Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by MichaelLoos »

The actual volume of certain instruments is often misperceived.
In average, uilleann pipes are approximately as loud as a well-played concert flute, a tad quieter than a fiddle and a lot quieter than an accordion. However, many people perceive them as being loud, partly because the overtone range makes them stick out a bit, but mostly because they have the sound of the Highland pipes in their minds and unconsciously connect "bagpipe" with "loud as hell".
There is (almost) no way of taking influence on the volume by way of playing - however, the way the reeds are adjusted does make a big difference, the same instrument can be adjusted in a way that is is not louder than a whistle, or can be made a "banjo blaster", to quote the late Peter Hunter.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Jayhawk »

So I can blame the reeds not the player? LOL...good to know. Quieter would be better, especially in my wife's opinion and especially since I also play flute, whistle and accordion (piano at that, but a small one).

Thanks for the good advice all...looks like uilleann pipes are likely to be my best bet even if they don't allow me to stand up and play.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Tjones »

The Sporting Pitchfork wrote:I have to be uncharacteristically blunt here: if pastoral pipes were so well-suited for ITM, then a hell of a lot more people would be playing and making them.

That's not to say that they _can't_ be used for ITM or that they don't sound nice when used for ITM (or other music for that matter), but the uilleann pipes work so much better. Before you spend a significant amount of money acquiring a set of pastoral pipes, track someone down who already has a set and try them out. Better yet, embark on a mystic quest to try all of the crazy bagpipes out there that people have mentioned so far in this thread and pick the one you like the best (or hate the least--YMMV).

I think there's a lot of unfortunate and misplaced anxiety about the uilleann pipes being somehow more difficult than other types of pipes. I play GHB, SSP, UP, and flute, and I do not think this is the case. They can be equally rewarding and challenging in their own special ways. If you have a good instrument and a good teacher, the uilleann pipes needn't cause you any grief.

If you want to play ITM on pipes, you will not find a bellows-blown bagpipe better suited for ITM than uilleann pipes. If you want to play Northumbrian tunes, Northumbrian pipes are definitely the way to go. (The fingering system is closed, meaning you only lift one finger at a time. However, if you have a lot of keys on your chanter--which you would probably need if you wanted to play much besides the core Northumbrian repertoire--you would have to get used to being pretty dextrous with your thumbs.)

I'd love to get my hands on a Lindsay chanter someday, but while it sounds great and opens up a lot of exciting doors for Scottish pipers, there's no way it would ever be as well suited to playing Irish music as uilleann pipes already are. As I said, pastoral pipes _can_ sound very nice for playing ITM, but there are some good reasons why the pastoral pipes gave way to the on-the-knee union/uilleann pipes, and these reasons have not been totally addressed in the modern pastoral sets being made now, improved though they may be. The ability of the uilleann pipe chanter to be closed on the knee is, in my view, crucial to be able to play ITM in a tasteful way. Just playing the chanter open with no ability to stop between notes sounds, well, slobbery. This is not a tight-fingering vs. open fingering thing either. Listen to "open style" uilleann pipers like Johnny and Felix Doran--even they stopped the chanter on the knee between notes every now and then. Pastoral pipes do not give you this option, and the clusters of gracenotes that Scottish pipers employ to give the illusion of space between notes don't always sound nice on them either. Pastoral pipe chanters generally have a more nasal tone than uilleann pipe chanters--not necessarily louder, but more nasal, say, halfway between uilleann pipes and border pipes. If the sound of NSP and SSP is what you like best, pastoral pipes are going in the opposite direction.

Again, yes, you ABSOLUTELY can play Irish traditional music on a number of different bagpipes if you really want to. You can also eat a burrito with chopsticks if you really want to. The choice is yours.

Take some time to _really_ think hard about what you want to do with the pipes you want and how much time, effort, and money you're willing to spend. Trust me, if there were a kind of pipes that genuinely worked better for playing ITM than uilleann pipes, you'd have a line of uilleann pipers out the door desperate to get their hands on them.

