A few bagpipe questions

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Narzog
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A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Hey guys. I know virtually nothing about bagpipes. But they are one of those instruments that I think is cool and would be interested in learning if I found a cheap option to try out. Well, I was looking at random stuff on hobgoblin, and I found some cheap plastic practice pipes. Expecting them to be unplayable garbage like most of whats on amazon, I googled them. And found that they seem functional.

Heres the pipes I'm talking about https://www.hobgoblin-usa.com/local/sal ... tish-made/
And heres a video of them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6QMzt0 ... =emb_title
And heres a second thing I ended up finding https://www.thepipershut.com/McCallum-P ... p_472.html

1- So I have a few questions. Whats the difference between a "practice chanter" and a 'normal' chanter. To my knowledge you can buy different chanters.

2- This ties in with my first question. Could I buy a different chanter to put on this for a different sound? I don't hate the sound, but its not the bagpipe sound I'm going for. I'm looking for something more like this sound -> https://youtu.be/P0uLDhZXW6w?t=67 timestamped to the bagpipes playing.

3- Is is possible to disable the drones? A lot of the things I listen to that have pipes seem to only be the chanter (or the drones just arent noticeable in the mix. not sure). The second pipes link above doesnt have drones. But having the pipes with drones is just more features overall if there was a way to just plug the hole or something and not use them if I didnt want to.

Thanks for any info guys.
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AaronMalcomb
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by AaronMalcomb »

On Great Highland Bagpipes (GHB in message board parlance) there are 2 chanters: practice chanters and pipe chanters.
Practice chanters are, as the name implies, intended for practice and is what learners start on to learn the rudiments. The internal dimensions and size of finger holes combined with a low pressure reed make for a quieter, more forgiving instrument. After getting a handle on finger technique and being able to play a half-dozen or so tunes from memory is when a learner usually starts to learn to blow the pipes. Pipers still use the practice chanter to learn tunes and work on technique no matter how long they have been on the pipes.
The pipe chanter is what’s played when blowing the pipes. The internal dimensions and size of finger holes combined with a different type of reed make for the louder, higher pitch, and higher pressure that is characteristic of the GHB. When learning to blow the pipes it’s common to put rubber stoppers in the drones while learning to keep a steady, unwavering tone with the pipe chanter.

Over the past few decades some alternative instruments that use the same fingering as the GHB have grown in popularity. Various iterations have existed going back a few centuries but it has been the last 40 years in which the other Scottish pipes have been produced to play in the modern A440 pitch and have gained their own place in Scottish traditional music. The bellows-blown Scottish Smallpipes (SSP) and border pipes have become the popular choice for social music as their pitch and volume allow pipers to play along with other folk instruments. While the majority of pipers that play SSP and border pipes also play GHB, it’s becoming less unusual for pipers to only play the bellows pipes without ever having blown the GHB.

But you don’t have to limit yourself to Scottish bagpipes, especially if you don’t intend to play Scottish pipe tunes. There are a myriad of types of bagpipes and traditions stretch from the Middle East across Europe. Scottish piping, especially on the GHB, has a rather rigid standard for fingering and musical style and it takes years of dedication to gain proficiency at it. Bagpipes generally aren’t quite like other instruments such as piano, guitar, or violin which are open to nearly any style or genre. Bagpipes are more embedded in the folk culture of their origins. It might be the reproduction, medieval style bagpipe like used in the Eluvetie video is suited to the kind of music you want to play.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Peter Duggan »

AaronMalcomb wrote:The internal dimensions and size of finger holes combined with a different type of reed make for the louder, higher pitch, and higher pressure that is characteristic of the GHB.
And the bore! The conical bore of GHB and Border Pipes is the main reason for them sounding an octave above the cylindrical bore of SSP and practice chanters.
While the majority of pipers that play SSP and border pipes also play GHB, it’s becoming less unusual for pipers to only play the bellows pipes without ever having blown the GHB.
I'm not sure that the majority of pipers that play SSP and border pipes also play GHB.

