Learning to Play the Pipes: Facts and Fallacies

Bagpipe instructor Michel d'Avenas playing for a group
  • You don't have to be Scottish
  • You don't need strong lungs
  • You can start at any age
  • You don't need to buy a set of pipes to get started
  • You can master basic techniques and easy tunes on just a practice chanter
  • Some of the top pipers in the world are female
  • Electronic bagpipes are available for quieter practice

Bagpipe Instruction

PNG image of a practice chanter, which is an inexpensive instrument used to learn the scottish bagpipes

Pipe Major Michel d'Avenas is a classically trained musician who has been teaching bagpiping for 46 years. He welcomes students of all ages and ability levels, successfully working with children as young as four and adults as mature as 86. He is available for individual or group lessons, seminars, workshops, school demonstrations and pipe band consultations and tuning.

To learn the bagpipes, pupils start by mastering a practice chanter, much like a pennywhistle or recorder, which has only 9 notes. It's easy to play, inexpensive, portable and quiet. Pupils who practice a half hour to an hour a day soon will be playing a wide variety of tunes.

While everyone can expect to progress at their own rate, several factors can influence the process: previous musical instruction, ability to sight read, and practice time. Some of Michel's beginning students have picked up the pipes in as little as a month's time. While younger students may advance more rapidly than mature pupils, age is not a factor in learning to play the pipes.

One student, after just eight lessons, was acknowledged as the most impressive student at the Monterey Bay School of Piping. He was awarded a scholarship to the National Piping Center in Glasgow, Scotland by its principal Roddy MacLeod.

Aaron Shaw of the Wicked Tinkers has also been one of Michel's students.

Michel teaches at his home studio on the Monterey Peninsula, California. For more information on beginner, intermediate or advanced instruction, please contact Michel or view the bagpipe teachers list.