A few bagpipe questions

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pancelticpiper
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by pancelticpiper »

Narzog wrote: Part of it is most likely just that the sites and everything are in foreign languages...
For sure there are linguistic issues! I took lessons for a year on Bulgarian Gaida from a teacher that spoke no English. I listened to Bulgarian Youtube lessons and bought Bulgarian books.

I took a deep dive with the Gaita Gallega for several years, attended workshops and viewed websites and got books entirely in Spanish (Galego, in many cases).

I've perused a number of European bagpipe sites in French and German.

Thing is, I don't speak any of those languages! But music jargon is fairly universal, for example Bulgarians use the same Italian music terminology that English-speakers do. So I really never had any trouble getting along with those various languages.

For Bulgarian it meant learning the Cyrillic alphabet! Which has come in handy many times, actually, like news feeds where they have a Russian tickertape thing scrolling across the bottom of the screen, which I can mostly read.
Narzog wrote: 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.
I don't think Highland pipes are less expensive than other pipes, but they are more widely available. For example McCallum makes around 40 sets a week! So you can get a new McCallum set with no wait. Several other Highland pipe makers have little or no wait time, there are retailers that have them in stock. Acquiring top-quality Spanish pipes and Bulgarian pipes and uilleann pipes is far more tricky.

And as you mention once you learn Scottish Highland pipe fingering there are Smallpipes and Border pipes made specifically to be Highland piper-friendly, that require very little transition for Highland pipers.
Narzog wrote: 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.
Around here the David Daye uilleann beginner pipes are the best option both because they're inexpensive and because the reeds work beautifully in our California weather.
Narzog wrote:. My hope is to just get something that can play in a popular whistle key or two...
The best pipes for that are uilleann pipes, hands down. However the Spanish Gaita Gallega and some of the reproduction Renaissance bagpipes are designed to use fingerings very similar to the Recorder, and usually whistle players and Recorder players can get on with those bagpipes quite well.
Narzog wrote: I've heard Bb bagpipes actually play in A
Scottish Highland pipe music is all written in A Mixolydian (two sharps, the same key signature as D Major) but most Highland pipes don't play in A.

Highland pipe chanters are seen in these three pitches:

1) modern "sharp pitch" chanters, which are halfway between Concert B flat and Concert B natural, the tonic being around 480 cycles.

2) Concert B flat chanters, designed to play exactly in Concert Pitch, the tonic being 466 cycles.

3) Concert A chanters, designed to play exactly in Concert Pitch, the tonic being 440 cycles.
Narzog wrote:I've heard A smallpipes play in D.
Yes, as I mentioned above Highland pipe music is written in A Mixolydian which has a key signature of two sharps, in other words D Major.

To clarify, here's the written scale of the Scottish pipes:

Low G
Low A
B
C#
D
E
F#
High G
High A

Scottish smallpipes in A, Scottish Border pipes in A, and Scottish Great Highland bagpipes using a Concert A chanter will all play these notes at Concert Pitch.

The vast majority of Highland pipers nowadays play much sharper, as I was saying they're pitched halfway between Concert B flat and Concert B natural.

Pipers who do gigs playing with other instruments, in rock bands, or playing gigs with pipe organ, brass ensemble, etc generally use a chanter in Concert B flat (Mixolydian), though they still read their music in A (Mixolydian).

Scottish smallpipes are made in a variety of keys, in A (Mixolydian), Bb (Mixolydian), D (Mixolydian), and C (Mixolydian).

About keys used, Highland pipe tunes, as normally written in two sharps, will be seen in these keys/modes:

A Mixolydian
B minor
D Major
E dorian
G Lydian

G Lydian is a very old and distinctive mode on the Highland pipes, and even today Strathspeys especially are being written in that mode.

Another aspect is that many Highland pipe tunes give the impression of being in A Major due to using this scale
Low A
B
C#
D
E
F#
High A
in other words they're in a "gap scale" that lacks the note G, so the listener senses that these tunes are in A Major.

Also many Highland pipe tunes give the impression of being in A minor due to using this scale
Low A
B
D
E
High G
High A
in other words they're in a "gap scale" that lacks C and F.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Thanks for the info, Michael, Peter, and Richard. Its interesting how a lot of the strange sounding and contradictory things I read that I assumed were wrong were actually partially true.