I'd also add that there are sound reasons to choose dry-(bellows-)blown pipes over wet-(mouth-)blown in the smaller reed sizes, especially SSP.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Loads of good info, thanks for the reply. I read it multiple times. It definitely sounds like I want to be starting out with a practice chanter haha. Are different style of pipes chanters specific to that style of pipes, or can they be interchangeable? I'd agree in that GHB probobly arent my ideal pipe style. When you mention these differences in pipes, is it moreso the style people play the music they are usually playing with them, or do Scottish pipes physically play that much different from medieval style? I have looked up the pipes the guy used in his cover, they are redpipe epona's (he said in a comment). Which are over $1500. Very far out of my budget haha. I'm not sure if there are any super cheap ones similar to the ones I found on hobgoblin or not, which are what especially peaked my interest. I appreciate pipes, but I'd only plan to dabble and play the Eluveitie and other songs I like that have pipes. So more basic level stuff. Nothing worthy of expensive pipes and years of honing my skills haha. Not sure how well these Scottish practice pipes or the McCallum practice ones I linked would be for that goal.
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AaronMalcomb
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by AaronMalcomb »

A practice chanter is generally for GHB because it’s a more physically demanding instrument. The fingering is specific to Scottish pipes. The pressure required to make the reeds sound varies greatly from one type of bagpipe to another. There is also wide variation in the dimensions of the stock which is the pipe that connects the chanter to the bag. Those factors make swapping chanters impractical if not impossible.

The Redpipe is electronic which adds to the cost but also means it can change pitch and fingering with a turn of a dial. The website says it’s a medieval bagpipe which would predate the GHB which only came into its current form less than 300 years ago. You might be better going in the direction of medieval pipes or a Galician gaita. The Galician gaita has a very easy pressure compared to GHB and has a much wider range. You’ll get a lot of mileage that way and you can play a wider variety of music.

If you don’t play a whistle, start there. They are even more affordable than a practice chanter and they are the secondary instrument for a lot of pipers anyways. If you already play penny whistle the fingering will adapt to easily to the Galician gaita or medieval bagpipes.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Ah I didnt realize the fingering would be different on Scottish pipes vs others. I saw the same holes on each and thought they would be the same. Very good to know haha. I did a bit of research, what I read makes a little more sense now. So Uilleann pipes and pretty much all others besides Scottish (GHB) have the same fingering. which is more similar to whistle fingering than GHB's. I think?

I saw that the redpipe is electronic. I thought that was just for the air, but makes a lot of sense now because I know Eluveitie uses the same one I think and they play in different keys. But I was originally thinking they just swap chanters.

I do currently play whistle (with pipers grip). So I understand the concept of different breath requirements and stuff. And am hoping that learning to blow into a bag and covering slightly different holes wont be TOO hard haha. But like every instrument, its always harder than it looks.

My search attempts for a medieval found this,
Link
I thought it was a fishy listing because the name says Scottish and Medieval but then I realized you choose which one. Seems to have decent reviews. Maybe its what I'm looking for? It has no drones though, which is a little sad. But I doubt I'm going to be getting that in any decent quality for this price. The only other thing I can find is amazon junk, that with more digging, found plenty of bad reviews.

Thanks for all the good info so far, helps a lot.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Peter Duggan »

Narzog wrote:So Uilleann pipes and pretty much all others besides Scottish (GHB) have the same fingering.
No. Uilleann pipes have very different fingering (+ range and style) from Scottish types, but that doesn't mean most others are the same. They're not.
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Narzog
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Thanks for all the info guys. I'll just stick to whistling for now, seeing that my idea of getting the sub $200 Scottish practice pipes isnt going to work. I did more research and it seems like everyone I listen to uses electric Redpipes. Which are really far out of my budget.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by fiddlerwill »

The pipes uou link “are”a practice chanter. In the form of a goose and 2 drones .
This is very similar to SSP .
I hada similar set yrs ago. Great fun and a perfect way to start off. Just block the drones off at first
The mind is like a parachute; it only works when it is open.


Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

fiddlerwill wrote:The pipes uou link “are”a practice chanter. In the form of a goose and 2 drones .
This is very similar to SSP .
I hada similar set yrs ago. Great fun and a perfect way to start off. Just block the drones off at first
Hey, thanks for the information, sorry I didnt notice this until now. I've been thinking small pipes could be my best route if I were to get into any sort of pipes to dabble. So maybe at some point I'll pick these up.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Hey, forgive the late reply, but if you're interested in bagpipes in general and not solely Scottish, there are some affordable options for German, Dutch, Swedish, and Italian pipes around $400-500 or so that I can link you to, folks that make quality student pipes out of plastic/resin.

