Gtting Started

More Pipes

The Uilleann pipes, are likely the most daunting instrument to get involved with, because you literally wear them while playing, and finding a usable one is a cumbersome and time consuming process. (please note that on our links page we have simplified finding a reputable maker by including only makers who’s work we have personally experienced, enjoyed playing, and would recommend to our friends and family to simplify your search.) You needn’t feel overwhelmed when getting started. Take a deep breath and relax. you don't have to run right out and pick up a multi thousand dollar instrument. you can start your journey to Uilleann piping bliss buy purchasing what I like to refer to as the gateway instrument to Irish music, the penny whistle. Penny whistles are inexpensive and play in the same scale as a set of Uilleann pipes. The fingering is a little different, but it requires similar dexterity and uses the same collection of notes and tunes that you would enjoy playing on an uilleann pipe, so it makes for a great introduction to Irish music. a decent penny whistle can be had for under $20, and if you're feeling frisky you can pay in the hundreds of dollars for a fancy one, but for the club I generally recommend a Susato whistle. They are clear, in tune, and easily procured from a local Irish music shop or online. Don't spend a lot of time worrying about having the perfect first whistle though, because you'll likely buy many more throughout your life, and I'd love to show you some of the whistles we have on hand when you come into your first pipers club meeting.


As for actually purchasing a set of pipes, I highly recommend simply starting out with a "starter" set of pipes by a reputable maker. I had the privilege of purchasing my starter set from Benedict Kohler, and this experience put me on a grand path to Uilleann piping enjoyment. Quinn and Kohler's plan, at the time, was to have you buy a starter set, and then when you bought a full set from them you could return your starter set and get the full value of that instrument towards the new full set. Well, that would have worked, however I was able to sell my set for what I bought it for or a little more to a friend of mine up in Michigan, and frankly if I had it to do over again I would have simply kept it. I have told him flat out that if he ever decides to sell it, please let me be the first to turn it down. My current recommendation is to start off with a starter set like a Penny Chanter set from David Daye and then spend some time listening to other pipers and getting suggestions from them on who you should consider buying a full set from. you'll be playing that practice set for at least a year or two before you come anywhere near the level of proficiency where you'll be needing to upgrade, and if you do need an upgrade, because you're learning at an unbelievably amazing pace, you'll be happy to have the chance to pick out a new chanter and maker whose skills match your style and ability.


Learn to play by listening

The most difficult aspect of truly learning Irish music is getting your head around the idea of learning to "play by ear" playing by ear is the way Irish music has been taught for generations. all of the best players have learned this way. Irish music is a living tradition, and is really about improvisation around a melodic theme as opposed to playing strictly what's written. The great tune collector Chief Francis O'Neill did Irish music a great service by taking the time to note down hundreds of tunes that are played to this day, and It's much appreciated, however, one of the biggest setbacks in any budding Irish musicians learning is to take that written note as the definitive treatise on how a tune should be played, because it's not. It's a basic melodic theme or foundation to work from when really playing and expressing the full capability of the instrument and it's player. So in conclusion start to learn to play the uilleann pipes by getting yourself some Irish music Cd's and listening to them over and over till you have the tunes "memorized" and then start figuring out how to play them on a penny whistle. this takes time and patience, but will pay off in the future. Another starting point is to look in the videos section of this website and play along with the few whistle and pipe tunes I've placed there. They are played slowly and simply to allow you to play along with either your whistle or starter set, and as you come to the pipers club be sure to bring along your MP3 recorder and we can play your own instrument into it so you can hear exactly how your instrument should sound while you're practicing.

The uilleann pipes are distinguished by their tone and range of notes. The chanter has a range of two octaves in a tempered scale which include sharps and flats. The chanter is accompanied by a set of drones, however, on the Uilleann pipes the drones can be turned on and off with a switch.

A third aspect of the Uilleann pipes that diffierentiates them from other pipes are the regulators. The regulators are equipped with keys which can be opened by the piper's wrist enabling the piper to play simple chords, giving a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment as needed.


Resource Links

Site Link
David Daye Pipes www.daye1.com
Seth Gallagher Uilleann www.uilleann.com
chiff and fipple www.chiffandfipple.com
Patrick D'Arcy's Uilleann Obsession www.uilleannobsession.com
Pipers www.pipers.ie
Piper's Source source.pipers.ie/
Eric Hahns Youtube Channel piperhahn
Nick Whitmer www.whitmerpipes.com
Ronan Olivier www.ronan-olivier.net/