While watching my kids participate in Tae-Kwon-Do (Korean Martial Arts), I was impressed by the way Tae-Kwon-Do students progress from raw beginner to master of the art. Tae-Kwon-Do students are awarded colored belts after they demonstrate mastery of progressively more advanced skills. Beginning at white-belt, students learn skills like basic kicks, stances, blocks, and punches. Using white-belt (the first belt) as an example, the student gets a yellow, green, red, or black strip of tape on their belt. After they earn all four tape strips on their belt, the student demonstrates their new skills to their Master during a formal test. If they pass the test, they are awarded a yellow-belt (the second belt). This process repeats itself through about thirteen different colored belts, each with its own set of requirements, ending with the coveted black-belt.
I’ve adapted this framework for training bagpipers. I’ve found that by dividing the range of skills needed to play the bagpipes (at a basic level) into manageable groups, my students are better able to focus and better able to digest the tasks-at-hand. There is a sense of accomplishment for learning a new skill and earning a new belt. The student is less likely to become overwhelmed with the daunting task of trying to “finish the book”. In the Pipes-Kwon-Do method, students receive a wide strip of colored tape on their practice chanter to indicate their “belt”. They then receive a smaller “stripe” of green, white, red, and yellow tape as they learn the individual skills needed to earn the next belt. This method also makes the instructor’s job of tracking student progress much easier because the instructor can just look at the tape on the student’s chanter to determine what the student still needs to work on.
Here is what a student must do to earn a white-belt in Pipes-Kwon-Do:
|White Belt||Yellow||Identify the names of the notes on the staff.|
|Red||Display the proper finger positions for each of the 9 notes.|
|Green||Play a scale forward and reverse. Describe a “crossing noise”. Play note transitions without crossing noises.|
|White||Play simple note progressions.|
Pipes-Kwon-Do has seven belts. A student who completes the black-belt is considered a competent beginner bagpiper who could begin participating in a pipe band or competing in solo competitions.