Scottish concert style pipes sound better than I originally thought at playing assorted whistle tunes due to the interesting tuning making it more similar to using an A whistle to play in D than I thought (because it already has the whistles oxx ooo note). It still has range limitations, but that can sometimes be fixed just by going down instead of up, or the other way around. I lose my hope of using it to play concert Bb tunes but being able to play D tunes is significantly more useful in reality. So I wont be crossing Scottish style pipes off the list. The issue is if my goal is to play D whistle tunes I should just be going Uilleann for even more range. Although I've read that Uilleann are really hard to play. But 'hard to play' usually doesnt mean much in the music world when everything has its challenges. But 'harder' to play would make my life harder due to me paying too many instruments already. So lesser learning curve just means I wont sound bad sooner haha.

After Michael's info on medieval pipes I re visited this link to try and re translate the fingering chart.
https://www.deivliutaio.com/2-piva-medi ... va2-gb.php
Its strangely layed out but now I get it. I think. I did not realize medieval pipes were minor scale. So once I knew that, it made more sense. I'm assuming the notes are actually the left is lowest and the bottom is your pinky hole (which is the opposite of what I initially thought when I tried to read it). I'd say minor scale is pretty bad but because it has the lower bell note, and says it can finger a normal B, that means it can easily play C maj key. And D minor is all the notes of F maj, just offset, like playing B minor on a D whistle. And for playing in C maj, I realized this is almost much exactly like playing a keyed concert flute. where its similar to whistle/irish flute but shifted 1 finger, so your pinky down is your bell note. I learned concert flute for a little and have it sitting 3 feet away from me right now, so that would actually be a really easy adjustment to play. So this is definitely one of my best options if I were to just transpose my whistle songs to play with C or G whistle. and I could play a low F songs.

Although a thing I just realized is if I was to go 'medieval' style to play in C maj, I may just be better with the similar HÜMMELCHEN. Which, plays in c maj. Thats were some of the jumble of german vs medieval and whats the difference comes in. HÜMMELCHEN seems to have the weird recorder double hole. but otherwise seems very similar. And if I was to look at other makers, it would be important that I know which style they are using, and if they are the same fingering as these ones.

And then to complicate things more, from another maker-
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagpipema ... 820027433/
This HÜMMELCHEN looks like the above makers 'medieval' (in that the pinky hole is a normal hole and not a double hole). super confusing haha.

Once again thanks for the help guys. Even though I cant buy anything for a while I've still had fun looking these up haha.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

If you want to play in D (and its relative modes like E Dorian as commonly used in Irish), I would suggest a hard look at the Welsh bagpipes. I have an FAQ written up on r/WelshBagpipes on Reddit that lists makers, and just today on this sub I posted a little writeup on proposed ways of taking the popular £100 Welsh pibgorn and converting it to bag-mode.

I will also say that if you like Scottish Smallpipes but envy the range and chromaticity of the uilleann pipes, take a look at the Lindsay Chanter for the SSP, which is a really promising-looking innovation that closes much of the gap between SSP and UP:

https://lindstruments.com/products/lind ... em-chanter

EDIT: give a squint at Swedish pipes too. Seth Hamon makes really affordable quality plastic ones, with bomb-proof synthetic reeds. They still only have a range of a 9th, but they have a number of chromatic notes. They can be had in E/A or D/G (or far more rarely in other keys).
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by MichaelLoos »

The practice pipe from Deiv's website are basically a Hümmelchen in "medieval" design and D minor scale tuning, using the same fingering that the "great" medieval pipe uses, but sounding D minor rather than A minor like the great pipe.
As I mentioned before, you do have all the tones necessary for a C major scale, but it will sound out of tune as the scale in just intonation can only be tuned to one tonic (in this case D) and the intervals will not be correct relative to C, particularly the third and the sixth will be noticeably out of tune. Having tones available does not mean that they will sound right... in that aspect, a bagpipe is a lot different from a flute which is in more or less tempered tuning.
Forget about relative minors, with drone instruments, it is all about just intervals relative to the tonic.
I don't know which "weird double hole" on Hümmelchen you're referring to, so far I have never seen a Hümmelchen with a double hole except for one with a double hole for the pinky which I myself made - didn't work well, definitely not recommended.
I'm afraid your Flickr link doesn't work for me, so I have no idea what it's about...
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by MichaelLoos »

I forgot to mention that the deviations between just and tempered intonation are indeed less noticeable with straight (=cylindrical) bore instruments like Smallpipes, Hümmelchen and the like, than with tapered (=conical) bore instruments,because due to acoustical physics, the cylindrical bore produces only half of the overtones, therefore there are only half as many overtones that can "bite", and deviations from the correct scale are much more tolerable to the ear.
That is the reason why Northumbrian Smallpipes can be made to sound okay in four or five different keys, while GHB or Gaitas cannot.
Pretty much the same as a piano tuned to tempered tuning and not emitting many harmonics due to its sound production can play in any key nicely, whereas a harpsichord with its very typical sound rich in harmonics can not - although it has all the tones required, it needs to be retuned for playing in a totally unrelated key.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

Thanks Tap, I'll check those out.

