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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:53 pm 
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Good afternoon folks,

Long time lurker, but new poster. I am a very competent highland piper with 20 years of experience in addition to playing scottish smallpipes and border pipes; I am therefore able to "blow tone" with bellows quite adeptly. I am considering diving into uilleann pipes, but frankly I have found recommendations regarding different pipe makers to be piece-meal and hard to consider as it is just snippets here and there.

I am not looking for a budget set. I am interested in buying the best instrument I can afford with the hopes that it will be a lifelong instrument. I also know I plan on starting with at least a half set given my comfort with drones and I suspect I would outgrow a practice set rapidly at any rate. I am less certain as to whether it is worth getting a 3/4 or full set instead of a half-set. The most consistent recommendation I have seen is start with a half-set, but I am interested in opinions as to whether it is a hassle to send your pipes in for an upgrade (particularly with an overseas pipe-maker and issues related to CITES, etc.) and whether this would influence you to pick a more complete set from the outset, if doable financially. I would love to hear your opinion as to how much you value the regs and whether a 3/4 or full set adds value early on, whether you use them often once proficient, or even if you mostly prefer drones and don't recommend the regs. As a highland piper, the idea of regs is foreign and I have to admit the sound of them is something I am still getting used to. The up-front cost of the regs is not a prohibitive factor in my decision.

I think I am more likely to get a concert pitch set but have a hard time finding good links of audio samples comparing concert pitch to various flat sets. Which do you personally like more and why? Do you recommend narrow bore or a more traditional bore if going concert pitch?

The next issue I would love an opinion on is wood selection. A lot of makers seem to use ebony, which is more rare in GHB. Does anyone use Palo Santo or other woods and does anyone here have a strong opinion about wood selection? I know I do not want a soft fruitwood such as pear or a wood prone to warping such as boxwood as I live in a mountainous arid climate in the USA. I am aware that the climate here will necessitate patience with reed manipulation and finding someone to help get my instrument dialed in to the climate.

Finally and most importantly, I would like as much information as possible regarding different makers, the quality of their pipes, and their relative styles. This is the hardest part for me because I hear a great piper on a CD or youtube and I find the majority of the time I am unable to find any information online as to what they are playing. Then, when I hear a set that really impresses me (which obviously has quite a bit to do with the piper), they are usually playing a Wooff or O'Briain or Quinn or some set that I see online I will never be able to get new as the books are indefinitely closed. Coming from GHB where there is copious information readily available on different pipe makers, this is daunting. I am not interested in a ten year wait list. I don't mind a reasonable wait list if that means I get great pipes. I'm open to used pipes as well, but all things equal, probably prefer new pipes made for me. I am fortunate enough to have world class highland pipes and transitioning to a great set is eminently noticeable. Every recommendation I find online about maker X or maker Y for uilleann pipes is almost entirely positive. I have found next to no information from people comparing the relative merits/strengths/weaknesses of different makers that would help a complete beginner begin to think about who to have make a set of pipes. Furthermore, many makers have zero videos I can find of their pipes on youtube or they have no website! I am sensitive to not having this thread turn into a bashing thread- I assume that any maker someone would bother recommending will make a good set of pipes. However, I would love some information about differences in tonal style, ease of playing, weight, maintenance issues, easiness to reed, richness of sound, characteristics (if applicable) of the regs, customer service, wait time, and any other factors that might help me decide on set X over set Y.

Some makers that have peaked my interest in no particular order include: Andy Faden, Andreas Rogge, Gordon Galloway, Ray Sloan, Tim Benson, Bruce Childress, Eugene Lamb, Kirk Lynch, and Brian Bigley. Any information on these makers and their relative merits or on any other maker you would recommend would be greatly appreciated.

What set would you order if (reasonable) money was not a barrier and you could pick a set from any maker and take delivery of the pipes in a reasonable time-frame?