– Deiv Liutai (https://www.deivliutaio.com/home-gb.php) makes some Northern Italian, Dutch, and Medieval pipes from around 400 Euros. I've briefly spoken with him online, he seems cool, haven't tried his pipes.
– Seth Hamon (swedishbagpipes.com) makes really good plastic Swedish pipes for $425; I own one of his and highly recommend for säckpipa
– Alexander Asmolov makes some plastic Dutch and Medieval pipes afaik, but I don't know if he's currently building, prices, or best way to contact

And there are a few reputable pipemakers in Central Europe who are more affordable than the average US/UK pipemaker, and are pretty versatile at making a wide variety of pipes to your taste.

– T. Sonoda makes some fancier stuff, but some of his most basic models of various pipes are reasonably affordable: http://www.bagpipesonoda.eu/ I've corresponded with him some, seems a great guy, I've seen others give good reviews of his pipes.
–Juray Dufek is in Slovakia, and I have a colleague who owns a couple pipes of his and says his quality is good and his prices are really reasonable, and he's willing to build some unusual stuff to order: http://www.bagpipes.sk/

There are probably a scattering more like them if you dig around, but this gives you a basic benchmark.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by pancelticpiper »

Narzog wrote: Heres the pipes I'm talking about https://www.hobgoblin-usa.com/local/sal ... tish-made/
And heres a video of them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6QMzt0 ... =emb_title
I'm not much of a "galore" fan, but if you want the least expensive UK-made introduction to Scottish smallpipes that would be it.
Narzog wrote:
Whats the difference between a "practice chanter" and a 'normal' chanter. To my knowledge you can buy different chanters.
There are at least five kinds of Scottish chanters:

1) Practice Chanters. These are learning and practice tools, and not intended to be musical instruments per se. Many of them have a Kazoo-like tone and are horrendously out of tune. But some PCs (Practice Chanters) are quite in tune and have a tone close to that of legitimate Scottish Smallpipe chanters.

A "practice goose" is merely a PC in a bag with a blowpipe, and not a bagpipe per se.

2) Highland Pipe chanters. These are the ones that are played in the full-size GHB (Great Highland Bagpipes). They're really too loud to work in any other kind of bagpipe IMHO. The volume is such that I can play in a large church with a Pipe Organ going full blast, or be in a large hall crowded with hundreds of loudly talking people, and still be heard perfectly.

3) Scottish smallpipe chanters. These vary, and range from being reconfigured Northumbrian Smallpipe chanters to being little more than Practice Chanters, depending on the maker and quality of the SSP (Scottish Small Pipes). They are much, much, much quieter than the GHB chanters. For example if I'm doing a gig on the GHB I can stand outside a room and everyone in the room can hear me fine, but if I stand inside a room full of chatting people playing SSP only the people within a few feet of me can hear me- most of the room can't hear me at all. Inside a quiet church with good acoustics I can be heard on SSP just fine, just like a flute can.

I can play my SSP with one fiddle and one guitar and the blend is perfect.

4) Scottish Border/Lowland/Reel/three-quarter size chanters. These are midway in volume between the GHB and SSP. In my opinion BP (Border Pipe) chanters are too quiet for GHB drones and too loud for SSP drones, thus they're usually played with dedicated drones.

5) Scottish Highland electronic chanters.
Narzog wrote: I'm looking for something more like this sound -> https://youtu.be/P0uLDhZXW6w?t=67 timestamped to the bagpipes playing.
I think that's an electronic Spanish Gaita chanter, and thus has nothing to do with Scottish bagpipes nor with acoustic music.
Narzog wrote: Is is possible to disable the drones?
Sure! Some SSPs and BPs have drone shutoff switches like Uilleann pipes do. Some SSP have NSP-style shutoff plungers.

