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 Post subject: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:44 am 
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Just wondering if the piping hive-mind could lend some advice. I want to get stuck into smallpipes world (although have a set of Preshaw uillean pipes to move on first) and am wondering where to start looking, for a list of reputable makers maybe?
Also is A a better key to go for a warmer tone or do people’s find D more useful?


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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:18 pm 
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Cas wrote:
I want to get stuck into smallpipes world (although have a set of Preshaw uillean pipes to move on first)

Are you proposing to learn two very different types of pipes simultaneously? (The bellows/bag technique should translate, but the fingering and ornamentation/articulation would need to be kept well apart.)

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and am wondering where to start looking, for a list of reputable makers maybe?

Where are you?

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Also is A a better key to go for a warmer tone or do people’s find D more useful?

A is standard and what you want for playing standard Scottish repertoire along with other instruments. D chanters are tiny and quite fiddly to play, and you might also find the smaller drones harder to keep steady.

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:50 pm 
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Just need to sell the uillean pipes and move on. Had a bit of a bash as I made a rather excellent swap for them, but just not for me.

Am based down in Cornwall in the uk, not sure ther are many makers down at this end?

Sounds like A is the way forward then!


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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:34 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
D chanters are tiny and quite fiddly to play, and you might also find the smaller drones harder to keep steady.

A GHB piper/box player I know once got a D set of SSPs for playing in Irish sessions, and he didn't like how cramped the fingering was. It looked like he was trying to play a toothpick. In the end he wished he'd gotten an A set all along.

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:46 pm 
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Cas wrote:
Just need to sell the uillean pipes and move on.

Ah, I misunderstood 'move on', but got you now!

Quote:
Am based down in Cornwall in the uk, not sure ther are many makers down at this end?

Makers all over the place, but typically recommended top names in Scotland include Hamish & Fin Moore, Garvie (Nigel Richard) and Ian Kinnear. Plenty more, but from personal experience I'd also strongly recommend Lochalsh Pipes (Ross Calderwood) as high quality for modest prices. Some top names (e.g. Callum Armstrong) play Julian Goodacre, who's worked with Callum on some exciting technical developments and, like Ross, uses native woods, and Donald Lindsay is 3D-printing a clever extended-range chanter of his own design.

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Sounds like A is the way forward then!

Yes, if going for a three-drone set with single chanter. But you might also consider four-drone combo sets with multiple chanters (typically A/D, though I have A/C/D from Lochalsh and Ross also makes a G chanter which I skipped).

Nanohedron wrote:
A fellow I know once got a D set for playing in Irish sessions, and he didn't like how cramped the fingering was. It looked like he was trying to play a toothpick. In the end he wished he'd gotten an A set all along.

I still struggle with D, despite loving the sound in the hands of Gary West, Iain MacInnes and others who've made effective use of it. You might not think C much bigger, but it's big enough to make all the difference and is a lovely key to play (used a lot by Allan MacDonald), with the main disadvantage being compatibility for standard-keyed group work.

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:05 pm 
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Thanks for the comprehensive replies.
Just one more, which wood did you go with for the lochalsh pipes? He seems to do and interesting mix of local woods.


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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:24 pm 
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I chose laburnum with sycamore mounts, but they're all nice, traditional, appropriate woods.

This is my set when I got it five years ago:

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:10 pm 
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A handsome set, there. So, three chanters: I take it the one plugged in is D, next C, and ... A?

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:15 pm 
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No, that's A fitted with D and C to the side...

Look at the spacing of the holes and also distance from the bottom hole to chanter foot; Ross makes the A chanter without vent holes so you can stop it off on your leg, but the D and C with vents to give those shorter sticks more elegance/proportion.

(You can't see the vents in that photo, but they're there.)

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:20 pm 
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Ooh. Nice. So what do you do about the drones? In the UPs, significantly changing drone length can pose problems with how well they'll work for you.

Hmm. In retrospect I see five drones there instead of the usual three, if my eyes are working right. Plugs, too. I think I'm getting an idea; one drone each for the D and C, is it?

