Could YOU improve the positioning of your fingers on a pipe chanter?


This article is for you to think about. It suggests some things that may not suit some people, but I believe it will be helpful to many.

Over the last several years, I have come across a number of experienced pipers who could do with some better finger positioning on the chanter. I was taught how to place my fingers on a chanter at the age of 9 years and, in my mid teens, I decided to change my top hand positioning significantly, based on what I saw other good pipers doing. The change improved my top hand work immensely.


I have come across a number of experienced pipers who could do with some better finger positioning on the chanter.


The two photos in this blog show two different positions for the top hand fingers on the chanter; one I believe is good, the other is questionable. My belief in this is based on a number of logical considerations, which I discuss in this post.

The photo showing good positioning has the chanter touching the pads on the top bone (medically called a distal phalanx) of the 3 fingers.   This position, I believe, enables quicker movement of the fingers to clear the chanter, simply because of the additional height achieved with a given angle of lift.   But, more importantly, it allows the unused little finger to float free above and below the chanter, timed with the movement of the ring finger. If the little finger is not free to move, it constrains the ring finger movement, resulting in more difficulty with E grace notes and E taps. So, I like to see the top hand fingers placed as in that “good” photo.

Top hand good

The questionable position has the chanter placed across the middle bone (medial phalanx) of the fingers.   This has the issue of the little finger constraining the ring finger, but my experience is also that many quick top hand movements are made a little less clean with fingers in this position.

Top hand not so good

The bottom hand is a different proposition. We need to have the pad of the little finger above the lowest main hole of the chanter, to be able to play birls and low Gs. To achieve that, we need the chanter to be across the middle bone of the three other fingers.

When I decided to change my top hand positioning, I tried a trick; I placed sticky tape around the middle bone of each top hand finger. This was just a “reminder” to keep the fingers back from the chanter, onto the top bone. The new position took less than 24 hours to become totally automatic.

I hope this is helpful to a few pipers and to those teaching learners. As I said, it may not suit some people, because human hands are not all the same.

Garry Barker

© 2016 The Bagpipe Academy




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