Regardless, it's easy to shut of the drones using various methods. For GHBs foam earplugs can be shoved inside the drones, it works perfectly. BTW it's very common for GHB players to have one of the tenor drones plugged in this manner; many pipe bands require their whole Pipe Corps to do that. Why? It's 33% less stuff to go wrong in competition for one thing! And it gives the Pipe Corps a more bass-heavy tone.

For my SSPs (which have very narrow-bore drones) I use pipe-cleaners. They're soft so they can't scratch the insides of the drones, and they're easy to put in and take out.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

TapTheForwardAssist wrote:Hey, forgive the late reply, but if you're interested in bagpipes in general and not solely Scottish, there are some affordable options for German, Dutch, Swedish, and Italian pipes around $400-500 or so that I can link you to, folks that make quality student pipes out of plastic/resin.
Thanks for the links! I'll check them out

Thanks for the info Richard. I still cant decide what kind I want to get, but luckily it doesnt fit in my budget so I dont need to get anything yet haha. I feel like a big benefit to Scottish style pipes is the raw amount of information and supply available. Maybe its just because I'm an American and English speaker, but I've had a really hard time finding info on medieval, German, and gaitia pipes. And any others that arent Scottish or Uilleann. Part of it is most likely just that the sites and everything are in foreign languages so google isn't going to show me them. But I've had very little success learning about the different fingerings and stuff. I also thought that maybe Scottish would cost less because they seem more popular but I think that theory is false and I just cant find the makers. As proven by Tap's links of budget bagpipes.

The lack of ability to research the others successfully makes me want to lean towards Scottish style ones. At least to my knowledge, I think all the Scottish ones play similarly, so transitioning from like SSP to border Pipes or something wouldn't have all completely different fingerings. But there seems to be so much information I can find on them, which does help a lot. I don't dislike smallpipes but I would like somethign with a more 'traditional' bagpipe sound (where smallpipes either sound like a good or bad practice chanter). But as someone who would 95% play in his bedroom, the lower volume is good. border pipes and 3/4 bagpipes seem interesting but I havent done that much research on those yet so IDK if theres reasons I wouldnt want those. border pipes seem to cost more, and I've heard are harder to play.

I'm also interested in Uilleann pipes because of the unique sound, great for playing D whistle stuff, and good range. They just cost A LOT. The penny chanter exists but thats about the single semi affordable option. So I'm still interested in other options.

I have a love hate relationship with electronic pipes. I keep finding things that are actually played on electronic pipes, like in that video. They do sound slightly fake. but also if I got an electronic chanter I could get to pseudo play any of these types of bagpipes. I watched one of Matt Willis's reviews on an electronic chanter that he used a bagpipe app for the sounds. And it sounded really good for what it was. and it was much more affordable than even buying budget plastic pipes. But I do like when things can be acoustic, which electronic pipes arent.

I've given up on any thoughts of a chanter that can play several keys. Even though some can, the fingerings and stuff would be too complicated. My hope is to just get somethign that can play in a popular whistle key or two (with the reduced range of not having 2 octaves. But you can still usually make songs work). And possibly to be able to get different chanters for other keys, or just have different pipes I play for different keys. But thats super far in the future, implying I have money to get more than one haha. But most songs I like are played in D or Bb (and can be played on an A whistle for the ones in D and on a low F for Bb songs). So Ideally I think I'd want pipes that play in one of those two keys.

I've found a lot of mixed research that may be totally wrong or are just contradictory. Like-
-I've heard Bb bagpipes actually play in A
-I've heard Bb bagpipes play the same range as a Bb whistle with 1 lower note (and then 1 or 2 in the second octave cuz theres more holes for those)
-I've heard A smallpipes play in D. So similar to an A whistle playing in d? I'm skeptical of this.
-I've heard medieval and german bagpipes are the same
-I've heard that medieval bagpipes use recorder fingering. but theres 2 types of recorders, idk which one. But if it was the popular one kids learn in school it would actually have a lot of info on learning.