@Michael, Thanks for that input, you make an incredibly fair point about the just intonation. I completely forgot about that. If possible, I'd be more interested in an option that is equal temperament, or as close to that as possible, along with concert pitch. My end goal is to be able to record and play with other instruments, so being in tune, and in tune for any other keys the pipe can play in, is very important.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Narzog wrote:Thanks Tap, I'll check those out.

@Michael, Thanks for that input, you make an incredibly fair point about the just intonation. I completely forgot about that. If possible, I'd be more interested in an option that is equal temperament, or as close to that as possible, along with concert pitch. My end goal is to be able to record and play with other instruments, so being in tune, and in tune for any other keys the pipe can play in, is very important.
Honestly, given everything you've said, I would suggest getting a WARBL, it's a MIDI controller that can emulate all kinds of pipes, and vary sounds and scales and intonation and all. They're like US$250 and made in Oregon, tons of pipers loving them since they came out relatively recently. If you're not opposed to modern tech, a WARBL would allow you to try out all kinds of pipes and ultimately decide which you really want, plus would be amazing for silent practice. I have a Fagerström e-pipe and play it on public transport or in bed next to a sleeping partner, and the WARBL is less standalone but way more versatile and I'm considering buying one of those as well so I'll have two e-pipe options. Just a thought.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

TapTheForwardAssist wrote: Honestly, given everything you've said, I would suggest getting a WARBL, it's a MIDI controller that can emulate all kinds of pipes, and vary sounds and scales and intonation and all. They're like US$250 and made in Oregon, tons of pipers loving them since they came out relatively recently. If you're not opposed to modern tech, a WARBL would allow you to try out all kinds of pipes and ultimately decide which you really want, plus would be amazing for silent practice. I have a Fagerström e-pipe and play it on public transport or in bed next to a sleeping partner, and the WARBL is less standalone but way more versatile and I'm considering buying one of those as well so I'll have two e-pipe options. Just a thought.
I've thought of just getting a WARBL. While I think "the real deal" acoustic instruments are cooler, I do still have respect for virtual. When I started my music journey my goal was actually to just play keyboard and use all virtual instruments, and I got Native Instruments Kontakt, which is a giant virtual instrument player that people make other virtual instruments for. But then I started feeling like I wanted to play the real thing. Which leads me to today where I also play whistle and guitar. And while the WARBL is still a midi controller, its much closer to the real thing than using a normal midi keyboard, so it should be much closer to real sounding. Because one of the issues with virtual instruments is how much time and programming you need to put into trying to make them sound real. WARBL you can do pressure and ornamentation, so a lot of that 'needed programming' should just come out in the playing. So I am considering it as one of my best options haha.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Narzog wrote:
TapTheForwardAssist wrote: Honestly, given everything you've said, I would suggest getting a WARBL, it's a MIDI controller that can emulate all kinds of pipes, and vary sounds and scales and intonation and all. They're like US$250 and made in Oregon, tons of pipers loving them since they came out relatively recently. If you're not opposed to modern tech, a WARBL would allow you to try out all kinds of pipes and ultimately decide which you really want, plus would be amazing for silent practice. I have a Fagerström e-pipe and play it on public transport or in bed next to a sleeping partner, and the WARBL is less standalone but way more versatile and I'm considering buying one of those as well so I'll have two e-pipe options. Just a thought.
I've thought of just getting a WARBL. While I think "the real deal" acoustic instruments are cooler, I do still have respect for virtual. When I started my music journey my goal was actually to just play keyboard and use all virtual instruments, and I got Native Instruments Kontakt, which is a giant virtual instrument player that people make other virtual instruments for. But then I started feeling like I wanted to play the real thing. Which leads me to today where I also play whistle and guitar. And while the WARBL is still a midi controller, its much closer to the real thing than using a normal midi keyboard, so it should be much closer to real sounding. Because one of the issues with virtual instruments is how much time and programming you need to put into trying to make them sound real. WARBL you can do pressure and ornamentation, so a lot of that 'needed programming' should just come out in the playing. So I am considering it as one of my best options haha.
I totally get you, and I've had a similar thought process of "even if you have proper sounds, with digital it's the interface that matters."