THANK YOU!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:50 pm 
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Some additional makers to consider: Makoto Nakatsui, Joe Kennedy, Sam Lawrence.

In fairness you'll find it hard to get a public critical opinion because a lot of people feel a strong loyalty to their pipemaker (understandable given the sums of money and waiting time involved) and tend to leap to their defence - particularly on this board. Although there are some real lemons out there, in reality most pipes can be a nightmare if not properly set up, which leads me to the point that choosing a maker on the same continent as you is probably a good idea....but in the end, it's your decision.

I personally prefer the sound of flat sets, but went concert pitch. Why? Well, I realised that while learning I was going to spend a lot of time playing with other people, and they usually had concert pitch sets. I think the majority of makers are using Rowsome derived bores for concert chanters these days; flat sets there's a bit more variation between makers so in theory more variation between their instruments.

As for wood I'm convinced that the reed and playing style make a far bigger difference than the material, but my own maker claims to be able to detect a noticeable difference. Maybe I just have cloth ears. I chose boxwood, but that was for purely visual reasons really. I mention 'playing style' as the same set of pipes can to my ears sound quite different in the hands of different players - my theory on this is that our perception of timbre is heavily influenced by the 'attack' of each note, which I think may be altered by different players' styles of fingering the chanter.


Last edited by myles on Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:57 pm 
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Thanks Myles! I totally what you are getting about public responses. More so than criticism of makers I am just hoping maybe people can chime in with what they play and like about their set. Cheers, Scott


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:10 pm 
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In my opinion, unless you have held a set and know for sure what you're getting into, I would recommend a 1/2 set at the most. Why? Because pipes are expensive, and while you play Scottish pipes, UP feels quite different. I regularly play a full set of pipes and bought a set of smallpipes, and while I love the smallpipes sound, I just haven't gotten the hang of the smallpipes. That being said, I also am too busy on the UP to spend much time on the smallpipes. All that to say, you may not actually like the differences in the UP.

When I was starting on a practice set, a couple pipers told me to get drones ASAP. The arguments were that it both changes the air pressure you use and how you hold the instrument. I realized they were right when I later played a 1/2 set. Do you need regs? Probably not, unless like I said above, you know for sure that you want to play UP with regs and are ready for the investment. It's likely you wouldn't touch the regs seriously for at least a year. The regs are also a pain to keep playing and in tune, and add extra potential leaks. So you really need to be prepared emotionally. I'm happy I have regs, I fight them constantly to keep them in tune, but I have more or less conquered the maintenance of them and have started learning in earnest.

Regarding upgrading a set and sending them to a maker, I definitely know of people who have done that, such as the set I play. The original owner did multiple upgrades to the set, as it started a practice set. I've always bought up, as I've had opportunities to purchase second hand. Some makers are good about this, some aren't.

Concert and flat pipes are much different beasts. Most sets you'll run into are concert pitch sets on the wider end of the spectrum. Some makers have even stopped making narrow bore sets who used to previously. While I've never played a narrow bore D chanter, I've heard that they don't always behave as people expect, whether that's a positive or negative is another story. I personally prefer flat pipes, B especially, but I perform regularly in a band where I need D pipes. That being said, I perform with my C chanter often and love it's mellow sound. If you want to play nicely with others, concert is really the only option, unless you can convince fiddlers to tune down.

Wood selection is also personal preference. Like you said, most pipes these days are in ebony. I've often also seen acid-treated boxwood. My flat pipes are in European plum. People seem to like ebony for concert sets for the extra punch, and boxwood will be slightly more mellow. But much about the sound is dependent on the reeds.

The makers you listed all have good feedback, and I don't think you'd be wrong going with any of them. Like mentioned above, consider reaching out to the closest makers to you, especially if you will want to upgrade the set later. We don't tend to compare makers too often in public discussions, since such conversations can easily get heated and the world piping community is small, but if you asked specific questions you might be able to get private answers.

