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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:20 pm 
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I'm finally started learning to play the practice GHB chanter I've had for 22 years, with an eye toward eventually playing the smallpipes. I'm wondering about the melodic limitations. With an A chanter (notes GABCDEFGA), are there fingerings for any of C#, F#, or G#?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:47 pm 
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The standard scale on smallpipes A chanter is A Mixolydian so from the very bottom up the scale goes G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A. The parallel bore of the smallpipe chanter isn't conducive to cross-fingered accidentals. You can sometimes half-hole them by flexing the finger so the pad only partially covers the tone hole and gives you the semi-tone below it.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:42 pm 
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Thanks. I've been starting out with a copy of the College of Piping Tutor book, and they don't notate any of the sharps. Another lesson in making sure to use my ears :-)

This "parallel bore" idea isn't one I've heard of, nor the idea that it would prevent other than the standard 9 notes. It sounds interesting. Are you aware of a reference that gives a good explanation of this?

-- John

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:49 am 
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hopsage wrote:
Are you aware of a reference that gives a good explanation of this?

-- John


On a GHB, you can cross finger some notes (thumb on left)

x xxx xoox is C
x xxx xoxo is C natural

x xoo xxxo F
x xox xxxo F natural

x ooo xxxo G
x oxx xoox G sharp

All of the cross fingered notes work more or less, depending on the particulars of the reed and the chanter. Modern chanters are harder to cross finger (perhaps by design).

None of that is applicable to smallpipes. Just like on a practice chanter, you can't cross finger anything. Even half holing is really difficult. On my smallpipes, I can play an E with the bottom hand open or closed, and it's the same note (with a slightly different tone). On a highland chanter, if you take your bottom hand off on an E it's wicked out of tune.

One thing you can do (or have done) is to drill a thumb hole for c-natural.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:41 am 
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Some makers will make small pipes with keyed chanters to compensate for the lack of cross fingered notes.

I've got one by Ian Kinnear with a C natural and a high B, they come in very handy.

David

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:05 pm 
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Borderpiper wrote:
I've got one by Ian Kinnear with a C natural and a high B, they come in very handy.

David


Do you have a pic?

I'd love a high B key on my smallpipes. That would be sweet.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:08 pm 
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hopsage wrote:
Thanks. I've been starting out with a copy of the College of Piping Tutor book, and they don't notate any of the sharps. Another lesson in making sure to use my ears :-)

This "parallel bore" idea isn't one I've heard of, nor the idea that it would prevent other than the standard 9 notes. It sounds interesting. Are you aware of a reference that gives a good explanation of this?

-- John


GHB notation forgoes the key signature since status quo is to only play in the one mode with no accidentals.

A good resource is "More Power To Your Elbows." I can't remember if it explains why the parallel bore of the smallpipe chanter can't play semitones without the aid of keys. But if playing smallpipes is your goal, this book is invaluable.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:25 pm 
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Actually, as a maker I can say that it isn't the parallel bore that is the trouble. It's the positioning of the fingerholes, which also means the size of them. To have semitones, you need to move the fingerholes further up the chanter, while at the same time reducing the diameter. The result will be a bit quieter (yes, that's a drawback, usually), but you can get most chromatic notes perfectly in tune.
Having said all this, I also have to say that when I make chanters with Scottish fingering, I hardly ever need to bother about it, as not many players need it. But, yes, I have made a few. I beef up the strenght by making them with a very slightly conical bore, so the end result is more-or-less identical in strenght to normal SSP chanters.
The obvious solution is to have non-Scottish fingering, usually completely open, which makes it easier to achieve a totally chromatic chanter, at the same time changing the whole technique, and making it not really suited to Scottish music, which is very dependant on the grace-notes being played in the Scottish fingering only.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:59 am 
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highland-piper wrote:

x xxx xoox is C
x xxx xoxo is C natural

x xoo xxxo F
x xox xxxo F natural



Just to make it clear, in case anyone reading this is a "normal" musician (non-GHB player) to whom C and C natural are one and the same note, and F and F natural are one and the same note, what he means (in normal music talk) is

x xxx xoox C#
x xxx xoxo C

x xoo xxxo F#
x xox xxxo (or) x xox xoxo F

Now, High G# is tricky. On old Hardies and other old chanters, especially with moulded reeds, this often works:

o oox xxxo G
o xxo xxxo (or) o xxo xxox G#

but on new 480+ band chanters with strong ridgecut reeds those usually don't work, but this often does

x oxx xoox G#

None of these fingerings work worth a darn on practice chanters and Scottish smallpipes, at least none I've played.