Just as you note, with the WARBL your actual hand motions resemble an acoustic pipe, and the sounds are pretty close, so it's not like just putting a bagpipe sound onto your Korg keyboard and tickling ivories. And the WARBL uses optic fingerholes so you can actually half-hole and slide and cool stuff like that, things you can't do on a pipe with binary metal contacts.

At the start of Covid I bought a Fagerström TechnoPipes, set up for Swedish bagpipe and for Northumbrian smallpipe (I'm probably the only person ever to order that combo). So I've been really brushing up my säckpipa technique, as well as doing some brain-yoga by figuring out the closed-fingering NSP technique (only one finger lifted at a time, brief total closure and thus chanter silence between notes). I don't regret getting the Fagerström, since I've wanted one (and especially a clear one) since iirc the late 1990s or so, but I grant if I hadn't had a history of wanting the F. and was comparing it today to the WARBL, I'd probably go WARBL. My only/main hesitation on the WARBL is it doesn't have a lower thumbole; but then again neither did my first säckpipa and I liked it just fine.

If you're as up-in-the-air as to what pipe to get as you seem to be, the WARBL is affordable and versatile, has features that otherwise only pricey pipes have (like optical sensors and breath pressure), etc. I checked the fingering chart on the WARBL site and apparently currently there are programs for UP, SSP, GHB, NSP, Gaita (up to three octaves), and all kinds of bagless woodwinds.

I'm going to ponder it and ask the maker if he's willing to make a Swedish program for it, which would pretty much resolve my lingering issues other than the lack of a lower thumbhole. I'd been pondering blowing $1300+ next year on a Redpipe, but frankly the $250 WARBL and a little DIY to make a cool bag for it would probably be just about as good at a fraction of the price.

Ultimately your call, but I'd definitely ponder hard on the WARBL, as I myself am currently doing.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

All my bagpipe influencers actually use a Redpipe. Eluveitie, TheSnakecharmer, and even that random cover I linked early in the thread. I've seen them blow up the bag so I think it actually uses air but otherwise its just a really expensive good looking WARBL. That ya should have a lot of sounds built in to it, but things like
http://appcordions.com/bagpipes/
are incredibly affordable and sound really good. For this app though it says optimized for technopipes, but I don't know if that really means a lot. Matt Willis has a WARBL + that app review and he seemed to like it a lot. Also the WARBL has the pressure bag attatchment, which things like the Fagerström doesnt have. At least to my knowledge. Which I dont know how realistic that is but its still more realistic practice than the other midi options. So for the price the WARBL does seem really hard to beat.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by pancelticpiper »

MichaelLoos wrote:I forgot to mention that the deviations between just and tempered intonation are indeed less noticeable with straight (=cylindrical) bore instruments like Smallpipes, Hümmelchen and the like, than with tapered (=conical) bore instruments,because due to acoustical physics, the cylindrical bore produces only half of the overtones, therefore there are only half as many overtones that can "bite", and deviations from the correct scale are much more tolerable to the ear.
That is the reason why Northumbrian Smallpipes can be made to sound okay in four or five different keys, while GHB or Gaitas cannot.
Thanks so much for that!

I've been playing all sorts of bagpipes for over 40 years and I never knew that.

I was aware how finicky the Highland pipes are to get each note exactly dialed in, and how if a note is off the tiniest fraction it screams at you, in contrast to my Scottish smallpipes which can be tuned with some notes a compromise between JI and ET and it sounds fine.

But I didn't know the acoustics behind it.
Richard Cook
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Narzog wrote:All my bagpipe influencers actually use a Redpipe. Eluveitie, TheSnakecharmer, and even that random cover I linked early in the thread. I've seen them blow up the bag so I think it actually uses air but otherwise its just a really expensive good looking WARBL. That ya should have a lot of sounds built in to it, but things like
http://appcordions.com/bagpipes/
are incredibly affordable and sound really good. For this app though it says optimized for technopipes, but I don't know if that really means a lot. Matt Willis has a WARBL + that app review and he seemed to like it a lot. Also the WARBL has the pressure bag attatchment, which things like the Fagerström doesnt have. At least to my knowledge. Which I dont know how realistic that is but its still more realistic practice than the other midi options. So for the price the WARBL does seem really hard to beat.
That's correct, the Fagerström has no breath sensor; note on the WARBL the breath feature is optional, so you can just play it in your coat pocket by pushing a button, or you can put it in air mode and play by blowing into it or attaching a bag to it. I'm not totally clear on how the settings work (the manual is all online, I'm just lazy) but apparently you can blow through it (mouth or bag), but also you can just close off the air and have a bag with no actual flow (a closed-system) so depending how loose/tight you squeeze the bag it effects volume and octave jumps.

