The Royal Scots Cap Badge

Lip and mouth fatigue

by keith
(Winnipeg, Canada)

Hello Bill: I have returned to piping after a 15 year absence. I am finding that my mouth fatiques after a short time of playing and that I can't even inflate the bag after three short tunes. Are there exercises of some kind that can be done to strengthen the mouth or does it just come down to practicing longer?

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Oct 04, 2010
Lip and mouth fatiguev - Keith
by: Bill Robertson

Hello Keith,
Please see all the helpful comments on this in our website that should help. Essentially it is a matter of slowly and periodically playing in short bursts os a minute or two then gradually extending the time as you progress and re-build the muscles in your lips.

As I advised please check the setting of your reeds for optimum setting for steady drone tone (bridles attention), and suitable strength and good balance of the chanter.General good maintenance too, of course i.e. Firm joints, and airtight bag.

All the best,

Oct 01, 2010
This works GREAT for me.
by: JC

This works GREAT and instantly reduces lip/mouth fatique.

I cut 1" off of my blowpipe and 1 inch off of the mouthpiece, slip it right on (I also added a tie strap for extra strength at the bottom but it didn't really need it).


Dec 09, 2009
A couple more tips...
by: Tamar Stephens, Alaska

Whether you are new to the pipes, or picking them up after a hiatus, I find that it is really important to make sure they are set up well. They need to be really tight, with good hemping of all joints, reeds well seated, bag seasoned (with a hide bag), etc. Also, I would recommend using a nice easy reed to get started with. If the pipes are set up well, they will practically play themselves if you are using proper technique.

Proper technique is another matter. Half the battle is just getting the right coordination. Beginners often blow too much and make too little use of the left arm. When they have trouble keeping the pipes going, sometimes they blow and squeeze at the same time, which makes it impossible to keep the pipes going!

Initially, just play a single note, or slow scales, focusing on keeping a balanced rhythm between the blowing and squeezing. When you play a tune, play one that is easy and that you know well, so you can pay attention to your blowing/squeezing technique. It is not uncommon for a beginner to revert to blowing most of the time and forgetting to use the arm with each new tune added to the pipes. When I first learned, I had to mechanically count out the number of beats on each blow and on each squeeze until it became more natural.

Hope this helps. Best of luck, and don't give up! It gets easier as you build strength and get comfortable with the coordination.

Jun 15, 2009
There are no tricks to this one but......
by: Andrew Stewart from Toronto

I have found that if I dont put my pipes back in the case and go back to them from time to time throughout the day it helps me to build up stamina.even if you only play for three minutes at a time, you'll find that you will be playing longer in no time. I also set a time (6:30pm for me) that I play EVERY DAY! Its hard to do but I have 3 small children and a million things to do each day but if I dont play every day my piping really suffers. Remember that there are small children and elderly people that are very strong pipers, so its not you.i look at it this way: nobody can do fifty push ups the first day trying, its takes working at it to get to that point.

Jun 12, 2009
Lip Muscle Weakness
by: Bill Robertson

It is common for pipers who have laid off the pipes for some weeks or months even to experience lip muscle being too weak to play for more than two minutes or so at first.

It is a gradual process of playing in short sessions of perhaps of tuning up and one small tune if possible, with a good long rest from playing between and gradually increasing after a few such sessions as you see fit. I tuned my pipes recently after a few months without playing the pipes.

After checking the reed settings etc. and tuning that only took a few moments I was hardly able to play through a little tune because my lips were too weak. Pursing the lips can help a little temporarily only, if at all.

Good regular practice chanter sessions can help to some degree too. So, no need to worry – gradually build up the lip muscles and stamina.

I trust this explains.

All the best,
Bill Robertson

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