Let’s go back in time a bit, the pastoral pipe was developed to play the “new music” of the time (1720ish), the players wanted an expanded range over what had previously been available. The pastoral pipe has a full two octaves, giving it a much greater range than many of the pipes being played at that time, the broadest range was in the border regions, where the pipes were limited to an octave and a fourth. The pastoral pipes were still being made in the 1850s and were being played up into the first world war. I’ll guess they were even use for Irish music. Then they were kinda lost. I think we should remember that even uilleann piping in Ireland was almost lost, if it hadn’t been for Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU, the Society of Irish Pipers), founded in 1968, bringing them back; along with the folk revival of the 1960s and 70s, with bands like Planxty, the Chieftens, and the Bothy Band, they would probably be lost also. For the pastoral pipe there is only a few makers, making the occasional set, mostly out of historical interest.

I think it’s when regulators were added to the pastoral pipes that we see the beginning of the pipes decline. Historically there are examples of pastoral pipes with one, sometimes two regulators. The foot joint of the pastoral pipe adds about 8” to the length over the uilleann chanter. I added one regulator to my set, and I use it to add a note, on the occasional tune. Because of the foot joint, there is no way that one can play them like an uilleann piper plays their regulators. Removing the foot joint, facilitates playing the regulators, a big part of playing bagpipes in Irish music. It also had a huge benefit of being able to stop the chanter, and play staccato. Todays Irish piping developed and revolves around this style of piping.

Stopping the uilleann chanter also opened up a whole new range and variety of color in the sound of what the piper can play. Each note can have several different ways to play it achieving a different timber. I’ve heard it said that it takes 21 years to learn to play the uilleann pipes. (I can’t remember the exact quote) There is so much involved besides just learning the technical fingering. I had a workshop with Keiran O’Hare where he spent a 90 minute lecture on the first two measures of a tune. (He is a great teacher by the way.)

Irish piping like Scottish piping, both have a very unique and recognizable style that takes time and practice to become accomplished, most often starting young. When someone plays these pipes in other than the accepted style, the piper is often criticized. One, not only has to learn to play these pipes, but also in the acceptable style of playing.

“However, you can't just go ahead and play away as you would on flute, this would result in sounding like bad uilleann piping - you will have to learn to play the instrument the way it should and needs to be be played.” ~ MichaelLoos

For me this is an issue. I would not consider myself an accomplish musician. I love instruments and have a variety of them, but master of none, I didn’t really start playing an instrument until I was forty, stopped, and then restarted on an Irish flute at 53. So when I was in my 60’s the idea of learning the uilleann pipes, and how to play them in the correct manner was more than I was willing to try. So, I bought my pastoral pipes, because, as far as I could tell there is no right or wrong way to play them. So it shouldn’t matter if I play them using flute ornamentation, or what ever works for me.

The pastoral pipe is pretty straight forward, it will never sound like an uilleann pipe chanter with it’s many colors and variety of sound, the foot joint won’t allow it. The pastoral chanter is very similar to a narrow bore uilleann chanter, in fact Ray Sloan used his narrow bore chanter design to build a pastoral set of pipes, by adding a foot joint. I doubt there is anything more one could do, or should do to enhance what the current makers are doing. For me, the pastoral pipe has an old enchanting sound that blends well with its drones, and can be played with other instruments.

Just thought I’d add that uilleann pipes can be played standing by adding a small foot step.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCCNSUvgBTc
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Jayhawk »

Nice opposition piece there that kind of speaks to me. I'd be playing pipes as much on Breton music as Irish, Shetland, Scottish, Old-time or original pieces we write. I mean...I am primarily a flute player who wants to dabble a bit on pipes to add something different for our band, which I may point out is in the middle of the prairies of the USA. I also have no urge to have actual regional pipes for all the various types of music we play...that would make a gig a pain in the backside not to mention I'm far too old to simultaneously take up 3 or 4 new instruments...one new one will be hard enough.

Unfortunately, in my area, which includes a 2.3 million population city, there is only one uilleann piper and he is really a highland piper who bought his uilleann pipes just this year. I know a ton of highland pipers, two border pipers, one person with SSPs in A...and that's it. Pipes are just not common on the prairies so no real opportunities to spend time with or try other's pipes.

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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by aphillips »

Hey All!