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:47 pm 
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Four drones (with Ezeedrone reeds where the chanters have cane).

Each drone's tuneable over a tone as standard, with the biggest doing G and A, next D and E, next G and A, and smallest C and D. So that gives you bass/baritone/tenor GDG for G chanter (which I don't have), ADA and AEA for A chanter, and DGD and DAD for D chanter. Then you take the end section off the bass drone for C to get CGC for C chanter and can also swap it with one of the others to get CFC. So you've got bass/tenor octaves with baritone fifth at all pitches and a baritone fourth option for everything except the G chanter.

When I got mine, Ross told me he'd like to make his own drone reeds, but hadn't got them to work at the full range of required tunings (hence the Ezeedrones). I had cane drone reeds in my Ian Kinnear poly pipes, but find the Ezeedrones in my Lochalsh smallpipes and Garvie border pipes more stable tuning-wise as well as sonically good enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:11 pm 
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Good lord. I would ask if you get dizzy trying to keep track, but I suspect you're well past all that by now. :boggle:

That's a pretty nice array of options!

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 11:41 am 
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Yes, it's all simple enough once you've done it a few times.

You can also take off the middle section of the bass and replace it with the end section to get a C bass with the mounted end instead of the pin, but I don't normally because it's more effort for purely cosmetic appearance. And I'm not constantly shuffling drone sections because I tend to stick with one chanter for a while, in which case it's just one further swap to get F baritone for the C chanter if I don't want G. But sometimes I play with just octave drones and sometimes just the fourth or fifth (e.g. C/F or C/G), which can be helpful with C and D chanters when it takes more active concentration to keep the little C/D drone steady.

You can even arrange things to get a few more drone pitches, but so far more from curious experimentation than serious intent in my case when I see (for example) G, Bm or Em* tonal centres against A drones as satisfyingly idiomatic rather than something to be avoided (weakened!) by retuning the drone(s) to match.

*Technically G Lydian, B Aeolian or E Dorian, but trying to keep things tidy... just like I'd say A rather than A Mixolydian in normal conversation!

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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:37 pm 
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Has anyone had experience with Colin Ross SSP's? His residence was/is in Whitley Bay, UK? I have a set, and I'm ashamed to say that I've played them very little and really know less about them. I'm seriously thinking about getting back into playing them; however, I'm a little on the timid side as I really don't know even how to tune the drones properly and it has been literally years since I've attempted to play them. The set is made of blackwood, lots of silver on them and some type of horn (dark with a little white strip in them). Have two chanters (both Blackwood), one larger than the other, couldn't tell you what key they are in (perhaps D and C?). I think the tuning order of the drones is: smallest drone F alto, middle drone is Bb tenor, and the largest drone is a Bb bass, to the best of my knowledge. The set is in perfect condition, no cracks, chips, scratches, dents, or dings; I've at least done one thing correctly and have kept them well oiled and humidified. Just need some suggestions as to where to begin and I do apologize if I've intruded on another's thread, but thought this might be a place where I might get some ideas as it's an active thread. Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Small pipes help!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 5:31 pm 
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psychodonald wrote:
Have two chanters (both Blackwood), one larger than the other, couldn't tell you what key they are in (perhaps D and C?).

Got photos?

Quote:
I think the tuning order of the drones is: smallest drone F alto, middle drone is Bb tenor, and the largest drone is a Bb bass, to the best of my knowledge.

Sounds very unlikely for SSPs (where the tenor drone is already at the pitch of the six-finger note)... bass/tenor/alto is a classic border pipe configuration (except that Bb border pipes are rare), but bass/baritone/tenor standard for SSPs, where the bass and tenor provide the octaves and the baritone usually the fifth between. So I'd expect A/E/A for an A chanter, Bb/F/Bb for Bb, C/G/C for C or D/A/D for D. But then again Colin Ross is going back to the start of the SSP revival, so who knows?

Also intrigued by two chanters for just three drones... is their hole spacing (rather than overall length) obviously different?

Quote:
I've at least done one thing correctly and have kept them well oiled and humidified.

Assuming they're bellows (dry) blown, they probably don't need oiling.

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