Keydet Piper I'm thinking bagpipes

Monthly Archives: July 2010

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Working up a sweat

It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere, which makes for some pretty hot piping. Here in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, temperatures for the last week or so have been well above 90 (that’s about 33 degrees for those of you who speak metric), which, when combined with the high humidity, is less than ideal for piping outside. I just finished almost of hour of playing and looked like I had just jumped in the pool, and I was inside in the air conditioning.

This got me to thinking about the physical demands of playing the Great Highland Bagpipe compared with other instruments. I couldn’t think of anything that was nearly so demanding to play; I certainly never got anywhere near this exhausted as a trumpet player, except for marching band.

Now before you laugh at that, watch this video (which is my old high school band, though about a decade after my involvement) and tell me that you wouldn’t be out of breath at the end of it. A marching band show is basically power walking for 8 minutes and blowing all of your air into an instrument. To say that you’d be exhausted after a 6 hour practice in the August sun doesn’t quite do it justice. Imagine two weeks of those 6-hour practices and you’ve pictured the last two weeks of my summer vacation every year I was in high school.

So just how demanding are the pipes? Well I’m not sure. I’ve been intending to hook myself up to a heart rate monitor while I practice just to see how high it gets. I’ll plan to do that this week, and I’ll be sure to post the results here.

Stay tuned.