In my opinion you should do the following:
-Determine what style of pipes you want: 1/2 set, 3/4, full, Rowsome, Taylor, etc.
-Reach out to both makers close to you and international makers for prices and wait time.
-Ask around about which makers fit in your price and wait thresholds.
-Order

Or look for a used set. I bought my full set used and it's been great. That being said, I also already knew how to tweak reeds, so I was able to tame the instrument myself.

Also try to find a local reed maker. Chances are even a new set from a different environment won't play nicely in your area. That happened to me. It was a nightmare when I was newer, but now I could have made the set work.

In regards to what I play: my full concert set is an Angus set in Ebony. It's a brilliant set in Rowsome style. What I like about it? The chanter has great tone, the drones are rock solid, and Brad makes the sets in the old style, everything hand rolled and whatnot. He also lives 25 mins from me, and I'd seen his sets around town for over a decade before I bought mine.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:14 pm 
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Dyer that is a super informative reply and just the sort I'm after. Much thanks!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:27 pm 
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find your local maker.
You will be thankful for local reed expertise.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 8:03 am 
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bassdrone24—

If you were to provide your location—either here or by adding it to your profile through the User Control Panel button top of page right—perhaps folks could help you hone in on proximal makers/reed artists.

Best wishes

Steve

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:27 am 
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bassdrone24 wrote:
Dyer that is a super informative reply and just the sort I'm after. Much thanks!

No problem! Like people have said, if you let us know your general location, we could give some nearby maker suggestions.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 1:49 pm 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
bassdrone24—

If you were to provide your location—either here or by adding it to your profile through the User Control Panel button top of page right—perhaps folks could help you hone in on proximal makers/reed artists.

Best wishes

Steve

I'm not a piper, but love to follow them. Based upon your location I would suggest finding a tionól where groups of pipers gather and you could compare pipes, makers, etc. to maximize your interest in UP.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:50 pm 
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I live in Colorado. I've just reached out to Dirk Mewes and would be happy to hear about anyone else in the local scene.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 6:14 pm 
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bassdrone24 wrote:
I live in Colorado. I've just reached out to Dirk Mewes and would be happy to hear about anyone else in the local scene.

Dirk Mewes is definitely your closest maker. A couple other makers in the USA that are well regarded and might have shorter wait times: Nick Whitmer and Bruce Childress. And for international makers, Rogge tends to have decent wait times, at least it seemed such when I asked him about chanters. Brad Angus is also worth considering. I haven't talked to him lately, but last time I did, he didn't have a long wait list. There's also Michael Hubbert in California, but I don't know anything about his wait time.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2018 8:22 pm 
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Another option to consider is to attend one of the various tionols or events like the Pipers Gathering. Often there are makers attending also. At least you'd have a chance to chat with other players and get their opinion of makers first hand.

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 9:16 am 
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in addition to the faq and previous threads about this, here's my two cents:

In my experience flat sets are more forgiving to the novice player in terms of both play-ability (smaller finger holes, though further spread apart, so hand size is an issue) and listen-ability (mellower, quieter tone.) They would be more apt for stealth practice sessions if such a thing could be achieved. the major disadvantage is lack of session-ability. You will have to make the decision.

If you're avoiding budget (and premium) sets, the maker and materials won't matter so much as the reeds anyway so no need to over-analyze here, just avoid boxwood and softer/lighter woods as you mention (though they're fine for the decorative and accessory parts.) Pick a nearby established maker. As for play-ability in a specific climate, this too will be a reed issue.

There are good chanters/practice sets from established makers floating around here and elsewhere on the web, which may not be a bad option in the meantime, as wait list are usually longer than a year. They may still require patience though if they need to be set up with a new reed. It will take some effort to ascertain/arrange all of this. Might be best to feel out a variety of chanters (e.g. scalloped vs non-scalloped) and order your set once once you've found your match. I don't think it's out of order to call regs a five-year plan.


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