lot of money on this unless you are absolutely sure you want to play.

Here is a page offering a list of chanter and smallpipe suppliers

Bagpipe music consists of many rudiments. Each rudiment is described in a separate 'chapter', with an mp3 of it being played - please click on the image. Traditionally one learns all the basic rudiments and then progresses onto simple tunes. A suggested order of study is included although this is some cases can be altered. Each chapter is very short  and it is hoped that time will be spent becoming fluent at playing. It is also hoped that approaching this task in small steps will make it easier and more enjoyable.

Smallpipes are what is called 'transposing instrument'. That means that the music for the piper always looks the same, and the notes names are always the same, but the sound that comes out is different with smallpipes in different keys. The most populsr key is A, then D (as they are often sold paired together), then B flat and C. Some makers will sell pipes in other keys,such as E flat or G, but these are less common. Ideally, you want four sets of smallpipes - A,B flat, C and D. Then you can do (...almost...) anything!

Please add the site to your favourites and keep checking back regularly for upgrades, improvements and new exercises.

If you want to see this section in another language and are able to help with translation, please contact the author. 

The idea behind this website is not only to encourage and enable people to learn to play, but to collect experience and feedback and improve not only the face to face teaching experience, but to create the world's best distant learning programme for smallpipes.
Please send your comments to Lindsay Davidson (email: lindsaydavidson(at)lindsaydavidson(dot)co(dot)uk) - they are critical to making this whole project worthwhile.

Please feel free to join the mailing list to find out about when changes are made to the teach yourself bagpipes pages - new tunes, new exercises, special events, and also to talk to other beginner pipers.

Happy 'Piping.

Lindsay Davidson

About this project
Lindsay Davidson
About the author