You're pretty much selling me on a WARBL now, I feel like I should send you a symbolic invoice for the $250 you're about to make me drop on this.

Like I was really debating getting a decent-tier Mezzo/Low G whistle (I have a Susato F and a Freeman A), and thinking of getting a Northern Spirit drone doubled Native American flute, but then I realized for literally the price of those two items I can get a Warbl, which also saves me over $1000 (for now) by heading me off from buying a Redpipe.

I'm going to email them and bug them about adding Swedish and Welsh features, which I genuinely think would be decent choices so far as marketability go. Not just something to appeal to this one weirdo (me) individually.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

TapTheForwardAssist wrote: That's correct, the Fagerström has no breath sensor; note on the WARBL the breath feature is optional, so you can just play it in your coat pocket by pushing a button, or you can put it in air mode and play by blowing into it or attaching a bag to it. I'm not totally clear on how the settings work (the manual is all online, I'm just lazy) but apparently you can blow through it (mouth or bag), but also you can just close off the air and have a bag with no actual flow (a closed-system) so depending how loose/tight you squeeze the bag it effects volume and octave jumps.

You're pretty much selling me on a WARBL now, I feel like I should send you a symbolic invoice for the $250 you're about to make me drop on this.

Like I was really debating getting a decent-tier Mezzo/Low G whistle (I have a Susato F and a Freeman A), and thinking of getting a Northern Spirit drone doubled Native American flute, but then I realized for literally the price of those two items I can get a Warbl, which also saves me over $1000 (for now) by heading me off from buying a Redpipe.

I'm going to email them and bug them about adding Swedish and Welsh features, which I genuinely think would be decent choices so far as marketability go. Not just something to appeal to this one weirdo (me) individually.
Having the air mode to me is a really good bump over the others at making it realistic. The bag you can buy with it is sealed but I do bet it would be possible to hook it up to a bag and bellows for extra realism.

I'm also sold on this idea. They should give us each discount codes for convincing each other to buy it, like affiliate salesmen. I'm just trying to decide if I should wait like a good boy for my tax return in a week or so or just buy it now because why not haha.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Narzog wrote:
TapTheForwardAssist wrote: I'm also sold on this idea. They should give us each discount codes for convincing each other to buy it, like affiliate salesmen. I'm just trying to decide if I should wait like a good boy for my tax return in a week or so or just buy it now because why not haha.
I'm also sold now, even though I really want them to add Swedish. But I have Swedish on my Fagerström for now anyway, I guess. But I do think it would be a great add for the general market too. The lack of a lower thumbhole is a sticky wicket, but not so terrible that I'm not down.

So far as timing: I can't speak for you, but since I'm not rich but not "this $250 means I'm eating potatoes and peanut butter the rest of Feb," I'm just going to go ahead and order in the coming week.
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Re: A few bagpipe questions

Post by Narzog »

TapTheForwardAssist wrote: So far as timing: I can't speak for you, but since I'm not rich but not "this $250 means I'm eating potatoes and peanut butter the rest of Feb," I'm just going to go ahead and order in the coming week.
Ya I do have decent padding in my bank account and the $300 wouldnt matter. I just try to have good spending habbits and not buy things until I get more money so that my stash is going up not down haha.

I was putting them in my cart and I realised that the appcordions celtic winds app is for apple only. which I dont actually have. I could borrow my mothers ipad to use but I'll probobly have to get my own. Still a lot cheaper than buying real pipes tho haha. I did some research for PC running apps I could use but I feel like they might not even be as good.
I found these two
https://www.ilyaefimov.com/products/eth ... l#overview
http://www.epipes.co.uk/index.html
Which both seem good but cost significantly more than celtic winds and debatably wont even be as good. Like the first link is made for keyboard use with lots of built in features to try and imitate real playing, instead of just having support for midi chanter to try and sound legit from playing. And the epipes may be better than celtic winds but all the videos I've seen of WARBL play are with celtic winds. I guess I've to get an IPAD at least, so now I have an excuse to add it to the list haha.
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