You can fact check those random points if you'd like haha. Any info or feedback is appreciated as usual. Thanks for the help so far.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by MichaelLoos »

Just a few answers to your latest questions.
Narzog wrote:I've given up on any thoughts of a chanter that can play several keys.
As bagpipes are drone instruments, they are confined to the keys that are harmonic with the drone - that means, the tonic and the fourth, very much like the two comfortably playable keys on the whistle. The chanter is tuned in just intonation, which means that even IF you had a chanter with all semitones available, you'd still be confined to these two keys, everything else sounding pretty much out of tune.
Narzog wrote:I've heard Bb bagpipes actually play in A
Not true. Scottish Highland bagpipes once were tuned to A, and this naming has persisted (it is very logical to call the tones "A, B, C" and so on). Accidentals find no consideration, although - given the mixolydian scale - "C" is in fact C#, and "F" is in fact F# - this makes things easier for the learner as in the traditional scale C natural and F natural don't exist anyway. The same goes for Scottish bagpipe music - it is written in A but with no accidentals. In the course of time, the standard pitch has been raised, first by a semitone to Bb which enabled the pipe band to play along with the regimental brass bands - the tone "A" was now in fact "Bb". In the past decades the pitch was further raised in order to add "brilliance" to the sound, so nowadays most GHB play somewhere in the middle between Bb and B natural. So it's just the denomination (and of course the written music) that makes it appear to be in A while it is in fact Bb or sharp of it
.
Narzog wrote:I've heard Bb bagpipes play the same range as a Bb whistle with 1 lower note (and then 1 or 2 in the second octave cuz theres more holes for those)
All Scottish bagpipes (as well as some of the continental ones too) have a range of one octave plus one full tone below the tonic, relative to a Bb whistle that would be low Ab,and then from low Bb to high Bb. GHB and smallpipes can not overblow, on border pipes you might be able to squeeze out one or two tones of the second octave. All Scottish bagpipes have a mixolydian scale.
Narzog wrote:I've heard A smallpipes play in D. So similar to an A whistle playing in d? I'm skeptical of this.
A smallpipes play in A (naturally enough...) but can play a plagal scale in D - just like an A whistle playing in D (with no overblowing though!)
Narzog wrote:I've heard medieval and german bagpipes are the same
There are no "real" medieval bagpipes. All we know about "true" medieval pipes is from a couple of paintings, etchings and woodcuts - many of them very much subject to artistic freedom. Since the 1970ies, there have been medieval fairs in Germany (similar to Renaissance Faires in the States), and in (at that time) both Germanies, a few instrument makers have created their ideas of what medieval bagpipes might have been like. The type that has prevailed has mostly been developed in East Germany - a loud bagpipe with huge sound bells, usually with one or two drones, and tuned to an A minor scale. This is, however, in no way authentic.
There have been a few documented German bagpipes from later times (Renaissance and later) - most important are the Hümmelchen (a type of smallpipe) and the Schäferpfeife (identical to Flemish/Dutch Doedelzak, and comparable to French or Border bagpipes in terms of volume), as well as the Bock (identical to today's Czech bagpipe). All these have been reconstructed in the 1970/1980ies, adapting recorder fingering to the Hümmelchen (definitely NOT authentic) and basically turning the French cornemuse du centre into a Schäferpfeife.
Narzog wrote:I've heard that medieval bagpipes use recorder fingering. but theres 2 types of recorders, idk which one. But if it was the popular one kids learn in school it would actually have a lot of info on learning.
Today's medieval pipes do use "German" recorder fingering (the simpler one - as opposed to baroque fingering), starting the scale on the second tone, thus giving a minor scale in A plus one tone below. However, it is not a very good idea as it confines you to playing in minor (in fact, dorian and aeolian modes). On most instruments, the drone can be tuned one tone lower thus enabling you to play an out.of-tune major scale in G - still not a very good idea... :wink: .
Some makers make medieval type bagpipes with french bagpipe fingering which gives a lot more possibilities - you have a major and a minor scale on the same tonic.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Peter Duggan »

MichaelLoos wrote:
Narzog wrote:I've given up on any thoughts of a chanter that can play several keys.
As bagpipes are drone instruments, they are confined to the keys that are harmonic with the drone - that means, the tonic and the fourth, very much like the two comfortably playable keys on the whistle.
You also get some GHB tunes like The Little Cascade where you've got an E minor (E Dorian) tune over A drones creating a quite distinctive effect that would be ruined by retuning the drones (if you could!) to B. But I still wouldn't say that meets Narzog's 'several keys' because the limiting factor is still available notes and range.
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