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 Post subject: Question on border pipes
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:08 pm 
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Hello to all,
I play a small pipe set which is mouth blown. I do like the sound of the border pipes and I am interested in maybe getting a set. I have a few questions regarding those pipes.

From my understanding of them, they are a sort (and I mean nothing bad by that) of ghbp which is quieter. The chanter enables you to be sort of chromatic. Is that the case?

A good friend claims that they are next to impossible to play in tune, and that you have to be at quite a level to achieve this. Any truth to that (he basically tells me to get a ghbp or some Irish pipes)

Can one get a quiet set of ghbp and put a border pipe chanter? (with an appropriate wet reed)?

Thank you

Nick


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 6:58 pm 
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Nicolas86 wrote:
From my understanding of them, they are a sort (and I mean nothing bad by that) of ghbp which is quieter.

They're border pipes. Sure, they've some physical and sonic resemblences to GHB and can play the same repertoire, but also have their own and shouldn't really be thought of as a 'sort of' anything else.

Quote:
The chanter enables you to be sort of chromatic. Is that the case?

Yes. And, on some chanters (eg Garvie) continuously chromatic bar the low G#.

Quote:
A good friend claims that they are next to impossible to play in tune, and that you have to be at quite a level to achieve this. Any truth to that

No. They're pressure-sensitive and some say the most difficult Scottish pipes (can't comment on that because I don't play GHB), but the difficulties are commonly exaggerated and they're absolutely not 'next to impossible to play in tune'!

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Can one get a quiet set of ghbp and put a border pipe chanter? (with an appropriate wet reed)?

The drones will be different. Although Gordon Mooney's original bellows-blown set went the other way in using an adapted Hardie chanter.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:04 pm 
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Youre certainly not the first Nick, to seek this 'Goldilocks' Scots pipe... one that's not as loud as GHB, not as quiet as SSP, easier to play than bellows blown dry-reed type pipes, one thats juusst right.... :D
So Im going to muddy the waters a little farther. :)
There is also such a thing as 3/4 size Highland pipe, (also mouthblown);
And then to add yet another thing, there are ways of knocking a few decibels off of a fullsized highland pipe too...ssssshhh! 8)

And then, there are various types of really really loud Smallpipes (aka kitchen pipes, practice pipes, etc, etc) reality just a marketing ploy... :P

And then, Im sure there is someone making "mouthblown Border pipes" by this point too.
And then, there's all the French cornemuse du centre type pipes & the Jon Swayne hybrids... well,,,, maybe im muddying the waters too much already.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:57 am 
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Nicolas86 wrote:
From my understanding of them, they are a sort (and I mean nothing bad by that) of ghbp which is quieter.


Sort of -- I have noticed that sometimes I hear a pipe on a recording that I think is a GHB but then when I read the liner notes I find it is actually a border pipe.

As far as the tuning, I'm not certain what your friend is meaning, but he might have a point. You can certainly tune the normal nine notes of a border pipe chanter to play perfectly in tune, just like you can with GHB. But just like with GHB, the crossfingered notes can be more or less in tune, and there's not much you can do about that.

For example, if you have nicely tuned A, B, C#, and D but your crossfingered C natural is out of tune, there's not much you can do about that. That might be what your friend is referring to. Now obviously at some level of playing (e.g. Fred Morrison) pipers are able to figure out how to get all those notes into tune, but there's only one Fred. ;-)


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:54 am 
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Before I get into the specific questions, I'll give my background, which is 40 years now of playing GHB and 35 years on the uilleann pipes. I've played SSPs for many years too. Around ten years ago I got infatuated with this 'border pipe' thing and bought the following chanters:

1) Hamish Moore "reel chanter" in boxwood
2) Nigel Richard (Garvie Bagpipes) "session chanter" in blackwood
3) Jon Swayne "Lowland chanter" in ebony

(None were called "border chanters" by their makers.)