I've enjoyed reading this thread. My set of pastoral pipes from Geert Lejeune should be arriving next month. I actually ordered the 4 drone version so that I can add some extra G into the mix when playing tunes in that key. I went with pastoral pipes for similar reasons to TJones (btw post some more videos on YouTube please! ha ha) in that I loved the uilleann sound, but was looking for something that had less "it is for this music" feelings attached to it.

Also, it is fun to play instruments that not a lot of other have or have even heard of.

Thirdly, I really like have the seventh on the bottom and with this set I'll have both C and C#. It's something I often miss with my whistles.

So I look forward to blithely switching between Irish and Scottish tunes as well as Galician and who knows what else on my "weird" pipes. Ha ha.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Jayhawk »

So, for the two players of pastoral pipes...if you bought from Geert, where did you get the bellows and how much did that add to the cost? If you didn't buy from Geert Lejeune, who did you buy from?

I must say I'm intrigued by their ability to play two octaves and their versatility. I'm perfectly fine with walking a different piping path. :D

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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Tjones »

Eric,

I have a question for you: How important to you is having the top end of the second octave?
For me it was very important, many of the tunes I’m drawn to go up to the High B, but if for you that’s not the case, then you might consider border pipes in low D.

Piping in North America is pretty dominated by the Highland pipes, and pipers. I’m of the opinion that most alternative pipes are in the key of A because of this. Border pipes in A are only a bit less in volume than the Highland pipes and sound very similar to them, but Border pipes in D are a fifth lower, and they sound less like the highland pipes and more in the keeping with Irish music. You would be limited to an octave and a forth, though.

There are some nice videos of pipers playing low D border pipes on YouTube. Jon Swayne, makes both pastoral pipes and border pipes. https://www.jonswayne.com/bagpipes In the US Banton & Woodson make border pipes, but I don’t know if they make them in Low D. http://bantonwoodson.com. There are probability a few others also.

Dave Rowlands has collected and arranged quite a few tunes for the Low D pipes. Three collections of Irish tunes, and a couple collections of 18th century music. But, I do find I like the ability to play the top notes the way I learned the tunes on my flute.


Geert made the matching bellows to my set. It’s been almost 8 years since i bought the pipes, so I don’t remember how much they were. At the time I thought they were expensive, but they are very nice and well made.

before regulator showing the bellows
https://photos.app.goo.gl/YpmSfL4vx9PPTNSY8

After the the modifications
https://photos.app.goo.gl/HemQQmKoBAfxbJpj8

to aphillips;
Occasionally I wish I had added the keys for Eb and C#, oh well. It sounds like you are going to have a very nice set of pipes!
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Jayhawk »

I'll give a listen to border pipes in D, but I'm pretty certain I'd like as large a range as I can get.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by pancelticpiper »

Jayhawk wrote:I'll give a listen to border pipes in D, but I'm pretty certain I'd like as large a range as I can get.
There's no getting around the fact that the best pipes for Irish traditional music are the uilleann pipes.

I play the Scottish Highland pipes and the uilleann pipes, and something that these instruments and the musics played upon them continuously remind me is that the physics/mechanics of the Scottish Highland chanter make that instrument uniquely and perfectly suited for the Scottish Highland pipe repertoire but unsuitable for the majority of Irish traditional music, and that the physics/mechanics of the uilleann chanter make that instrument uniquely and perfectly suited for the Irish uilleann pipe repertoire but unsuitable for many Scottish Highland pipe tunes.

Ditto with the Bulgarian pipes, which are simply the best possible instrument for Bulgarian traditional music yet unsuited for Irish or Scottish traditional music. On it goes with instrument after instrument.

It's not like these various instruments were randomly plucked out of some cloud they were floating in and applied willy-nilly to various preexisting musical genres. These various musical genres evolved on those very instruments, and the instruments and the musics are inextricably intertwined.

I suppose it's being Captain Obvious to state these things, but I see all the time, in the Highland pipe world, pipers insisting on playing horrible garbled versions of Irish tunes because they refuse to face the fact that the Highland pipes aren't suited to those tunes.

And I've heard uilleann pipers play the most godawful versions of Highland pipe tunes.

