Saturday, June 1, 2013

Practice, practice!

I just got done with a practice session on the pipes.  I've was playing some more advanced stuff from when I was learning with my teacher.  I'm finding that my arms and hands are getting tired a lot.  Either my reed is too open (which may be the case due to the recent humidy and heat), or I'm so out of practice that I'm applying the "piper's death grip."

The "death grip" is the tendency for new pipers to not relax when playing.  Tense muscles tend to lead you to overexert, and eventually you start getting sore.

I find at this point, it's best to take a break, and come back in a little while after you've relaxed.  I normally come back a little while later, take a deep breath and start playing again.  This time I try to keep track of how tense my muscles are.  I try to relax as I play, and normally it helps a bit.

I used to be able to play for a long time before getting sore, so the more I practice, the more my body will relearn what to do.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Blog Party Post 1

Okay, here's my post for the blog party!  It's been an eventful week, and I tried to have a picture for every day.  Unfortunately I'm missing one, but I spent a lot of that day at work and driving.  Here we go:


Attended a 50th anniversary party for my aunt and uncle.  They renewed their wedding vows.  Their cake was awesome.  I've never seen a basket weave pattern in icing before.  I was impressed.


Stephanie Ann was at my house today.  She played with Coal all day while I was at work and tired him out.  He's sleepy now.


Went to Independence Seaport Museum today with Stephanie Ann.  Saw so much cool stuff, but the best part of the day was going sailing on the Amistad.  Here's a picture of the lovely Stephanie Ann with the Philadelphia skyline behind her.


 Did a little cleaning today.  I love my trusty little vacuum, even though I wish it had a brush for the carpet.


I stepped outside today and was surprised when my attention was drawn to a splash of red in the lawn.  Upon closer inspection I found some pretty little berries growing among the grass!


Tried to tie a fancy decorative knot today.  I completely failed, but I have plenty of rope to keep trying with...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What to do next?

So, I've been trying to decide what my first project should be.  I've been stretched pretty thin on things, and I've been trying to review my old tunes on the pipes, and learning a new cutting technique on the flute.

I've been using Grey Larson's book The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle to improve my flute playing.  Larson claims the cutting technique I've been using (the same I use for my pipes) is not as responsive on the flute, and that it's worth using his method when you're playing quite fast.  I'm not good enough to play reels up to speed, so it's hard for me to test that claim, but considering the praise this book has received, I'm inclined to believe him.

I'm finding it extremely hard to "unlearn" the way I've been playing for so long, but I'm sure I'll make it, since I was able to unlearn the way I held the flute.  What I'm worried about is that my fingers will get confused when switching back and forth between techniques on the instruments.  Time will tell!

Eventually I will post a recording or a video of one of the tunes I'm relearning on the pipes.  I think I'll start out with an easy one, just because I'm nervous about posting my playing.

The Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party

My wonderful other half, Stephanie Ann at World Turn'd Upside Down, is hosting a blog party.  I'm going to be taking part in support of her, and because it sounds fun.  Anybody else who wants to take part can find the party page here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My First Post!
My name is Andy.  I like history, languages and music.  Especially Irish music.  I play the uilleann pipes, Irish flute, tin whistle, and bones.  I've dabbled in fiddle and guitar as well, but I only know a few tunes on the fiddle, and I haven't played guitar in so long I can barely count it.  I rarely ever play for an audience, and when I do it's normally a few family or friends.

With life as busy as it is, it's hard to practice.  Without practice, everybody knows, your skills will never improve, and may even deteriorate.  Add to that the fact that the uilleann pipes are my favorite instrument to play, and are also so finicky that from time to time I have to set them down just because I'm so angry at them not working that I have to calm down, and you have a perfect situation for lack of practice!

For instance, my dad passed away on Easter.  Two weeks later, we held a memorial service for him.  I wanted to play a hymn at his service on my half set of pipes (for those unfamiliar with uilleann pipes, this consists of a "chanter" for playing the melody, as well as three "drones" which provide a constant harmonic accompaniment).  I practiced the tune every day up until the day of his service.  I had the melody down, but I wanted more than just a melody.  I wanted my drones to accompany it.  But in the year and a half of owning this set I never had the drones working properly.

I worked so hard.  I finally got them working two days before the service.  The morning of the service, they gave me a little trouble, but were finally working!  A little while later, I got up in front of the gathering of well over 100 people, announced the tune I was about to play, strapped my pipes on, and switched on the valve that started the drones playing.  The two out of three that actually started playing were out of tune!  At that point I calmly apologized, told the people the pipes weren't cooperating, and had the organist play.  I unstrapped my pipes, angrily slammed them down, and later packed them away for over a month.  I was so upset that I had no desire to play them.

Well, I recently answered their call again, and have started reviewing some of my old tunes.  My fingers are a bit rusty, but with some practice I'll be back in shape soon.

I am by no means a great musician, but the goal of this blog is to motivate me to practice and improve, and to interact with other people that love to play.  I will be documenting my learning of my different instruments, and hopefully once in a while provide a chance for anybody who reads to share their versions of tunes with me.

Thanks for reading!