Here are the Garvie and Swayne chanters, both with High B keys (the Swayne has the imitation ivory sole)

Image

Though the makers called these chanters various things ("Lowland", "reel", "session") they were all the same beast, with the following characteristics:

-volume somewhere between the GHB and the SSP
-use ordinary GHB fingering
-use rather low pressure, lower than my two SSPs
-capable of playing a number of accidentals
-key of A, Concert Pitch A=440
-finicky about fingering, very unforgiving, and tend to squeal when going from High A to Low A unless you place the thumb a split-second before the fingers
-more finicky about pressure than either the GHB or SSP
-often available with extra keywork (I ordered two of the three with High B keys)

Of course it's the chanter's very instability which allows it to play accidentals! On most SSP chanters you can finger any note more or less any way you want and it comes out the same or nearly the same. Modern high-pitch big-oval-hole GHB chanters (combined with strong ridge-cut reeds) are somewhat like that, for example you can often leave the lowerhand fingers off for E and E still sounds more or less at the same pitch, and oftentimes crossfingered Cnat and Fnat won't work.


Nicolas86 wrote:
they are a sort a of GHB which is quieter


Not really, because the chanter's narrower bore creates instability which allows for chromatic fingering.


Nicolas86 wrote:
The chanter enables you to be sort of chromatic. Is that the case?


Varies from chanter to chanter and reed to reed, but nearly all of these chanters will give you a good crossfingered Cnat, D#, Fnat, and High G#. (BTW all of those except D# are also possible on many GHB chanters. I've yet to encounter a GHB chanter that will give a good crossfingered D#.)

Some border/lowland/session/reel chanters will also give a good crossfingered Bb, thus giving you one chromatic octave.


Nicolas86 wrote:
they are next to impossible to play in tune


No, just more unforgiving as to dodgy fingering and bag control


Nicolas86 wrote:
Can one get a quiet set of GHB and put a border pipe chanter?


I don't quite know what you mean by "quiet set of GHB."

What I did was to get a 100 year old set of Glen "halfsize or reel pipes" (what all the Highland pipemakers used to call them, what we call "three-quarter pipes" today, a term that didn't exist 100 years ago) and reed them up to play at A=440. This set performed excellently with any of the three chanters I owned.

Here they are! The three sizes of Highland pipes offered throughout the 19th century by all the leading Highland pipemakers.

Here is what the makers called them back when they were all being made and sold:

L-R
1) Great Highland or military bagpipe (in blackwood by Dunbar)
2) halfsize or reel pipe (note that the halfsize pipe was, in fact, around 7/8 size. We call this instrument a 'three-quarter size' pipe today) (c1900, ebony, ivory, and nickel, by Glen, with a Jon Swayne "Lowland" chanter, key of A, with High B key)
3) chamber or miniature Highland pipe (what we call a 'Scottish smallpipe' today) (c1900 cocus and ivory with original cowhorn mouthpiece, possibly by MacDougall, with a blackwood chanter by John Walsh, key of A)

Image

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:30 am 
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Thank you all for your replies, much appreciated! Richard (I could not manage to send you an email) how does your 3/4 set with a border pipe chanter sound (compared to with border pipes by H.Moore, for example?) If one chooses this road, is a better idea to use a below or a mouth blown set?

Thanks


Nicolas


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:19 am 
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The old 7/8 size Highland pipes (which the original makers called 'halfsize' pipes, but we call 3/4 pipes today) are designed to play at a lower volume and pressure than Highland pipes and those drones work extremely well for modern so-called "border" chanters.

It took some ingenuity though! I made reed extenders to get ordinary modern synthetic GHB drone reeds to play down in A=440. I used a modern synthetic GHB bag, and a set of fullsize GHB stocks, both for the extra length (due to the long drone reeds) and to fit the fullsize bag.

Note that I had Jon Swayne make a custom chanter stock, the top end the same size as a GHB chanter stock.

That set played extremely well with any of the three chanters I owned ('lowland' 'session' and 'reel'). The drones struck in reliably, were steady, and had a wonderful rich tone.