When I hear such things, I think of Samuel Johnson's comment:

"it's like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Tjones »

pancelticpiper wrote:
Jayhawk wrote:I'll give a listen to border pipes in D, but I'm pretty certain I'd like as large a range as I can get.
There's no getting around the fact that the best pipes for Irish traditional music are the uilleann pipes.

I play the Scottish Highland pipes and the uilleann pipes, and something that these instruments and the musics played upon them continuously remind me is that the physics/mechanics of the Scottish Highland chanter make that instrument uniquely and perfectly suited for the Scottish Highland pipe repertoire but unsuitable for the majority of Irish traditional music, and that the physics/mechanics of the uilleann chanter make that instrument uniquely and perfectly suited for the Irish uilleann pipe repertoire but unsuitable for many Scottish Highland pipe tunes.

Ditto with the Bulgarian pipes, which are simply the best possible instrument for Bulgarian traditional music yet unsuited for Irish or Scottish traditional music. On it goes with instrument after instrument.

It's not like these various instruments were randomly plucked out of some cloud they were floating in and applied willy-nilly to various preexisting musical genres. These various musical genres evolved on those very instruments, and the instruments and the musics are inextricably intertwined.

I suppose it's being Captain Obvious to state these things, but I see all the time, in the Highland pipe world, pipers insisting on playing horrible garbled versions of Irish tunes because they refuse to face the fact that the Highland pipes aren't suited to those tunes.

And I've heard uilleann pipers play the most godawful versions of Highland pipe tunes.

When I hear such things, I think of Samuel Johnson's comment:

"it's like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Richard,

There is no question which pipes are the best for Irish Traditional music, but I don’t think that is what was asked.

If someone is looking for a bagpipe that can play two octaves, and doesn’t feel inclined to learn the uilleann pipes, for what ever reason, there are only a few options that I’m aware of, as we have named earlier in the thread.

You are correct that most types of bagpipes match a tradition. I feel that in Highland piping the tradition is pretty much set, and hasn’t changed much over the years.

Irish music, on the other hand, is a living, changing tradition. If you go back in time, the pastoral pipe is part of that tradition. The fiddle and pipes are among the earliest instruments in that tradition, but the pipes were the piob mor. As the music changed, and with the demand for a more versatile pipe, you have the development of the pastoral pipes with 2 octaves. Both of these pipes require finger articulation to play. Grey Larson states that “The varied use of these fingering articulations became an integral and sophisticated element of Irish bagpipe music" Many of these finger articulations are used on the flute and whistle. The fingering of the pastoral pipe is similar to that of a flute or whistle, I feel that the uilleann pipe fingering to be quite challenging by comparison.

Grey Larson also states:

“Still, uilleann piping was deeply affected by the pastoral bagpipe and piob mor traditions. It inherited a fundamental and deeply held aesthetic from these ancestral bagpipe traditions, and combined it with its staccato capability to create a new synthesis, one that is also shared by the Irish flute and tin whistle. The music in all its variety, springs forth from an underlying foundation of Legato playing. The appropriate use of staccato playing exists in relation to the foundation and takes on its meaning in contrast to it.”

The main difference between the uilleann pipe and the pastoral pipe is the ability to play staccato. This, to my way of thinking isn’t the same as playing Irish tunes on a GHP chanter, or the other way around. The pastoral chanter plays legato, in the same range as the uilleann chanter, but with finger articulations similar to playing a flute without using throating, or tonguing. It may not have quite the richness of an uilleann chanter, but they are more similar than other chanters.

Ray Sloan recently posted this on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr94PBuHg0Y

Not to taking anything away from Ray, but I feel he hasn’t learn to play it as a pastoral chanter. But this shows how close the chanters are to one another.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by aphillips »

Hey Richard - I should have my pastoral set from Geert Lejeune in about a month. Let me you if you are ever going to trek up to Santa Barbara and you can come check them out.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

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aphillips wrote: Tue Dec 15, 2020 11:29 am Hey All!

I've enjoyed reading this thread. My set of pastoral pipes from Geert Lejeune should be arriving next month. I actually ordered the 4 drone version so that I can add some extra G into the mix when playing tunes in that key. I went with pastoral pipes for similar reasons to TJones (btw post some more videos on YouTube please! ha ha) in that I loved the uilleann sound, but was looking for something that had less "it is for this music" feelings attached to it.