(GHB players have a tendency to forget that their "C" is actually C# and that their "F" is actually F#. In fact many older GHB music collections leave out the key signature of two sharps, which properly speaking should always be included.)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 6:12 pm 
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Old thread, but it was mine to begin with, so I shall claim the right of resuscitation.

A year later, and I've finally acquired a set of smallpipes (well, Walsh shuttle pipes, but close enough), and I'm finally starting to pay some real attention to the practice chanter. Or at least I was until I realized that the C on this thing really is a C natural! I'm pretty sure this was the source of my original general ignorance about the notes on a highland pipe chanter. I mean this thing is not just a slightly flat C#: it is a full half step flat. This has proven true with three separate reeds, all plastic and two of them made by Walsh (one for the shuttle pipe, the other for practice chanters).

Except that, depending on how I seat the reed and how much air I push through, I can raise the pitch of this note substantially, indeed getting it almost to the correct C#.

I don't have anything to ask here that's much more articulate than "WTFrancisco?" but I'd love to hear any hypotheses or, better, authoritative explanations for what's going on and how to use it. The alternative is that my housemate and my neighbors will have to listen to me learn the smallpipes on the actual set, drones and all.

Actually, my neighbors have a habit of setting off fireworks at midnight, so them I care about not so much.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:01 am 
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hopsage wrote:
This "parallel bore" idea isn't one I've heard of

Note that it's basically what brings the pitch of the chanter down the octave.

Most border pipes (which have conical chanters and sound the octave higher) will play cross-fingered chromatic notes, but are arguably closer to GHB than smallpipes in tone and volume.

hopsage wrote:
I mean this thing is not just a slightly flat C#: it is a full half step flat. This has proven true with three separate reeds, all plastic and two of them made by Walsh (one for the shuttle pipe, the other for practice chanters).

Except that, depending on how I seat the reed and how much air I push through, I can raise the pitch of this note substantially, indeed getting it almost to the correct C#.

I don't have anything to ask here that's much more articulate than "WTFrancisco?" but I'd love to hear any hypotheses or, better, authoritative explanations for what's going on and how to use it.

Sounds just like my old practice chanter (sold to me a similar length of time ago as a Shepherd, although I'd now be surprised if it was), which had flat C# (more like C nat), sharp G (G#) and ridiculous pressure/air requirements with any reed, leaving me pretty sceptical about practice chanters per se till I recently replaced it with a Gibson long and discovered how accurate and pleasant they could be. So my advice would be to get a new one!

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The alternative is that my housemate and my neighbors will have to listen to me learn the smallpipes on the actual set, drones and all.

You can stop the drones if you want.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:07 am 
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You could consider Scottish border pipes instead of smallpipes. The tone is much closer to the big pipes and most sets are fully chromatic. Like David, I also have a high B key which is especially handy for Irish tunes. The borders are slightly trickier to play than smallpipes but most folk that play in sessions (at least here on the Scottish west coast) play border pipes. Smallpipes easily get lost in a session whereas properly set up border pipes are a bit loader than a fiddle, maybe as loud as two fiddles depending...


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:12 am 
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Sorry for the cross post. Actually, if your worried about neighbours don't try to learn on border pipes.
If I were you I'd get a better practise chanter. Also you can get cheap practise sets which use the bottom half of a practise chanter with a bag and a couple of simple drones. That might suit you.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:57 am 
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Yes, I had looked into border pipes. Truth is, though, I really like the sound of the lower octave. I think I'm going to content myself with practicing on the shuttle pipes with the drones off. Really, I should find a proper teacher (not hard, I imagine, as I live in the NYC exurban region), but I think I'm going to go through learning all the notes and maybe a tune or two before I commit. I'm mainly a stringed instrument player, and this move to wind and reed instruments (whistle last year, now pipes), imposes an experience of being a beginner which I haven't had for 30 years. The awkwardness of it is, well, bracing.

-- John

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:32 pm 
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For anyone else reading this, I solved the flat C# mystery, after finding this on the Bob Dunshire forum: http://forums.bobdunsire.com/forums/showthread.php?t=146101. Turns out that the shape of the reed mouth has a lot to do with intonation. If the mouth is too open, the chanter plays flat; too closed, and it's sharp.

The pipes are fun so far. After six days, I can tune the drones (though I'm better at doing so by blowing into them while they're detached from the bag), think I've got all the notes under the fingers, and even managed a very wobbly "Campbell's Farewell to Redgap" today.

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