Oliver Seeler's
~ Universe of Bagpipes ~

Learning to Play
Great Highland Bagpipe:

The Jim McGillivray DVD Set


The Two Jim McGillivray GHB Teaching Videos
The Two Videos:
Left, #1, "Pipes Ready! A Set-Up & Maintenance Guide"
Right, #2, "Pipes Up! A Complete Tuning Tutor"

Youíve worked hard with your practice chanter and have completed all of the lessons in the College of Piping (or other) tutor, and you can play some tunes properly on the practice chanter without soon tiring. The next step is to start on the pipes themselves. But while youíve learned some essential basics and gotten into shape, nothing has prepared you for two major challenges: setting up (and maintaining) your pipes, and tuning them.

A bagpipe is a complex device, with numerous elements that must all function properly if the piper is to have success. There are three major areas of concern: supplying and managing air, dealing with the four reeds, and tuning the instrument. Each of these areas involves components and challenges that are less than obvious and that can make a piperís life miserable if not approached correctly.

I address, on this site, in a basic and limited way, the setting up of cane reeds. It would be nice to go into that subject and the rest of the preliminary elements involved in playing a bagpipe in much greater detail, and Iíve thought about doing just that. But the result could not be comprehensive without being very, very lengthy and for the reader it would still lack the enormous advantage of being able to see and hear whatís to be done and how to do it.

This is why throughout these pages I stress time and time again how important it is to get face-to-face with a teacher, or at least with an experienced piper. But thatís not always possible or practical, especially as the popularity of piping increases and spreads to remote areas. Judging from the mail I get here, more and more pipers are going it alone, or trying to, and that's a rough road to follow.

Now there is a solution to this problem, thanks to world-class piper and professional pipe-teacher Jim McGillivray of Canada. Jim (together with his associates) has created the two videos offered here and in doing so he has, in my opinion, made one of the most significant and valuable contributions to grace the piping world in many, many years. I simply can't say enough about these videos - they are absolutely outstanding, by far the best instructional tools I've ever seen for setting up and tuning the Great Highland Bagpipe.

The two videos are flawlessly produced, with completely professional camera, lighting and sound work. Both of these videos take an eminently practical approach to their subjects; there is little time spent on theory, either mechanical or musical - itís hands-on, from start to finish. But what makes them really special is Jimís ability to teach. It is rare indeed to find someone who stands at the top of his or her field and who can also do such a fine job of teaching the subject they know so well. Jim teaches with complete clarity and precision, yet in a relaxed and evenly-paced manner. A bonus is some very fine piping, by Jim and his associate Rob Crabtree, another world-class piper (and producer of these videos).

A Well-Tuned Pipe!
Click on the piper

to hear what a Great Highland Bagpipe should sound like. You'll hear about 45 seconds of piping in MP3 format from the album
James McGillivray
(Volume 10 of the World's Greatest Pipers series, Lismor LCOM 5216
Copyright 1992, Lismore Recordings, Glasgow).

Traditionally, pipers learn much of whatís taught in these videos the hard way, in bits and pieces - or sometimes not at all. Itís not uncommon to encounter experienced pipers who have developed work-arounds of one sort or another to compensate for holes in their knowledge. Over the long run, this has sometimes resulted in there being more than one ďrightĒ way to do something - and this is reflected in the videos, where alternate approaches to a number of issues are presented. Itís nice to see this, in a field that can sometimes be contentious and dogmatic.

By the way, the basic techniques taught so thoroughly and elegantly in these videos also apply, or can be adapted, to many bagpipes other than the Scottish Great Highland bagpipe.

Below are the tables of contents of both videos. Note that both are organized in a logical fashion and that time references are given which are helpful in reviewing particular subjects.

Contents, Video #1

Above: Contents (from back cover):
Video #1,"Pipes Ready! A Set-Up & Maintenance Guide"

Contents, Video #2

Above: Contents (from back cover):
Video #2,"Pipes Up! A Complete Tuning Tutor"

The Proverbial Desert Island...
These videos (and Jim McGillivray's "Rhythmic Fingerworks" piping tutorial for intermediate/advanced players, now also offered here) came to my attention in a rather interesting way. One of my customers, Jeff W., is an officer on the USS Carl Vinson (CV-70), the famous aircraft carrier. He first purchased a Dunbar practice chanter outfit with the College of Piping tutor & CD, and began working with that at sea. The sea tour became much longer than expected due to the war in Afghanistan, and while still at sea he purchased a set of Dunbar pipes from me. There being no other piper aboard, let alone a pipe teacher, he was completely on his own. Scouring the web, he stumbled across Jim McGillivray's videos and tutor and purchased them. With these materials, and his pipes, he spent as much time as he could spare in an isolated room deep within the huge ship, learning to tune and play his pipes. CV-70 was finally relieved and on docking in Hawaii was greeted by a pipe band. Jeff introduced himself to the band's Pipe Major and struck up his pipes. The Pipe Major was flabbergasted and at first refused to believe that Jeff could have tuned the pipes so well himself - until, after he took Jeff's pipes and threw them completely out of whack, he saw that Jeff was able to put them right back into perfect tune. I was in touch with Jeff throughout all of this, which has now resulted in the addition of these marvelous videos to my inventory.

Purchasing the Jim McGillivray Videos
Note: We are now buying these great videos in large enough quantities to be able to lower the price by $10 for the set. Still, these videos are not inexpensive; however, they will not only save the beginning or intermediate piper a great deal of time and frustration (not to mention the nerves of anyone within earshot), but without a doubt they will pay for themselves in saved reeds alone. They also have the potential of saving the piper considerable money by guiding him or her to the right choices when choosing options offered with a new pipe, or when modifying an existing one.

#1, Pipes Ready! A Set-Up & Maintenance Guide
(1 hour 26 minutes)
DVD (worldwide compatible) US $33.00

Shipping via USPS Priority Mail, $6.00
(International customers, please inquire about shipping costs.)

#2, Pipes Up! A Complete Tuning Tutor
(2 hours 20 minutes)
DVD (worldwide compatible), US $33.00

Shipping via USPS Priority Mail, $6.00
(International customers, please inquire about shipping costs.)

~ Special Offer ~

Purchase both for a total of US $60.00 and get FREE SHIPPING!
(International customers, please inquire about shipping costs.)

(Note: VHS tapes are also still available (until they're gone) in NTSC and PAL format - please inquire.
The DVDs function world-wide.)

Satisfaction Guaranteed !
We are confident that you will find these teaching videos outstanding and indispensable. If you are not completely satisfied you may return them for a full refund, including postage in both directions. (Note: September, 2007 - We have sold many, many of these videos during the past five years and are happy to report that not one single customer has requested a refund.)

Stock Status:
Both DVDs are on hand and available for immediate shipment.


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please send your payment to:

Oliver Seeler
Universe of Bagpipes
P.O. Box 447
Albion, California 95410

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