Also, it is fun to play instruments that not a lot of other have or have even heard of.

Thirdly, I really like have the seventh on the bottom and with this set I'll have both C and C#. It's something I often miss with my whistles.

So I look forward to blithely switching between Irish and Scottish tunes as well as Galician and who knows what else on my "weird" pipes. Ha ha.
So aphillips ~ Have you received your pastor pipes from Geert? How about some pictures and sound clips
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by pancelticpiper »

Jayhawk wrote: Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:05 pm I'm hoping for an instrument suitable for playing with my Irish band.

Quiet and mellow, key of D preferable, 2 octave range and ideally with a fingering close to Irish flute, which I play.
You have just described the uilleann pipes. Hope no more! The suitable instrument exists, and is in fact being used by nearly all Irish folk bands that use pipes :)

BTW reading between the lines it seems like you might be assuming that the Northumberland Smallpipes play at a lower volume than the uilleann pipes. I don't think that's true. Of course NSP chanters and uilleann chanters are each made in a variety of different pitches, but taking the typical NSP in the traditional key of F, they're easily as loud as many uilleann Concert D chanters.

Perhaps the ideal solution is a "narrow bore" uilleann D chanter, which has a softer darker tone than a big-bore Concert D chanter.

BTW the uilleann chanter has a unique commonality with the flute: they are the only woodwinds that leap the octave without using an octave key, register key, or special fingering. You can finger F# and play it in either octave using the same fingering, only changing your blowing, on both flute and uilleann pipes.
Jayhawk wrote: Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:05 pm I love the sound of smallpipes and Northumbrian pipes...
Northumbrian pipes are smallpipes, they're called The Northumberland Smallpipes. I'm not sure what distinction you're making there.
Jayhawk wrote: Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:05 pm I have heard Northumbrian pipes described as having a devilish fingering system...
I dabbled in NSP for a few years. As you say they have a unique charming tone.

The basic "9 hole" fingering couldn't be simpler: you just lift one finger at a time.

The fingering is diametrically opposed to the Boehm "open fingering" system, so if you're looking for a flutelike fingering you couldn't get further from it!

The tricky part is when you get into using all those keys for tunes with a wider range.

I think it takes FAR more skill to play a full-speed full-range Irish reel on the NSP than it does on the uilleann pipes, where, as on the Irish flute, all the notes are right there under your fingers without having to use any keys (for most trad Irish tunes in G and D).
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by Narzog »

I'm no piper, but as someone who's also done research to try and find the best pipe to go to as a whistle/flute player whos interested in dabbling, my best findings were UP, and virtual. There's a video of Fred Morrison talking about how people use his BP's for Irish music because BP have good tuning. I'll let the others here shoot down that concept, but it may be worth considering.

I ended up getting a Warbl (virtual) and buying a used practice UP set. But its setup is questionable at best so I've had minimal success or enjoyment playing it. With whistle I know that if I buy a good one any issues are my playing. But with a used UP set there's no way for me to know what issues are me and what are the set being setup wrong. So morale of my little story, make sure you buy a set from a maker you can interact with and make sure its setup well for you. And ideally have a UP'er you know try it. I've never met a ITM person so I can't do that one so I'm kinda screwed lol. But theres so much going on with reed placement, the reed itself, bridle position, rushes, taping, etc that theres no way for a non UP'er to figure out whats the proper setup. But if you know all that is setup right, then you can just play and get better. A reason I've looked into SP and BP is that it will probobly be a lot easier to get a set working as intended haha. what I'd give for a good synthetic UP reed that always works and plays in perfect tuning.
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Re: Quiet, 2 octave pipes...suitable for ITM

Post by pancelticpiper »

Narzog wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 3:44 pm Fred Morrison talking about how people use his BP's for Irish music because BP have good tuning.
Not sure what Fred Morrison meant there.

Any species of bagpipe has good tuning if you play it in tune. I don't think any species of bagpipe is inherently more in tune than any other.

It takes a chanter that's made right, reeded properly, and played well.

Border pipes are far from ideal for ITM. Their range is too limited and they're much louder than a typical uilleann chanter.
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