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PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2016 10:57 am 
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or Ulster Scots Smallpipes?

Tim and Stephanie Benson, who are pretty well known uilleann pipe makers, live about 15 minutes from my parents in Western NY where I was just visiting. I thought I would look them up for the heck of it and it turns out they are wonderful people to hang out with.

I mentioned that it would be cool to attach an uilleann chanter to my Pinchbeck ETR smallpipes and they agreed! They took some measurements and quickly designed an adapter and then printed it out in no time with their 3D printer- awesome!

Here is Tim trying out his uilleann chanter on Scottish smallpipes made by Chris Pinchbeck, through an adapter designed and 3D printed by Stephanie! This is about a minute after we hooked it up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qllUv0O4qnk


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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 5:55 am 
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Seems to me that, more or less, drones are drones.

Play an uilleann chanter with D smallpipe drones and the basic thing you're accomplishing is taking away the bass drone, for Scottish Smallpipes generally have a Tenor drone and two Treble drones, or Tenor/Alto/Treble, but no bass. (Using the normal terminology where Bass means two octaves below the chanter's "six finger note", Tenor one octave below, and Treble in unison with the chanter's "six finger note".)

What I always thought would be really cool is playing an SSP chanter with an Uilleann pipe body, so you get the three octaves of drones plus the regulators. I'm sure it's been done, but I don't think I've seen it.

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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2016 2:28 pm 
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Well... so what you may have missed is that the Pinchbeck ETR sets have very tuneable drones. For instance, when I am playing a tune that would sound great in B minor, I can tune my tenor, baritone, and bass drones to B, F#, B

Or for a G major piece I can tune the to G, D, G

So yes I lose the lowest D that is available on the uilleann pipes, BUT I've gained so many more harmonic possibilities because of what Chris builds.

BTW Chris is starting to develop a contrabass drone for his smallpipe sets now!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 5:21 am 
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aphillips wrote:
what you may have missed is that the Pinchbeck ETR sets have very tuneable drones.


Yes I play Northumbrian Smallpipes and am familiar with their drone system.

It's always fascinated me how the NSP approach to drones is so different from any other sort of bagpipe I know of.

With Bulgarian pipes, Central French pipes, Highland pipes, Uilleann pipes, etc etc one uses a number of different tonal centres on the chanter over unchanging drones.

The NSP for some unknown reason came up with the notion of changing the drone tuning to match the tonal centre of each particular tune. It sounds cool, I suppose, but it has some drawbacks.

One is that you wouldn't put together medleys which feature key changes, as you could on any other sort of bagpipe.

The other is that you lose the wonderful aspect of the drones having a different and unique relationship to the intervals of each key.

Anyhow NSP drones are very flexible and enable the SSP player to switch out a number of SSP chanters of various keys in the same set of pipes.

Gordon Mooney's Over The Border CD has a photo of him on the reverse playing an SSP chanter in an NSP set.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:17 pm 
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Hah - good to know! I had no idea that Northumbrian drones were tuneable as well! My wife may not be thanking you though.....

Of course, now that I have the uillean chanter as well, I'm going to let it rest as I need to just spend some time with the SSP. I do have A, C, and D chanters from Chris. All beautiful!

Thanks Richard - Hopefully I can make the drive down to Long Beach sometime soon and hear you guys!


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 3:04 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
One is that you wouldn't put together medleys which feature key changes, as you could on any other sort of bagpipe.

The other is that you lose the wonderful aspect of the drones having a different and unique relationship to the intervals of each key.


You can do both these things with NSPs in many of the drone tunings available, especially the unison ones.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 3:18 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
The other is that you lose the wonderful aspect of the drones having a different and unique relationship to the intervals of each key.

Yep, I've seen folk (and videos of them) proudly extolling the virtues of their tunable drones to 'fit' the tunes where, at least in the case of Highland pipe tunes, I'd usually find them ruined by such a 'fit'. So take a tune like Paddy's Leather Breeches with drones tuned to Bs and for sure it 'fits', but the effect of alternating consonance and dissonance is completely reversed and the distinctive character lost. Likewise with, say, The Little Cascade, where an E drone would probably sound even limper.

