"You can't be shy if you're a bagpiper; you will always provoke a reaction. I've had eggs thrown at my house, been asked to leave places, and often, when I'm hired to play at a function, I'll see someone coming towards me and I always know what they're going to ask - `Can you turn it down?' And of course you can't.

It's not a quiet instrument, and the hardest thing can be finding a place to practise. I've had students whose families have made them practise in closets! I also know a lot of students who go to parks to practise, but the difficulty with that is that you draw a crowd and they expect a show. I suppose if you put out your hat you could make some money. So it's easiest if you start with what's called a practice chanter, which looks like the melody pipe on the front of the bagpipes, but without the bag, so it's quiet.

Once you've practised the finger movements and learnt the tunes on this, you can go to the bagpipe itself. You're blowing so hard that if you're a beginner, you can `lose' your lip - they just tire out, and you'll start making `elephant sounds'. Exercise and strengthen your lips by practising pressing them tightly together. Eventually, you'll be blowing steadily and your pitch won't be wavering. Most people can fight their way through a handful of tunes within a year - start now and you'll be just in time to play `Auld Lang Syne' for next New Year. Then try marching at the same time!" Interview by Fiona McClymont

Aaron Shaw is a member of the LAPD Pipe Band and has just won the 1998 Strachan Cup in London, for march, straphspey and reel playing. He has also played on various film and TV soundtracks

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