December 12, 2021

Dr. Matthew Welch launches DOCTOR BAGPIPE

Matt Welch conducting

Matthew Welch has earned a reputation for being one of Highland piping’s most creative innovators, and now the professional classical composer with a PhD in music from Yale University has launched “DOCTOR BAGPIPE, a service dedicated to helping educate bagpipers about music and musicians about bagpipes.”

“Essentially DOCTOR BAGPIPE will be a new way for me to educate pipers about broader musical ideas and techniques, from unique chanter exercises to harmony concepts, and including videos covering my avant-garde tool box,” Welch said. “Down the line, I envision short tutorials, in-depth edited videos on broad topics and if enough interest, a webinar series for members.”

DOCTOR BAGPIPE was launched as a YouTube channel, starting with 10 videos ranging from introductory information for non-pipers to instructional pieces practice chanter choice, triads/chords on the chanter, chanter chords and transposition, B-flat set-up, and an intro to Alvin Lucier (the late composer of experimental music and sound installations) and drone tuning.

Last year, Welch published A New Compleat Theory for The Highland Bagpipe, a “terse and insightful” collection of new music and essays designed to connect pipers, non-pipers and musicians of every stripe more closely with the pipes.

His own “Ceol Nua” (Gaelic for “new music”) category of ceol beag falls somewhere between traditional airs, piobaireachd and more up-tempo light music.

Tired of the monotony of piping contests? Tired of only being taught musically what is needed to compete well? Tired of being forced to play impossible music arrangements and pipe set-ups? Tired of being told you’re wrong all the time? Still searching for a creative fulfillment through bagpipe music? Looking to de-mystify music theory and apply to your playing? Looking to unlock the secrets to playing with other musicians? – part of DOCTOR BAGPIPE’s mission statement

Like most professional musicians during the pandemic, he’s been challenged to sustain a career from his home base in San Francisco, with classical composing opportunities limited and the Highland piping scene largely dormant. But he’s recognized a desire from the world piping community to learn more and go past the routine of competition music.

“I have been teaching pipes and bands for almost 30 years now, and what I have found is that too often students prioritize competition repertoire and the tactics to improve their success and performance there,” Welch continued. “Perhaps because simply that is what there is for a performance context. For most pipers the thought of going beyond becomes harder as the feedback loop of musical advice continually puts pipers back into the competing gamut.

Welch has a wealth of experience as a top-level piper, having been a member of the Grade 1 Simon University Pipe Band and pipe-major of the Grade 2 New York Metro.

“I often get questions like: I want to learn music theory, but how? How can I transcribe this tune? How can I write down this tune I am working on? How do I turn this musical idea into a tune? How do I write or arrange something that is bigger than a tune? How can I blend and work with other musicians? So many questions have one universal problem: an inadequate musical education on basic and broad notational and terminological elements – and the know-how – to propel their playing forward in a personal way.”

At the heart of it is Welch wanting “to have a break as a ‘musician’ who played bagpipes. In doing so, I have found so many people are fascinated by this instrument and that our competition-focused tradition keeps us out of musical regions in which ideas and personnel interchange.”

Welch said that he approached several recognized non-piping composers to create works for him, and in doing so, he stretched his skills to accommodate the Highland pipes to their needs, and was challenged to do many things that hadn’t been done before.

He added that he’s also in the process of developing a new website as an additional host for content.



In theory, Welch compleats MacDonald’s circle with new book (video)
September 14, 2020

Welch’s pipes resonate with music media in San Diego
September 25, 2017

Opinion: 2021 – a Year for Competition Music Change
January 5, 2021





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