No problems with reharmonisation for other chordal, non-drone instruments, where it's probably even necessary, but don't generally like pipes alone in Highland repertoire with retuned drones. And no problems with the likes of Callum Armstrong writing exciting new material exploiting all kinds of new drone tunings because his stuff's designed for that!

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:19 am 
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Paddy's Leather Breeches is an odd case. Usually on the GHB one puts tunes into the key of B to obtain the minor scale... but Paddy's Leather Breeches isn't minor! Or Major either, it has no 3rd at all.

So it's equally playable in the key of A.

It seems to me that pipers put the tune in the key of B solely to get the different relationship of the various notes to the drones. Certainly the melody itself isn't the reason.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:21 am 
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aphillips wrote:
I had no idea that Northumbrian drones were tuneable as well!


Yes those clever Geordies have been making pipes like that for well over a century.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:15 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Yep, I've seen folk (and videos of them) proudly extolling the virtues of their tunable drones to 'fit' the tunes where, at least in the case of Highland pipe tunes, I'd usually find them ruined by such a 'fit'. So take a tune like Paddy's Leather Breeches with drones tuned to Bs and for sure it 'fits', but the effect of alternating consonance and dissonance is completely reversed and the distinctive character lost. Likewise with, say, The Little Cascade, where an E drone would probably sound even limper.


I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that thinks this way. The whole alternate drone tuning thing is a bĂȘte noire for me. Just play the damn tune!

pancelticpiper wrote:
Paddy's Leather Breeches is an odd case. Usually on the GHB one puts tunes into the key of B to obtain the minor scale... but Paddy's Leather Breeches isn't minor! Or Major either, it has no 3rd at all.

So it's equally playable in the key of A.

It seems to me that pipers put the tune in the key of B solely to get the different relationship of the various notes to the drones. Certainly the melody itself isn't the reason.


There's a case to made for putting this tune in A, then common time, and calling it Bog an Lochan / Atholl Cummers. As for why B minor? I don't think it's the drones. Fiddlers like to play it in E minor instead of A minor. B and E minor just feel different, drones or not.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:34 am 
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Well. I have to say that playing tunes with inappropriate drones has become a bugbear for me :-)

For example, on my Welsh pipes (In D, nominally) I play a fair few E Minor tunes, and the drone will retune to E. I really don't like what a D drone does to those tunes (and, heavens forfend, when I start a tune with an E drone and someone joins in with a D drone as well, ych a fi, it's horrible...) I'd rather turn my drone off and play the naked chanter than play a drone that doesn't go. It ruins the feel of the tune. Playing in E Minor against a D major drone, with a chordal instrument backing, doesn't sound good to me.

If there's a key-change within a set, I turn the drone off.

I find playing in G against a D drone less trying, but it is rather unsatisfactory to my ear. Resolving to a final G against a D drone doesn't sound satisfying, really. I have 'Anglo-French Border pipes' in G and D, and wish that I'd requested a switchable G or A/G drone for the D set. I think it'd help, although not having played such a set-up I'm not entirely sure.

Of course, with such pipes, playing in minor keys is facilitated by the right thumbhole to flatten the third. So on D Major pipes, against a D drone, one can play in D minor with facility. This helps with key changes withing sets, of course, and can be very effective.

I was on the verge of ordering a set of Pinchbeck extended drones some years ago, but shoulder problems and other issues meant that I've had to lay off bellows. Hopefully, if my shoulder permits (and the bank), I'll be able to order a set some time. I do like the idea of playing a uilleann chanter against appropriate drones. It's much more satisfying to my ear.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:27 am 
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It really depends on the harmonics and the register. Smallpipes in A are at a low register to where if the fundamental harmonics are locked in discord is minimal. So playing B minor plays well against the E harmonic in the A drones. Even though reelpipe and highland pipe chanters are an octave higher, the drones are still in that lower register so discord is even more minimal.

I would imagine it's similarly true for uilleann pipes. E minor tunes sound great against D drones. The range of the drones is even greater than Scottish pipes so you have plenty of interplay with the audible harmonics and much of the discord is minimalized. And then you throw in the regulators.

I think, with Scottish and Irish pipes anyways, there is more harmonic richness when you leave the drones in their fundamental tuning.

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