The Conservatory of Performing Arts Pipe Band starts children ages 8 and up on the bagpipes, snare, tenor, or bass drum. Beginner bagpipers learn on a practice chanter, and they use the National Piping Centre's Tutor Book and CD-ROM, which is the finest resource currently available. The chanter and book are purchased here.
Beginning drummers learn rudiments and basic scores for various time signatures, and this is further developed using resources developed by leading players and teachers of pipe band snare drumming.
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It all starts here, with a disciplined but fun-loving approach to the music. First-year chanter students learn basic fingering, note reading, gracenote groups, some music theory, and a number of basic exercises and tunes.
As well, the students are exposed to what others in the band do, and they get to meet and interact with other learners at various stages. There is lots of learning that goes on in the form of stories, riddles, puzzles and trying new things, such as holding pipes, trying to blow them, and learning the names of instrument parts.
All students are taught using the guidelines set down by Scotland's Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board, and we rely on the National Piping Centre's Tutor Book, which is an excellent program, for beginning pipers of all ages.
Practice Chanter/pipes - year 2
In year 2, pipers work to perfect all those gracenotes, doublings, and exercises.
They learn basic band tunes, and start to move toward getting bagpipes! When players have about six tunes, it's time to get a set of pipes, and that can be like starting over....so much to learn!
Fortunately, the Conservatory Pipe Band has Saskatchewan's most experienced pipe band musicians as instructors! In recent years, new pipers from this band have started to take prizes at regular competitions across the prairies, and a number have gained Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board certificates as part of the "Sound Advice" summer school.
New pipers are integrated into regular band play as often as possible, and we try very hard to get kids up and active in the band as soon as they are able. The band is a very supportive and fun environment, where older students help the less experienced ones, and work hard to ensure success for new students.
The Pipe Section
The pipers learn basic marching and performance tunes appropriate for the Grade 4 level, and they also prepare competition medleys each year. They play a 3-minute "quick march medley" and a four-minute medley of various kinds of tunes.
Pipers are instructed in proper techniques for tuning and maintenance of bagpipes, reed manipulation, and skills such as blowing steady tone. Pipers in the band are also encouraged to complete in solo contests, and to take private lessons.
Pipers also learn tunes each year for performances, and the band generally takes a challenge piece each year to work on, such as a piobaireachd, a multi-part harmony piece, or a more complex piece such as a suite for pipe bands. We use these experiences to develop the players' abilities in sight reading, correct tone and pitch, and unison playing.
The Snare Drummers
Snare drummers spend time learning basic snare rudiments, and then putting them together into drum scores to accompany the band music. Instructors Brett Stinson and Laura Schmeling teach the snare drummers a variety of exercises and drum scores, as well as music theory, drum maintenance, tuning, and general band skills.
As well, the band plays a role in helping the students with solo music and preparation for competitions, and over the past several years Conservatory students have excelled locally, and many have gone on to play in higher grade bands, as well as to be lead drummers in other bands.
The drum corps gets plenty of practice on the floor with the pipers. Drummers learn to march with their instruments, and to play them well on the march. They also learn to contribute to a solid ensemble sound for the band, using appropriate accents and dynamics. Members of this drum corps have progressed to the Grade 2 City of Regina Pipe Band, which is an indication of the quality of the instruction they are receiving.
Tenor & bass drummers learn to read music, flourish (rhythmic swinging of the sticks), and play rhythms to complement the pipes and the snare drums.
Together, the bass and tenor drums in a pipe band are known as the "mid-section" and they contribute to the rhythmic interpretation of the music pipe bands play, both aurally and visually.
Beginning tenor and bass players learn to read music, count and play various rhythms, and do several basic flourishes.