"IT'S going to be a hoot," I thought... and it certainly was.

The news desk is always going on about how I'm full of hot air.

So I'm sure that was in the back of their minds when they asked me to try my hand - and lungs - at learning to play the bagpipes ahead of the Piping Live! festival.

Some people love them and some people loathe them. I admit, when Glasgow fills up with pipe bands from around the world it's certainly exciting.

But when the pipers are practicing in the park near my flat and I'm trying to concentrate on work my enthusiasm fades.

Other than seeing pipers at weddings or on television, my knowledge of the bagpipes was extremely slim.

So teacher Michael McGowan, who manages the shop at the National Piping Centre, started my lesson with a tour of the centre's museum.

Michael, who has been playing the bagpipes for 20 years, explains the history of the famous Scottish instrument.

There is a fair bit of speculation about the origin of the great Highland instrument - was it imported by the Romans, did it come over from Ireland or did the Scots develop it independently?

No one can say for sure but Scotland has certainly made the bagpipes their own.

Original bagpipes had a single drone with a second added in the late 1500s before the third drone - the great drone - began to be used in the 1700s.

The first written mention of the bagpipes was in 1623 when a bagpiper was prosecuted for playing on the Sabbath.

Given the noise that comes out of the chanter when Michael hands me it to play, I'm worried I might be prosecuted for anti-social behaviour.

Michael tells me it takes around six months of learning songs by rote on the chanter before students move on to trying the bagpipes proper.

This is because there is so much to remember and do at once, it helps if you're not also thinking about finger positioning and reading music at the same time.

The chanter is not too different from the recorder I learned in primary school so I'm feeling confident.

I hold it the way I'm shown and have a blow.

It sounds like a deeply unhappy elephant.

It sounds like a cat with its tail trapped.

It does not sound like the proud and commanding music of the pipes.

Somehow Michael keeps a straight face while the photographer who is with me looks slightly aghast.

I try again. And again. I'm determined to get it right... but still getting it wrong.

At school I played the clarinet and saxophone but it's years since I picked up either instrument.

For the bagpipes it's crucial not to bend your knuckles to use the pads of your fingers to cover the holes of the chanter.

This is a really difficult habit to break. Using straight fingers feels wrong... but anything else is actually quite painful as the gaps between the holes seem large and my fingers too small to reach.

"There are specially made chanters for children," Michael tells me and I wonder how much mockery I would face for seriously asking for one.

Under Michael's careful tutelage I learn two basic tunes, perfecting neither, before it's time to move on to the bagpipes proper.

First, you have to inflate the bag by blowing into a mouthpiece then, like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time, somehow keep pressure on the bag with your elbow, remember to keep breathing to keep the bag filled and move your fingers on the chanter.

Not a chance. I can't even keep the pipes upright on my shoulder while standing still.

Not to mention the physicality of it all is exhausting. Not 10 minutes in and I need a lie down.

Michael's students range in age from seven to 90.

The 90-year-old, who died recently, had been playing for 83 years and would come along to lessons and just play the chanter. While the full set of bagpipes had become a bit beyond him, his love of playing was truly life long.

Michael said: "I was late starting because I always preferred my sport to music. I had played the saxophone but then I became ill and developed asthma so somebody said to me, 'Try the bagpipes.'

"And that was me, hooked.

"They are really good for asthma because you are concentrating on your breathing and building strength in your lungs."

When asked how long the bagpipes take to learn, Michael adds: "I don't know if you ever do master it.

"No matter how long you play for people will say they are still learning and improving all the time."

I certainly haven't mastered anything in my one hour lesson but I have developed a new found respect for pipers and will in future be watching any pipers I come across with awe.

This year Glasgow will ring out to the sound of the pipes and drums from August 10 to 18 for Piping Live! 2019 and there will be events across the city.

Michael, of course, can't wait for the festival to kick off.

He said: "It's brilliant to have people returning from one year to the next - each year people are looking to book up to come back again.

"And from a piper's perspective, seeing different pipers from around the world and how they interpret the pipes is always interesting.

"It's a great week, a fantastic week. You don't need to know about piping to still enjoy the events that are taking place."

Now I do know a little bit about piping, I'll be tuning in with far more interest - and admiration.

For more information see: www.pipinglive.co.uk