Since there's not much market for the old so-called 3/4 pipes, you can often pick up extremely high quality vintage drones for very little money. It enabled me to put together a great-playing 'border' sounding set for under $1000.

I preferred the mouthblown route myself. The Jon Swayne chanter was designed to use a plastic reed (custom made by Jon) so moisture wasn't an issue.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:56 am 
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[ Revival ]

I've also got a few question about the border pipes ;) Is there a clear difference between GHB music and border pipe music? Also, how often would players use the high B key and is it quintessential to the border pipes?

Thanks!
Jesse


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:45 am 
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JesseJames wrote:
Is there a clear difference between GHB music and border pipe music?

Yes if you're talking 'native' repertoire, but no if not (or you regard border pipes and highland reel pipes as essentially the same thing).

Quote:
Also, how often would players use the high B key and is it quintessential to the border pipes?

Depends entirely on the player (I like my extra keys and the possibilities they bring) but, no, it's not quintessential and some would argue that the opposite with overblowing the 'true' way to produce the note on pipes where that's possible. And you don't actually *need* the high B at all when the low-G-to-high-A range is still 'standard' and it's only necessary if you want it.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:12 am 
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I got the high B key because I wanted the extra flexibility.

There are a vast number of tunes that don't work on the Scottish pipes due to lacking that one note, including some of the most common Scottish songs like Loch Lomond and Auld Lang Syne, and for us Church pipers dozens of hymn tunes, and many Irish tunes.

Due to the equivalent note on the Irish pipes, High E, occurring in many of the old Irish marches, many suppose that the extinct Irish Warpipe was capable of being overblown for at least that one note, and the extinct Lowland pipes too, probably.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2015 7:52 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
I got the high B key because I wanted the extra flexibility.

There are a vast number of tunes that don't work on the Scottish pipes due to lacking that one note, including some of the most common Scottish songs like Loch Lomond and Auld Lang Syne, and for us Church pipers dozens of hymn tunes, and many Irish tunes.

Due to the equivalent note on the Irish pipes, High E, occurring in many of the old Irish marches, many suppose that the extinct Irish Warpipe was capable of being overblown for at least that one note, and the extinct Lowland pipes too, probably.

Another option, explored by Pete Stewart and Julian Goodacre, is to make the "seven-finger note" the tonic, rather than the "six-finger note". That eliminates the bottom leading note to the scale but allows playing of the "over the top" upper note.

I have a version of this that works with Julian's Leicestershire pipes and permits the playing of Old Lang Syne (and lots of other tunes from the early English and border repertoire).

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:33 am 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
Another option, explored by Pete Stewart and Julian Goodacre, is to make the "seven-finger note" the tonic, rather than the "six-finger note". That eliminates the bottom leading note to the scale but allows playing of the "over the top" upper note.


I'll point out that rather than something new which requires exploration, using the "seven finger note" as the tonic has been Standard Operating Procedure in Highland piping for as long as we can trace Highland pipe music back, into the 18th century at least.

There's a large number of old traditional tunes, strathspeys, reels, and piobaireachd, which use Low G as the tonic, and tunes like that continue to be composed today. They've always been around, I heard some of them at this year's World Pipe Band Championships.

It gives tunes an interesting colour on the pipes, tunes which when played on the fiddle sound like straightforward G Major tunes, but on the pipes have a strange modal sound due to the drones playing A. Indeed this can deceive the listener, who might perceive that a tune is an A-Modal tune rather than a straightforward G Major tune, regarded as such by fiddlers, boxplayers, singers, and anyone else who doesn't have an A drone going.

Seems that in the old days the key of G was used whenever the melody needed the 9th. On modern Highland pipes with a High G natural built in, playing in G also gives you a sharp upper 7th.

Here's an old tune, The Campbells Are Coming (I would put the Gaelic title but I can't remember how to spell it, Baile Ineraora or summat) skip forward to 1:22

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et6oDhdDbpY

Now, strip away the supertonic drone and here's what it sounds like, just an ordinary Major tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmxQi1RSg_0

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